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Thank you for visiting Change the World by How You Shop. Let me introduce myself. My name is LeeAnne McCoy. I am a Christian and seek to follow God in all I do. I have been happily married for 17 years and am blessed with six wonderful young children. Change the World by how you Shop is my passion. But to explain, we will have to go back in time a bit.
The story behind this website starts over twelve years ago. My husband and I had been listening to our pastor preach on the persecuted church around the world. Inspired by his teaching, we stumbled upon a video by Michael Card, showing imprisoned Chinese pastors being forced to work 16 hours a day until their fingers bled, making Christmas lights to send to the U.S. Wanting to show empathy for our suffering brethren, we made a decision that day to stop buying products made in China.
As you can imagine, shopping for our family has been rather difficult ever since. But every time I put an object back on the shelf, disappointed after checking the label, I would remember those struggling in China and it no longer felt like such an inconvenience.
The world has changed a lot over the past twelve years. I do not know if imprisoned Chinese pastors are still being forced to make Christmas lights. But I do know that more and more has come out in the media over the years about the deplorable conditions in many Chinese factories. So my husband and I continued our personal boycott of China because we did not want to profit from other people being exploited. (Note: Not all Chinese factories are bad. We still buy from China when we can trace down enough information to feel confident the workers in that particular factory are treated well!)
But after years of shopping this way, I began to question what was the point? I did not share my conviction with others because it was personal and I knew that Chinese workers needed jobs, even sweatshop jobs, in order to feed their families. So how was my one-person boycott making any difference for those workers I wanted to help? Plus, the more I read in the news about exploitative conditions in other places, the more countries and brands I felt compelled to boycott. Pretty soon, I worried, I would be unable to purchase anything in good conscience!
I needed to know why I was shopping the way I was and whether or not it was worth it. So I began reading...and researching...and studying...and praying....and researching some more. I learned about globalization, economics, poverty, modern-day slavery, child trafficking, sweatshops, bonded labor, fair trade, direct trade, free trade, trade agreements, activism, etc. until my head swam. (Click here to learn more.) I studied the issues from all sides and bounced deep questions off my patient husband, who as a first-year middle-school teacher already had enough on his plate!
The more I learned, the more depressed I became. To be honest, it would have been easier to stop researching. As the saying goes, "Ignorance is bliss!" And the problems were so deep and so vast and so far away. How could I possibly make a difference? Yet the more helpless I felt, the more passionate I became to do something. The question was what?
So I prayed...and prayed...and prayed some more. I considered organizing boycotts of brands known for utilizing exploited workers. But I learned that boycotts often just hurt those at the bottom of the supply chain because they lose that low-paying job they so desperately need. I considered becoming a Fair trade activist. I could feel better about my shopping and help rescue people from poverty, but what would I have accomplished for God?
It was my husband who challenged me to think outside the box. That and the inspiration of reading Kevin Belmonte's excellent Biography of William Wilberforce. What if there was a way to make a difference in a positive way? What if I could shop in a way that rescued people from poverty and slavery plus showed them God's love and true freedom? What if I could help get other people on board to change how we shopped together and broaden the impact? Were there any other Christians out there who felt like I did?
I sat in front of my laptop and cried the day I found Amani Ya Juu's website. I was no longer alone. There were others who thought like me and were already out there making the difference I longed to be able to make. As you will see browsing through this website, Amani Ya Juu is just one of many faith-based organizations that are going even beyond Fair trade to save others from exploitation and make a real difference in people's lives. I have had to search hard to find them, but I am discovering more all the time. (See Businesses We Support.)
At last I had found my mission. To connect people who want to make a difference by how they shop with those who are out there combating exploitation in the most positive way imaginable through God's love. So I have taken my years of research and combined it all into one, easy to use website so you can too can learn how to change how you shop. (I created the website I wish I had stumbled on years ago!) And you will find you are not alone. People from many different denominations, countries and backgrounds are also joining in to help rescue people from poverty and exploitation, utilizing trade to change lives. So, please help me spread the word, and together we can change the world by how we shop! Like Matthew West sings, let us "Do Something"...