Archive for November, 2009

Chocolate and child slavery

November 27, 2009

I’ve been aware for a while that child slaves are used on cocoa farms, but I wasn’t motivated enough to investigate the issue. And I knew that it would require a commitment from me that I wouldn’t want to keep.

MissN spoke in a public speaking competition (Speak Up 09) on social justice issues last night ( it was the first inter-school competition she had competed in and she won!) on this topic. Read her speech and see what you think:

Put your hand in the air if you like chocolate! That’s good…

Now put your hand in the air if you like slavery!

The two are intricately mixed.

70% of the world’s cocoa comes from the Cote d’Ivoire. And this cocoa is harvested daily by more than 600 000 child slaves, who work in backbreaking conditions so that you can buy a $1.20 fundraiser Cadbury.

Do you still like chocolate so much?

In Cote d’Ivoire, a country in West Africa, 40-50% of children between a mere 5 and 14 years of age work full time, handling dangerous jobs. 15 000 are captured, beaten, forced to work, and underpaid. Or not paid at all. The majority of these children are illegally trafficked from neighbouring countries.

My cousin is seven years old. She hardly knows what work is – she thinks running around a soccer pitch is hard work. Whereas children the same age, more mature than they should ever have to be, use machetes to cut cocoa beans from high branches, or apply toxic pesticides to cocoa plants without protection.

Aly Diabate was 11 when lured onto a farm, with promises of $150 and a new bicycle. Upon arrival, he realised he had stumbled into a living nightmare. Other children, of whom he was one of the eldest, worked for 14 hours a day in hot blistering conditions. He would lug around a 10kg bag which was taller than he was, and if he dropped it, he would be whipped mercilessly. He would be fed one banana a day. At night, he would live with the rest of the slaves in a 5 by 5 metre room. They were locked in, and if they needed to relieve themselves, they would just have to find some spare space. Aly eventually escaped and alerted the authorities, but he is one of the lucky few. Many forgotten children work through torture like this for years on end.

Slavery, here in our developed countries, is often a dismissed topic. So many people don’t believe it can exist in a modern time like this, or many simply don’t think it is a very big problem. In fact, there are more slaves now than there have ever been at any other time in history.

In the $60 billion dollar cocoa trade, Cote d’Ivoire is the leading exporter. Many major chocolate companies buy from these suppliers. Ever scarier, the majority of these buyers either know about the exploitation of workers used to produce this cocoa, or they don’t care enough to investigate the legality of their purchases. The more chocolate we eat, the more children are forced into slavery to deal with the demand – and hence, the more profit big corporations make.

Several well known companies indulge in this illegal practice. Some may surprise you – they include Nestle, Hershey, Cadbury and one that particularly shocked me, Lindt. If the companies were to switch to legal suppliers, they would only lose a maximum of 1% of their profits. Only seven companies that sell in Australia have been proven to be completely slave free.

This practice is a serious miscarriage of justice, and prevents those on the farms from the innocent childhood they deserve. And so we need to change it.

There are many possibilities. International cooperation? Establishment of government legislation? The slow, if possible, eradication of slavery via international forces?

Or the installation of a fair and just trade system? Oh, wait, we already have that… Fairtrade. Fair trade is a trading partnership which aims to reach equity in international trade. They do this by paying workers fair prices, assisting them to gain skills and knowledge needed to operate as a business, and by challenging unfair trade practices. Fair trade also holds campaigns to raise awareness and funds for supporting the producers.

As someone very close to me said, “I care about them, and want to do things for them, but it’s not like I’m going to hop on a plane and protest in their capital city.” And ladies and gentlemen, I’m not asking you to. All I’m asking you to do is make a stand. Don’t buy chocolate from companies who buy cocoa from slave owners. Don’t spend your money on companies which will continue to exploit human beings in this way. Buy your chocolate from Fair Trade companies instead. By boycotting questionable companies, you are making a statement. You are saying “I do not approve of using children in this manner, and I want it to stop.” Buy the right brands, and give these children a chance.

So, put your hand in the air if you like Fair Trade chocolate.

More than half the audience raised their hands…

I am now convicted. No more slave chocolate for me. MissN’s authenticity and integrity is admirable. She has decided to return the chocolates she was selling as a fundraiser for her school’s drama trip to New York, and give in a donation instead.

I challenge you to research for yourself what is involved in producing the chocolate you eat, and to think about what action you are willing to take.

James 5: 1, 4

Look here, you rich people: Weep and groan with anguish because of all the terrible troubles ahead of you.

For listen! Hear the cries of the field workers whom you have cheated of their pay. The wages you held back cry out against you. The cries of those who harvest your fields have reached the ears of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

Letter from Jesus about Christmas

November 26, 2009

I got this in my email today (thanks Lilian!) and had to share it.  I don’t know where it originated.  It has an American theme but it’s applicable to all of us.

Letter from Jesus about Christmas

It has come to my attention that many of you are upset that folks are taking My name out of the season. How I personally feel about this celebration can probably be most easily understood by those of you who have been blessed with children of your own. I don’t care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth, just GET ALONG AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER.

Now, having said that let Me go on. If it bothers you that the town in which you live doesn’t allow a scene depicting My birth, then just get rid of a couple of Santas and snowmen and put in a small Nativity scene on your own front lawn If all My followers did that there wouldn’t be any need for such a scene on the town square (or in the mall) because there would be many of them all around town.

Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made all trees. You can remember Me anytime you see any tree. Decorate a grape vine if you wish: I actually spoke of that one in a teaching, explaining who I am in relation to you andwhat each of our tasks was. If you have forgotten that one, look up John 15: 1-8.

If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth here is my wish list. Choose something from it:

1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time.

2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don’t have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.

3. Instead of writing the President complaining about the wording on the cards his staff sent out this year, why don’t you write and tell him that you’ll be praying for him and his family this year. Then follow up… It will be nice hearing from you again.

4. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can’t afford and they don’t need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth, and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.
(and my addition: teach them to reach out and bless others by giving to those less fortunate. Some ideas are here and here and here.   One of my proudest moments was some 5-6 years ago when MissN said that what she wanted for Christmas was for us to sponsor another World Vision child in her name. She picked out little Refiloe in Lesotho and it’s proved to be a gift that keeps on giving).

5 Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.

6. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless?  Since you don’t know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile; it could make the difference.

7. Instead of nit picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren’t allowed to wish you a “Merry Christmas” that doesn’t keep you from wishing them one. Then stop shopping there on Sunday. If the store didn’t make so much money on that day they’d close and let their employees spend the day at home with their families

8. If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary–
especially one who takes My love and Good News to those who have never heard My name.

9. Here’s a good one. There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only will have no “Christmas” tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don’t know them, buy some food and a few gifts and give them to the Salvation Army or some other charity which believes in Me and they will make the delivery for you.

10. Finally, if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don’t do things in secret that you wouldn’t do in My presence. Let people know by your actions that you are one of mine.

Don’t forget; I am God and can take care of Myself. Just love Me and do what I have told you to do. I’ll take care of all the rest. Check out the list above and get to work; time is short. I’ll help you, but the ball is now in your court. And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those whom you love and remember :



To Write Love on Her Arms

November 17, 2009

Did you see anyone with LOVE written on her arms last Friday?

We (MissN and me) had Love written on our arms:

I guess we could have been a bit more creative, huh? Colour would have been good.  My friend Sam had photos on facebook of the most amazingly colourful arms on her and her friend!

Why did we use permanemt marker on ourselves?  To raise awareness and  show our support for the issues and more importantly to show support for those suffering from depression, self harm and addiction.  And to celebrate that there IS hope and recovery.

Thanks to Melly – I copied the post below from your blog.  I’m sure you don’t mind.


To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery.


The vision is that we actually believe these things…

You were created to love and be loved. You were meant to live life in relationship with other people, to know and be known. You need to know that your story is important and that you’re part of a bigger story. You need to know that your life matters.

We live in a difficult world, a broken world. My friend Byron is very smart – he says that life is hard for most people most of the time. We believe that everyone can relate to pain, that all of us live with questions, and all of us get stuck in moments. You need to know that you’re not alone in the places you feel stuck.

We all wake to the human condition. We wake to mystery and beauty but also to tragedy and loss. Millions of people live with problems of pain. Millions of homes are filled with questions – moments and seasons and cycles that come as thieves and aim to stay. We know that pain is very real. It is our privilege to suggest that hope is real, and that help is real.

You need to know that rescue is possible, that freedom is possible, that God is still in the business of redemption. We’re seeing it happen. We’re seeing lives change as people get the help they need. People sitting across from a counselor for the first time. People stepping into treatment. In desperate moments, people calling a suicide hotline. We know that the first step to recovery is the hardest to take. We want to say here that it’s worth it, that your life is worth fighting for, that it’s possible to change.

Beyond treatment, we believe that community is essential, that people need other people, that we were never meant to do life alone.

The vision is that community and hope and help would replace secrets and silence.

The vision is people putting down guns and blades and bottles.

The vision is that we can reduce the suicide rate in Australia and around the world.

The vision is that we would learn what it means to love our friends, and that we would love ourselves enough to get the help we need.

The vision is better endings. The vision is the restoration of broken families and broken relationships. The vision is people finding life, finding freedom, finding love. The vision is graduation, a Super Bowl, a wedding, a child, a sunrise. The vision is people becoming incredible parents, people breaking cycles, making change.

The vision is the possibility that your best days are ahead.

The vision is the possibility that we’re more loved than we’ll ever know.

The vision is hope, and hope is real.

You are not alone, and this is not the end of your story.

[ from ]

If  suspect someone you know is self harming, please urge them to get professional help.  It’s addictive and very common amongst teens, especially girls.  Many will try it because it’s “in” (and the emo subculture is an almost-mainstream way for to express their pain) and become addicted to dealing with their pain and depression with self harm, instead of learning other ways of coping and managing their mental health.