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Recycled sandals - Walking to a life of dignity

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Jun is now a happy man because "God has answered my prayers”, he says, "He sent me honest work". Like millions of jobless people around the world he was unemployed and homeless and wandered the streets of Olongapo City looking for any job he could find to get scraps of food for his family. They cowered from the lashing rain and typhoon winds in a hovel on the city dump. When the storm had passed they continue picking up bits of plastic and junk that they could sell. There are no free social services, like medical aid and unemployment payments for the poor. Jun and his family were on the edge.

The Philippines is a wealthy nation but almost all is held by the elite families, about 200 strong owning or controlling up to 70 percent of the natural wealth and production capacity. Millions of struggling Filipinos live in poverty and millions more have emigrated in search of jobs and fair wages. Jun is devout Christian and he never became bitter or blamed God for his poverty and joblessness. He knew it was because of the unjust system and the politicians that exploited the poor for their own selfish needs. He never lost faith that one day he would be lifted up like one of the poor and oppressed that Jesus said in the “Sermon On The Mount, would inherit The Kingdom.”

Then Preda social workers found Jun and his family hungry, shivering on the rubbish dump and invited them to the Preda shelter to recover and then invited them to come to a job training seminar. Preda (People's Recovery Empowerment Development Assistance (Foundation) is a human development organization that sets up micro Fair Trade projects for impoverished families.

Jun is a fast worker and was able to pay off the interest free loan given by Preda for him to own his own sewing machine. His children's malnutrition was gone, they went to school daily with all their needs supplied and Jun and Maria, his wife built a small house on a hillside outside the town. Their lives were transformed. They were trained to save their earnings for the day when orders changed. After a few years the market became saturated as other bag producers that copied the Preda bags and there was a falling off in orders. Jun was facing unemployment as there were now only a few orders.

Preda then suggested that he try making sandals from used rubber tires, he took the new training course and soon he was an expert turning out an excellent quality well finished flip-flop sandals. These sold well locally and abroad for a few years and all was well until recently when the fashion changed again and the whimsical nature of the customers was attracted to other things. But then, most recently, came the request of the Southampton Street Pastors who work with street people for Jun to supply sandals. It was a blessing for him and his family.

It is also a blessing for these unfortunate people in difficult circumstances in Southampton. Some go barefooted from time to time. The distribution of the hard-wearing flip-flop sandals is a gift and a contact point for the pastors who reach out with compassion and understanding to the poor and rejected people some of them homeless.

Jun and Maria, are now doing a hard days work every day to produce up to 200 pair of his sandals daily and supports his wife Maria, and 2 children. Maria helps with the sewing of the straps that make the sandals making a strong wearable and durable sandal ideal for indoor and summer wear.

His livelihood is based on Fair Trade criteria; he receives high prices for his sandals. This has enabled him to build an extension onto his house, buy household appliances, and send his children to school with all their needs supplied. The Southampton justice project has helped his family overcome poverty and has brought them a life of dignity and respect. There is a bright future ahead in the making of FairTrade recycled sandals and hope of spiritual renewal for those who will wear them.

By Father Shay Cullen




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