Air Force Core Values Led Me to Serve In Kenya
People get involved in Fair Trade for different reasons. My reason is because service has been a part of my life in one way or another since I was 19. I am a military veteran and service has been my foundation.
November 11th is Veterans Day in the US. It started in 1918 and was officially proclaimed Armistice Day in 1919 and later proclaimed Veterans Day. In May 1938 it officially became a legal holiday. There is an extensive history behind it that you can read here
Veterans Day is a federal holiday in the United States observed annually on November 11, for honoring military veterans, that is, persons who have served in the United States Armed Forces. It’s not to be confused with Memorial Day, which is to honor those who died in service to the US.
I am an Air Force Veteran and served in the military 23 years. Service Before Self is a core value of the US Air Force. In the Air Force it means an Airman’s professional duties take precedence over personal desires. Every Airman is expected to have the discipline to follow rules, exhibit self-control and possess respect for the beliefs, authority and worth of others.
Once I left the military I continued to serve in various ways. I worked with a non profit who helped women in shelters who had been victims of domestic violence. We did leadership and self esteem workshops for different groups and did special events on Mother’s Day and other holidays.
I served with my church and other organizations helping people in need around the world and have done various service related projects to help my veteran brothers and sisters.
I don’t talk about those things much, it’s simply part of my life and been part of my life as far back as I can remember. However, I think it explains how I ended up on this path to Fair Trade and working with Artisans in Kenya. I believe service is a calling and felt that calling when I was in Kenya toward the end of my first trip there.
We purchase the products upfront and then resell so we can purchase more. That way it’s not on the artisans waiting and hoping for sales. They’ve already received the benefit of their efforts up front. We sell retail, wholesale and online. Pay Promptly and Fairly is a Fair Trade Federation Principle that we follow in our operations. Baskets and Beads is a verified member of the Fair Trade Federation.
In our organization I’m not anybody’s boss. I’m the head of the company, the rest of the team has their roles to fulfill to make the company work and the market grow. You might say the ladies are independent contractors that I order from in a sense. I have a director in Kenya and the ladies in the slum have a director who runs the group.
We are all working toward the goal of building self-sustaining families one woman at a time. If you look briefly here into my past, you will discover that service has been a part of my life for a very long time including other parts of the world while in the service and after I retired. I am committed to serving the women in Kenya and hoping to expand to other groups.
People get involved in Fair Trade for different reasons. I think most people want to help serve others instead of being self serving. Unfortunately there are those who make poverty an industry to make money in (See the documentary Poverty Inc.).
We are building a cooperative team model that ensures the success of everyone involved from our women, to our directors and anyone else on our team. It's a model of partnership and mutual respect. I miss being able to see the ladies. I was going to return to Kenya this month but cancelled my trip. The cases of COVID in the area where they live are rising and more restrictions are being enforced. We are praying for eradication of the virus and overall eradication of poverty in their lives.
On this Veteran’s Day if you thank a Veteran for their service, understand that you are thinking them for being willing to write a blank check made payable to the United States of America for an amount up to and including their lives. Many of us continue to serve others long after we leave the military. It's imbedded in our DNA. If more people served each other then served themselves, our world would be a much better place.
Happy Veterans Day to all my Veteran brothers and sisters!