By Katie Sobiech
Daily, new tragedies and injustices seem to be spreading like wildfire worldwide, particularly in third world countries. Though many feel helpless in trying to make a difference in the lives of people in far off countries such as China, India, Haiti, and other struggling places, there is a movement rising to make a way for you and me to stand up for the “voiceless”.
Janet Rhodes, owner of a tiny Fair Trade shop in downtown Hudson, is on board with this mission. This woman holds the secret to true joy – living life on purpose. Her shop holds her heart and mission, Fair Trade, which supports local and international efforts to alleviate poverty and bring justice.
Treasures in Darkness
Facing her own ‘dark night of the soul’ while going through a difficult divorce years ago, and moving to Canton from Queens, New York, where she pastored a church for 13 years, Rhodes says, “I knew I needed to step away from the church, heal, and just figure this life out.”
It was in her journey of healing that her life figured itself out.
“I was struggling, didn’t have a steady job, it had been a very difficult season and I just thought ‘God, what am I going to do with this life?'” Rhodes shared.
And that’s when she received a vision for the Fair Trade shop that exists now.
Filled with Vision
Rhodes envisioned a place filled with “beautiful things” from around the world, which would bring in donations to go back to the villages. Like scenes from a movie, the images danced through her mind. The only problem was, she didn’t have a clue as to how she would turn this dream into a reality. So she prayed.
Six weeks later, while talking with her pastor, he said he felt led to start a Fair Trade store, where the money would go back to support the villages.
“He said, ‘I just prayed yesterday, where am I going to find someone?'” Rhodes said, her eyes growing wide with enthusiasm.
From that day on, the rest is history.
“It’s totally a God thing,” she smiled.
Who Benefits from This
The beauty of this shop is that it provides work for the poor, near and far, and those living in unjust conditions.
“I work with 36 different countries. A lot of it is people who are impoverished. There’s poverty like we know it in the United States, and then there is extreme poverty, so we work with a lot of organizations that are addressing extreme poverty,” Rhodes explained, “Places with no running water, no safe medical care and that sort of thing.”
She works with the Fair Trade Federation to make sure everything is done properly.
“They are an organization that is on the ground around the world to ensure that the people in Kenya, Guatemala, and Ethiopia – all over – are being treated according to Fair Trade standards,” Rhodes said.
She also works with Lydia’s Purse, which is a local non-profit that works with homeless women from the Harvest Home Shelter, teaching them to sew handbags to make a profit.
What You Can Find
Janet Rhodes is a unique gift shop, with intricately designed jewelry, handbags, art, candles, soaps and more. Many of the items are made from recyclable products. A photo and description of the artists and creators of the goods are included near their products, so buyers know exactly who they are helping.
A stop here will save you from the shopper’s guilt trip. Get ready to step foot into a store unlike any other.
“People come in and lives are transformed as they begin to envision what they can do and how they can be a part of creating a more just, exciting world,” Rhodes shared, her eyes sparkling with joy.
They recently held their 2nd annual 10 day International Festival.
“We can transform our little shop into Kenya and have people come and buy stuff from Kenya and the donations will go back to this mission,” Rhodes said.
There are always new items to explore, and it’s the perfect place to find one-of-a-kind gifts.
Why this Matters
“Over and over I read stories of people whose lives are changed because of this. They’re given hope. The women who are weavers in Afghanistan would be destitute if they didn’t have a way to make a job that could really support them,” Rhodes said.
Rhodes has done her research on what is going on around the world, and it isn’t pretty.
“I’ve seen videos of sweatshops in China and India and the way people are treated, working 14-16 hours a day, walking in the rain an hour each day, for pennies a day. Just horrible conditions that they can never get on top of,” Rhodes said.
What’s even more disturbing is what a friend of hers saw firsthand while on a mission overseas with the International Justice Mission.
“She was walking with her guide in India, and looked up, and saw a child in a cage. A toddler,” Rhodes said.
The guide told her that children are either stolen, or their parents sell them, and they put them in cages until they stop crying for their mothers, stop crying for food, and quit trying to get out.
“Once those 3 things are done, they release them to be used in the sex trade and other forms of slavery,” Rhodes said.
“(The guide) told her this and she looked up and there was a block-long warehouse of nothing but cages. He said ‘Don’t look up’, as if ‘this is life in India, this is what happens’. And you can’t get the government in on it because it’s all a part of the whole system,” Rhodes continued.
The good news is that there are more groups sprouting up all over that are providing products made by those who have been rescued from slavery. These include the Fair Trade Federation, TransFair USA and the Fair Trade Resource Network.
“Fair trade just changes everything for people. It just changes everything” Rhodes said.
If you would like to shop and know that you are truly making a difference and impacting the quality of someone’s life, make sure to visit Janet Rhodes fair trade shop at 134 North Main Street in Hudson. For more information please visit http://www.janetrhodesonline.com