World Day of Social Justice: Why We Care

Whenever I’m asked about my passions, social justice and human rights come to my mind like how my dog eats food i.e. no time is required. Now seriously, they are not empty words or big words; they are what every human being must be entitled to. And yet, we all know that the reality is far from that.  So in 2007, the UN proclaimed 20 February as World Day of Social Justice.

What does “social justice” actually mean?

Google the definition of social justice and you will find the following words:

fairness, equality, balance, opportunities, distribution of wealth, peaceful, coexistence, human rights… 

My own definition of social justice is the minimum amount of fairness that everyone must experience so that the society can function peacefully. Without it, there will be conflicts; there will be wars; there will be extreme poverty; there will be extreme unhappiness and sufferings.

To those who have it, we know what it is when it is taken away from us.

To those who never had it, they will eventually start to ask questions and to seek change.

History always repeats itself. There’s nothing more frustrating than observing that.

Why should we (i.e. those who live in countries with relatively good social justice and human rights records) care? 

I ask, why shouldn’t we care? Why wouldn’t we care?

Why shouldn’t/wouldn’t we care about the Syrian refugees whose lives were brutally disrupted by war?

Why shouldn’t/wouldn’t we care about the girls who aren’t allowed to study?

Why shouldn’t/wouldn’t we care about the people who suffered inhuman tortures ?

Why shouldn’t/wouldn’t we care about another human being? And another? And another?

I still know too little about world issues. But I care, so I learn a little bit each day. So do many others. We simply need to outnumber those who don’t care, or convince them to care.

I believe we are born with a wonderful ability to love, and to care for others. 

Not Valentine’s Again

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I’ve never been a hopeless romantic, and even if I were, the thought of Valentine’s would still trigger nothing more than cynicism in me. Just like diamond and expensive handbags, why should I give in to manipulative marketing?

This personal dislike of marketing often clashes with the reality of what I’m trying to do i.e. selling ethical products that are handmade by some of the world’s poorest people, so that they can have a reliable income and live with dignity. The way I see it is that I’m not trying to convince anyone that the product is worth more than it is (hence I’m not being manipulative); all I’m saying is that if you are going to buy something you might as well buy things that are made ethically.

Put the business aside, I’d like to share my little personal story about Valentine’s. When I was in school in China, I had a massive crush on a boy who was born on Valentine’s Day. He was the cleverest one, and he was who I wanted to be. We lost touch a long time ago, but every Valentine’s reminds me of this innocent little girl who did many crazy things for this little boy, and they never even held hands or exchanged a long conversation.

Many years later, this little girl has grown up, but she is still too honest, too trusting, too nice and too empathetic. She still sees the best in people and still believes in love no matter how much it has hurt her. She is seen as “successful”, “independent” and “happy”, but only she knows how difficult some days are. But she keeps smiling, and she believes that she will meet “the one” one day. She knows there’s more to life than romantic love, and she keeps her life busy with her involvements in her little charity Oz Fair Trade, her full time job, Rotary, Amnesty, professional studies, friends and families, readings and other things.

She gets strength from the thought of the people she’s helping, and she is thankful for all her past experiences which helped her to grow into a strong and mature woman. Maybe she will be alone this Valentine’s, but she won’t be lonely 🙂

p.s. if you are still looking for a perfect Valentine’s gift, head over to Oz Fair Trade’s Valentine’s collection.

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?

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How has being an actuary helped me with running Oz Fair Trade?

I get asked this question a lot, and I didn’t really know the answer until a recent revelation. I was reading an article on Renegade Collective, my favourite magazine, about a ballerina turned business owner, when it occurred to me that I, too, have transferred skills gained from my professional training to the launch and running of Oz Fair Trade.

According to Strengths Finder 2.0, my current top strengths are:

  • Input
  • Restorative
  • Intellection
  • Relator
  • Activator

I was not born with these strengths. They are a direct result of my experiences to date. I might have always been inquisitive (i.e. Input), able to relate to others (i.e. Relator) and a thinker (i.e. Intellection), but Restorative and Activator? I would hardly see them as my strengths ten years ago.

I’d say that my actuarial training can definitely take credit for my problem solving skills (i.e. Restorative), and my passion for poverty alleviation and human rights pushed me to become an Activator (i.e. I cannot not act).

I suddenly realised that I founded Oz Fair Trade because I wanted to solve a problem that I witnessed i.e. extreme poverty, and this problem solving instinct was a direct result of my actuarial training.  

I suddenly realised that all my ideas steam from my desire to solve a particular problem, and my Activator instinct pushes me to make these ideas happen.

It’s a New Year’s Revelation.

In the past, I have always focused on improving my weaknesses, with little understanding of my strengths. I couldn’t see how being an actuary helped me with Oz Fair Trade or any of the other activities that fill my life right now. But now I see it. It’s not just that I can do numbers. It’s more that I have learned to think analytically, and learned the right process of problem solving. 

So yes, it is true that anything you learn can be useful, and any job can teach you valuable lessons.

Happy learning!

New Year’s Resolutions

Time seems to go faster as I age. I feel the urgency, and I want to make most of every day.

Here are my resolutions for 2015:

  • Lose weight and get fit (I’ve picked up table tennis, tennis, tai chi and golf, so this should be achievable)
  • Keep growing Oz Fair Trade and supporting more producers
  • Provide excellent customer service as usual
  • Recruit volunteers to help me run Oz Fair Trade
  • Assist local and wider communities through Rotary
  • Fight for human rights issues through Amnesty
  • Lead ACT Fair Trade Collective to push forward fair trade movement in Canberra
  • Meet more like-minded individuals through Canberra Sustainable and Fair Living Meetup (you are invited!)
  • Do well at my day job (which seems more like a side-project now given how much other stuff I have on…)

Cheers to a busy and fulfilling year ahead!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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!

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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!

Here’s to you!

It’s been almost two years since I decided to set up an online fair trade shop to better lives of the people I met during my trip to Southeast Asia and many like them. It’s time to reflect and be grateful.

I am grateful for the trip that I took in late 2012 which inspired me to start something meaningful. I am grateful that my ex-partner took me on this trip. Without him, I might have chosen to visit the developed countries in Europe, just like most other Chinese people would do. We have our differences and our relationship didn’t work out, but I will never regret meeting him and loving him.

I am grateful for the technological advances that allowed anyone to build an e-commerce without knowing anything about coding.

I am grateful for the emotional support I received from my friends, my colleagues, my ex-partner and his family.

I am grateful to Canberra CityNews and The Chronicle for featuring my story early on despite a terrible looking website.

I am grateful to my early customers who supported this little start-up despite a terrible website and pretty bad product images.

I am grateful for meeting socially conscious bloggers and journalists who have featured me in their blogs/articles.

I am grateful to Google for publishing its Search Engine Optimisation Guideline, which enabled me to do my own SEO and reach new customers.

I am grateful to friends who have helped me to customise/fix the website from time to time.

I am grateful for advices from experienced social entrepreneurs like Nick Salvadis from Etiko.

I am grateful to Intrepid for organising fantastic life changing trips and for featuring me in their blog.

I am grateful for the assistance I received from the Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand.

I am grateful for having role models who have built successful social enterprises.

I am grateful for the domestic help I get daily from my father, which frees up my time to work on Oz Fair Trade.

I am grateful for being selected as one of the sellers on Good Spender, a new online marketplace for ethical products.

I am grateful to all my customers who have supported Oz Fair Trade. Without you, there will be no Oz Fair Trade.

I am grateful to anyone who has helped to spread the word.

HERE’S TO YOU!

Oz Fair Trade is the newest Fair Trader of Australia

As some of you already know, Oz Fair Trade has been certified as the newest Fair Trader of Australia by the Fair Trade Association of Australia and New Zealand.

It is a big milestone for me and for Oz Fair Trade. I wanted this certification much earlier, but I couldn’t, because a business needs to be in operation for at least 12 months before it can be assessed. Oz Fair Trade was incorporated in October 2013, so I had to wait. Now the wait is over, and I’m very happy for the recognition.

To any ethical business in Australia, becoming a Fair Trader of Australia is a big deal. It is the official certification in Australia that recognises businesses that have fair trade at the heart of what they do. It gives customers confidence that they are buying from an ethical business that adhere to fair trade principles.

Thank you to all who supported Oz Fair trade!

Why I Am Becoming A Rotarian

I first came across Rotary at a BBQ in front of my local hardware store. It’s just another charity, as far as I was concerned. The guy behind an apron looked like Santa, and I was happy to have sausages and a cold drink as a cheap lunch. After a few cheap lunches, I started to take notice of their unusual name. What is “Rotary”?

I didn’t really act on my curiosity until recently. My life took a turn, and I suddenly found myself desperate for new things to do, new people to meet, and new experiences to try. It was at this moment that “Rotary” popped into my mind.

So what is Rotary?

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Rotary Australia belongs to Rotary International, which is a non-political and non-religious organisation that has about 35,000 clubs and 1.2 million members worldwide. The members of Rotary Clubs are known as Rotarians. Rotary’s primary motto is “Service Above Self”. Members usually meet weekly to socialise and to organise work on their service goals.

So why am I interested?

I have always wanted to join a community of people who are selfless and who want to make the world a better place. So I set up Canberra Sustainable and Fair Living Meetup. So I network with social entrepreneurs. So I joined Kiva. But I always felt like I wasn’t contributing enough to local communities, and I wasn’t having enough interactions with experienced leaders in the charity/NFP sector. I am eager to learn and engage, but I struggled to find “my people”. I am an introvert, which makes it even more difficult.

Friends have taken me to church, but I haven’t found that calling inside me. Many charities have a religious belief, which makes me uncomfortable to join or volunteer for. But Rotary is different. It is non-religious and non-political. It is one of the most efficient charities in the world in terms of how little money is spent on administration. It has a good track record and it is a large family. I will be welcomed to attend any Rotary club meetings anywhere in the world. The thought of connecting with so many like-minded individuals made me smile.

Which Rotary club am I joining?

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I am joining my local Gungahlin Rotary club. So far, I have been to two meetings and one Christmas party, and I have found Rotarians so friendly and welcoming. In the last meeting, we had a guest speaker, a fellow Rotarian who has served in the aid industry for over 20 years, and I thoroughly enjoyed her honest account of stories that she heard or experienced. I felt inspired.

Gungahlin Rotary club raises most funds through BBQ, and supports a number of local projects like the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards and the National Youth Science Forum. It also supports international projects like Rotary Oceania Medical Aid for Children, Shelter Box and End Polio Now.

As a Rotarian, I will be given exceptional opportunities to do wonderful things for not just the local communities but also international communities, on top of my work as director of Oz Fair Trade.

You all know how passionate I am about fair trade, and how I prefer trade to aid. I believe that aid can be useful in emergency and special circumstances, and if done right, it can be very beneficial. There is a lot I want to learn in this field, and joining the Rotary club opens a big new door for me. I am excited!