Back to school :D

Twenty years ago, my father bought me a back-to-school gift. It was a utility knife for school. Twenty years later, I still remember the joy I felt when I received the gift, and I still use it today. Looking back, I have given away or destroyed almost all my childhood toys, but a few stationery items have stayed with me and they constantly remind me of the carefree days and my parents’ love.

The thought that some of Oz Fair Trade’s back to school items will bring the same joy to some kids brings a big smile to my face 😀

Choose from bookmarks, school bags, pouches, pencil cases, tablet covers… all ethically produced by certified fairtrade groups.

May your kids have a lovely school term and have something that will forever remind them of your love!

A brick’s story

During my recent European trip, I painted a brick in Prague.

Oz Fair Trade Beneficial Brick

The Beneficial Brick Initiative is a charity fundraiser to protect mentally handicapped people from being excluded from society and to help them live with others in shared spaces.

I felt proud to have contributed to this great initiative. A brick costed about €7. Each brick is unique, and I spent quite a while looking through all the bricks.

What a wonderful idea to add some colours to the city of Prague while doing something good!

Flower Bomb

Flower Bomb – this is the new name for our most popular recycled bombshell category. 

I recently came across this phrase in a magazine,  and it just seems to be the perfect description for Oz Fair Trade’s recycled bombshell products. Flower represents life, and these products represent the incredible resilience of Lao and Cambodian people who suffered decades of war and are still suffering from the landmines. Subconsciously, when I took photos of the recycled bombshell products for the website quite a while ago, I took them with flowers from my garden.

ozfairtrade_ethical_jewellery23  ozfairtrade_ethical_jewellery01

oz fair trade recycled bombshell  oz fair trade recycled bombshell-12

Do you like the new name?

Fair Trade For Men

I’ve written about whether women are more ethical than men. I’d like to believe that we are equally ethical. But when it comes to fair trade products, the choices for men often fall short. I’ve always wanted to sell more fair trade products that are suitable for men, such as the guitar shaped recycled bombshell bottle opener, which is one of our best selling products.

Recently, I added a small T-shirt range (males, females, kids) to test the market, and the response has been very positive. I went mostly with the producer’s designs this time. Potentially I would love to use more of my own designs. The material is very soft cotton, and I plan to push for the producer to use certified organic cotton down the track.

In addition, some of our winter pure alpaca scarves look equally good on men and women 🙂

oz fair trade men tshirt01 oz fair trade men tshirt12

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oz fair trade men tshirt16 oz fair trade men tshirt22

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oz fair trade men tshirt27 oz fair trade men tshirt25

Rosie’s photoshoot

Rosie is a four year old girl. She is happy, funny, sometimes silly and totally adorable. Rosie is the daughter of a dear friend of mine, and her mum and I had the best time today after almost two years of not seeing each other. As for Rosie, I’m not so sure. She did ask why I was taking ‘hundreds’ of photos of her, and complained that it was getting ‘boring’ 🙂 But in the end, she sang “Let It Go” for me 😀

Don’t you agree that Rosie is a supermodel?


Peace Crane – my hope for a better world

If you have ever bought from Oz Fair Trade, you would have received an origami like the one in the picture. Did you wonder who made it? Well…I made it!


It’s a small gesture to wish you good luck and good health, and I hope it’s something that you will keep.

It is also a symbol for peace, hence the name Peace Crane.

Too many tragedies have happened lately, and my heart is filled with anger and sorrow. I am angry that some people can be so evil and cruel. I am distressed that so many innocent lives have been lost, and so many people have suffered.

Making origami is a form of meditation for me. It calms me, especially at times like this. I once made one thousand tiny paper cranes and hung them on my door. They were lovely. Smaller cranes taker longer though, but people are always amazed by them. There is a saying that one thousand cranes equals one wish granted. If only it were true.

So next time when you receive a crane, please know that it was handmade by me, and I sent it to you with best wishes for you and the world!

Why I am joining Amnesty

I first came across Amnesty Australia at a meetup film gathering organised by an area coordinator from Amnesty. After a few films, I was really impressed with the quality of the documentaries, and found myself wanting to learn more about human rights and how I could contribute.

I grew up in China, a country known for its human rights issues. I remember how visiting Tibet really changed my mind about whether Tibet should be independent. I remember learning about the Tiananmen Square Incident in Australia because it was never taught to me in China. It is hard to overcome years of prejudice as a result of teaching that was forced upon me. Sometimes I still find myself not wanting to believe certain things.


Amnesty International is a non-political and non-religious human rights organisation. It helps to raise awareness of human rights issues, organises petitions, sends experts to help victims, monitors media etc. It has a record of achievements since the 1960s.

We are lucky that we live in Australia, because Australia has pretty good human rights record. But we can do better. We can treat refugees with more compassion. We can stop violence against women. We can reduce the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians. We can also protest against overseas human rights issues. Our very own Peter Greste is still behind bars in Egypt and we should be angry about that.

I encourage you to read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To me, it’s like bible.

When I think about it, I have been a human rights activist for two years now, because I founded Oz Fair Trade to help people who are living in extreme poverty to live a dignified life through fair trade. To me, dignity is the most important part of human rights. The world trade system is far from perfect, and many people are forced to work long hours for little pay. That’s not right. Fair trade aims to change that.

You can learn more about fair trade here.

You can click here to join Amnesty Australia online and/or sign one of their petitions. Remember, every voice counts.

My encounter with Western Australian of the Year, Holly Ransom

I had a wonderful opportunity to attend a Women with Ambition breakfast event this week, where I met the one and only Holly Ransom. I’ve heard of Holly before and we were connected on Twitter, but to listen to her and to meet her in person was still something that felt quite surreal. Not that she looks unapproachable. Quite the opposite in fact. Holly is very relaxed, casual and honest. I would never have guessed her age, because she is so confident and she has achieved so much. She probably hates people mentioning her age though!

Just so you know, Holly is 24, and in 2012 she was the youngest Rotary President, Western Australian of the Year, Young Volunteer of the Year and one of the “100 Most Influential Australian Women”. This year, Holly chaired G20 Youth Summit, and she has also worked with more than 20 non-profit organisations and many top politicians and leaders.

When I was 24, I was working as a junior actuarial analyst, and spent most of my free time on movies. I wasn’t interested in politics or current affairs.

Of course, I shouldn’t be too self-critical. People like Holly are rare. But the world needs them, to lead, to disrupt.

Holly spoke of her encounter with a homeless person begging on street when she was ten, and realising that night when it was raining that not everyone had things that she took for granted, like shelter, food, clothing etc. Her passion for poverty alleviation started from that encounter.

I envy her. Sometimes I wish that I found my purpose in life much earlier, so that I could have done a lot more by now. But I know I should be grateful that it didn’t come too late for me.

Listening to Holly’s honest account of her experiences and her passion for gender equality, women leadership, poverty alleviation and youth leadership, I truly believed that our generation, and the next, and the next, will make the world better and fairer.

When the event finished, I asked Holly if she’d like to share her experience, particularly her experience on a microfinance project in Kenya, with my fellow actuaries, and she said Yes!

Get away from it all

Oz Fair Trade was closed for almost two months, during which time I read more than ten books, thought seriously about my life, and traveled to new places. No matter how busy life gets, it’s great to get away from it all once in a while.

This time, I went to Norway, Amsterdam, London, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Singapore and Phuket. Even spent 8 hours (12am to 8am) at Qatar airport.

Before I went, I had the idea that I must visit Oxfam in London and must check out the fair trade scene in Europe. I have been told that Europeans are more aware of fair trade than Australians. I thought I must check it out with my own eyes.

So off I went. Norway was beautiful and very expensive. Oslo was just like any other developed cities. Fast fashion was the norm. Next stop Amsterdam, where I stumbled upon the first TOMS shop I’ve never been to! I thought…really? Really? TOMS in Amsterdam??? It was 9pm and there were a bunch of people walking out the door. I wanted to walk in, but they said it’s closed. Bugger. I eagerly returned the next morning, like Alice in Wonderland, marvelling at everything in store. The shop manager told me with a big smile that this store only just opened a few weeks ago, and that TOMS has a plan to rapidly open stores around Europe. I was excited! Maybe Australia will be the next?

TOMS Amsterdam

TOMS Amsterdam

I loved the store layout. It created a warm and welcoming atmosphere, and explained well the unique story behind TOMS. If I ever open a shop, this is exactly the feeling that I want my customers to get when they step foot (or even before they step foot) into the store. I ended up buying a pair of TOMS shoes (of course!) and sunnies. Yay!



Next stop London. The British Museum was amazing, although I suspect that many items were stolen or robbed from other countries. I was excited to find that my hotel was close to an Oxfam shop, so off I went. It was on a side street, and looked small. I walked in…I thought I walked into a second hand clothing/book store. There was a small selection of Oxfam food products, but that was about it. Nothing like the Oxfam shops in Australia. I was very confused. Isn’t UK the heart of Oxfam? I asked the shop assistant if there were bigger Oxfam shops in London, but they said every Oxfam shop was pretty much the same size. I walked out with some dried fruit and felt disappointed.

Spain and Portugal were relaxing and cheaper than the other countries I just visited. Fast fashion chains like Mango, Zara and H&M were very popular. I didn’t come across any fair trade shops. To be honest, I still had not got over the disappointment in London.

Then I crossed the border to Africa on a ferry. Morocco is a very different country to Europe. I experienced my first sand storm and first camel ride.


I also discovered a local ingredient: argan oil. Apparently, it is the latest cosmetic secret on the world stage. Expensive products are using argan oil as a selling point. Argan tree is native to Morocco, and at this stage, only grows in Morocco. I visited a local women’s cooperative that produces argan oil for cooking and cosmetics. I loved how the women working there were so happy and proud.

I looked up Morocco fair trade, and the only organisation I could find was Tighanimine. I tried to visit them, but by the time they got back to me, I was already too far away. I heard that many cooperatives are in the process of getting certified, so I’m definitely keeping an eye on this space. I’m also interested to learn whether there are sufficient interest for argan oil in Australia. I found a few sellers in Australia, but none seems to stock fair trade.

Are you interested in fair trade argan oil? Please leave your comments below.

Argan oil producers

Throughout Morocco, there was hardly anyone who knew about fair trade. I talked to carpenters, woodworkers, shoe makers etc., but the responses were always disappointing. I left some business cards and asked them to look at setting up websites and getting fair trade certification. From what I could see, they were simply relying on demand from tourists. But that’s not enough.

In my search for answers, I came across a great website that allows Moroccan artisans to sell directly to people around the world. I thought the prices were very reasonable, in fact, they are similar to what you’ll pay in the market after some bargaining. But if you buy online, you’ll know that the product is handmade and the artisan gets all the profit.

This sums up my trip. Thank you to all those who placed orders while I was absent and patiently waited for your orders to arrive. Now the shop is open again and all orders will be dispatched within 24 hours. Cheers!

What to do with your old bras

We women naturally go through life with many bras. Sometimes old favourites become unsuitable as our bodies change. What to do with the old bras that are still pretty good? Surely they don’t deserve to be buried yet? I had the same question a while ago, and found Uplift Project, a global charity that collects old bras, swimmers, new underpants and fabric nappies from people like you and me, and sends them off to disadvantaged communities around the world, including indigenous communities in Australia.

Often the bra received through Uplift will be the only bra that woman owns.

Donating a bra is easy. There is a list of drop off points on their website, which could be a business address or a private residency.

On top of handout bras to much needed communities, Uplift also runs other initiatives as they see fit for the organisations they work with. For example, Uplift Victoria collects books for Solomon Islands.

In addition, Uplift is collecting old socks!

We have trouble getting new socks donated, but we reckon odd socks will be easy to harvest. We’ve all got them, and if Uplift get them all together, we will have lots of viable pairs. Post all your odd socks to Liz Baker, 9 Steven St, Hurstbridge VIC 3099.