Untours and the Untours Foundation often receive interesting gifts. Owning a global travel company and investing the profits to support impact-focused businesses around the world lends itself to meeting new friends who love to share a piece of their homeland or culture with us – local culinary delicacies, countless bottles of local spirits or wines, children’s toys, paintings, and decorative maps all often grace our offices.
A few years ago, we received a gift that was different. It brought, and still brings, an emotional connection to our work that cannot be overstated.
We were gifted a child’s wrist iron (handcuff) that was used on enslaved children in the US in the 1700s.
A bit of history for context – Untours Foundation launched the Fair Trade Towns movement in the US. Certified Fair Trade products are an antidote to the horrors of modern economic exploitation, especially in the developing world. For example, much of the chocolate that we consume here in the US was harvested by exploited, and often enslaved, workers and children. Yes, child slaves possibly picked the chocolate in your bars. Today. In 2022. Fair Trade certifications ensure that workers were not exploited to produce the product and, certainly, no children were enslaved in the process.
This brings us back to the strange gift we received. It came from a friend and mentor in the Fair Trade movement – Bruce Crowther, the “Father of Fair Trade Towns” – to remind us that slavery existed then and still exists today. This wrist iron was made for the wrist of a child, forged out of iron specifically to keep a 5-year-old enslaved.
We cannot forget this horrific component of our history. Likewise, we cannot overlook our abominable modern day realities in which we are, often unwittingly, complicit.
The gifted wrist iron feels heavy in our hands and heavy on our hearts. The pressure of it weighs us down and drives us forward to continue working to make the world one in which children do not need to be enslaved in order to ensure us cheap desserts.
Purchasing Fair Trade is a great tool in your toolbox for creating change. Please reach for labels like these and member organizations when shopping:
Learn more about our commitment to Fair Trade here.