Anyone familiar with Harry Potter will recall that before he went to Hogwarts, his home was a cupboard under the stairs. I found this truly awful and felt relief that it was just fiction.
Earlier this year my friend Jake, who works for Tearfund, travelled to India where they partnered with Emmanuel Ministries Calcutta. He was profoundly impacted by the extreme poverty and hardship people faced there. Many of the stories he shared were heart-breaking. Jake met a family who lived in a space no bigger than a cupboard under the stairs. Unlike Harry Potter, they had to share that space among many. And tragically in their case, it’s not fiction. It’s real life.
Jake’s wife, Asha, and her friends were deeply affected by this story. Living a life of comparative wealth in a society significantly shaped by consumerism, it was hard to hear that people are living in such dearth.
So they are taking action and doing their bit to help end this poverty. They are running a Clothes Swap on Sunday, 23 August in King’s Cross, London to raise funds for Tearfund, a development and relief agency that is committed to ending global poverty, providing disaster relief, tackling climate change and much more.
People in poverty are especially vulnerable to trafficking. Right now there are almost 30 million people in slavery around the world. Human trafficking is the fastest growing global crime and one of the largest sources of income for organised crime.[i] Every year around 800,000 people are trafficked with 80 per cent being women and girls.[ii] The main reason people are trafficked is for forced labour with around 20 million people affected.[iii]
I have talked a lot about fair fashion on threads, so you’ll have heard me say before that the fashion industry relies heavily on forced labour.
Citing the UK’s industrial revolution, there are those that say the atrocities occurring to Bangladeshi, Indian and Chinese garment workers (among others) is part of the natural order. An inevitable reality on the path to progress.
Others say we have no power to change the tide; that the West’s buying power is being overtaken by the very countries where these factories reside and these consumers have even less appetite for fair trade than we do.
I disagree. We are responsible for our choices and each individual choice adds up to a significant impact. Good or bad. The fashion industry wants us to spend so they pour billions on advertising designed to make us feel we are lacking if we don’t buy the latest top, dress or trousers. But we still have the choice. We can succumb to this advertising and mindlessly, apathetically buy clothes that feed trafficking and forced labour. Or we can choose to be more thoughtful about where and how we spend our money.
Regardless of the change that may or may not come, at the very least our choices should reflect our values. And surely opposing trafficking is a value we all share. Edmund Burke famously said that evil triumphs when good men do nothing. We have a responsibility to not sit idly by while others suffer, often as a result of our choices.
A clothes swap is a fun and effective way to raise funds to support those in poverty and end trafficking while also doing our bit to make consumer choices that don’t fuel the pain and suffering of others. As an added bonus you can clear out your wardrobe, get something new – without damaging the environment or supporting forced labour – and eat delicious cake! It’s not just for women either. Men, I’m sure there are a few plaid shirts out there that you don’t wear anymore.
So come and join us at the Kings X Clothes swap on Sunday, 23 August, from 2pm – 3.30pm at 176 Copenhagen St, N10ST. It’s £5 at the door, and of course you’ll need to bring clothes to swap.
Let’s join together and do our bit to support TearFund end poverty and trafficking all while updating our wardrobe at the same time. Look forward to seeing you there.