Saturday, October 20, 2012

Trick or Treat!

Remember being a kid and all the excitement of Halloween? If my neighborhood is any example, the holiday is still going strong. In fact, it may have reached new depths of darkness. Skeletons, witches, and ghosts either entice or frighten young  children in many front yards lined with pumpkins and
ghoulish figures. I walked around the block last week and they were everywhere creating an eerie atmosphere. As a kid, I never liked that scary part, and I still don't. But I did love the candy.

And yet, in the past couple of years I've begun to realize that the candy may be the scariest part of all. Well, at least chocolate. Perhaps we've been tricked into thinking these treats are the best. I'll bet kids still figure out which houses distribute full-sized Hershey bars.

However most mass-marketed chocolate makers purchase their cocoa from companies that use slave labor on the Ivory Coast--slaves that are children.

Youngsters only 7- and 8-years old are being used to harvest cocoa beans in West Africa. They work long hours with little food and no pay. I first became aware of the problem shortly before Halloween two years ago when I attended   "Not for Sale's 2010 Global Forum on Human Trafficking."

 That's where I heard the Rev. Tim Costello, chief executive of World Vision Australia, talk about a trip he'd made to Ghana. 

Costello said:“What I saw still haunts me every time I unwrap a chocolate bar. “Trafficked children wielding sharp machetes; cutting off white, yellow, and red pods which contain the beans; losing fingers, [and] being burned by pesticides.”

According to Costello, U.S. companies that mass market chocolate continue doing business with those involved in modern-day slavery, despite knowing the despicable conditions--companies like Hershey's and Nestle's, who could make a difference if they'd adhere to fair-trade standards.

So what can we do? Do we permit our kids to remain oblivious to the problems and have their fun despite the harm being done to other young children--kids stolen from their parents with promises of better lives by slave traders who exploit them for monetary gain? 

Perhaps it's time we start educating our children that not all kids have it as good as they do. If young children grow up aware of the problems in this world and learn at a young age how each person can make a difference--maybe things would start to change. Instead of cultivating a sense of entitlement, we'd be cultivating a heart of compassion. 

We can start by getting educated ourselves, then we could choose what is age-appropriate for them to learn.

Attendees at that 2010 global forum saw the premiere of "The "Dark Side of Chocolate," by award-winning Danish journalist, Miki Mistrati. Perhaps churches might show it to the adults in our neighborhoods and ask them to join us in boycotting any producer of chocolate that does not adhere to Fair Trade standards. More on that in a future post.

Though ignorance may be bliss,being informed and acting on that information could make neighborhoods around the world, a more beautiful place to live.

No comments:

Post a Comment