When setting up my business over two years ago, I became transfixed by a ground-breaking project I`d heard about in India and was determined to find a way to support it.

The project in question was started in 2004 and run by a Non Government Organisation (NGO) whose mission is to shelter, feed and educate street children, usually boys, who have been living rough on the railway station at New Delhi.

The project generates income by making recycled newspaper bags and jute items. This allows the NGO to take care of thirteen street children who live in a house in a village about an hour`s journey from the city.
As well as helping the local economy, the project has helped the boys to integrate into the wider community by attending school and playing, rather than pulling rickshaws, shoe polishing, rag picking or worse……

How it works is this. The boys go out each day into the local community on bicicle rickshaws to collect newspaper from private houses and then over 80 local women help construct the bags by recycling this newspaper and adding jute handles for our comfort and convenience.
The end results are these fabulous recycled Indian Newspaper Bags.

So the question was…. how could THE FAIR TRADE STORE get behind this initiative?

The temptation of any small, fledgeling business is to keep costs down, so why on earth would I spend additional money buying these bags simply to wrap customer purchases in?
Surely the maths didn`t stack up?
I could buy cheap paper bags for this purpose from wholesalers in Liverpool or Manchester, or buy online, based on the cheapest price, from some faceless company.

However, after much deliberation, I decided the required investment was worthwhile and my first order was duly placed. It would give my business a point of difference, afterall.
Since then, customer feeback has been very positive, saying that the bags add value to their purchase. Indeed many customers are re-using the bags themselves, which is great.
As a result, my orders have continued and the Fair Trading cycle grows and grows.

To help balance the books commercially, however, I decided to stock a range of three different sized recycled newspaper bags for sale in our online shop. Sales from these would bring in some income to be put aside for future orders.
They make a really unique gift bag for any presents as no two bags are the same! The larger bags come complete with a little tag showing a picture of the boys and explaining their story.
And the bags are stronger than they look – but please keep out of the rain!

I believe the project in New Delhi is going from strength to strength, which gives me great satisfaction. I`m so glad I decided to invest from day one and now I wouldn`t be without my recycled newspaper bags – they have become part of my brand!

If you have enjoyed reading this post and finding out more about this Fair Trade project, then why not leave your comments below?
I`d love to hear from you – Paul

You can read more “Secret Diary of a Fair Trader” posts on our blog.