I visited India to spend sometime with the people who grow the cotton for our Fairtrade polo shirts and T-shirts which we supply to schools for their uniform. It was adventure rights from the word go and was fascinating from the moment the wheels of our plane wheels touched down in the City of Ahmedabad.
The whole trip was fascinating and wonderful however, there were two main highlights. We were talking to spinners at the large Mahima factory when we were suddenly ushered along, being told that the children were going home and that we would miss them. ‘Children? What children?’ I was puzzled as I looked around at the adult filled room. We squeezed into an old car and soon arrived at the colourful Swayan School Academy which was an inspiring experience! I was able to briefly visit each class and meet the children who were from the rural farming cotton growing communities surrounding the school. The school was financially supported by Mahima the spinning company we had just visited who produce solely organic and Fairtrade cotton.
The children themselves were so polite and a little shy with us but they were clearly very happy. It was one of those rare moments that I know I will remember forever. As I left the school I realised that the whole trip to India would have been worth that one special visit. The knowledge that by manufacturing Fairtrade and organic school uniforms we were connecting directly with, and supporting this school made everything seem real and worthwhile.
I squeezed into the car again and was driven along a very bumpy track to a Fairtrade co-operative of cotton farmers. I had no idea what to expect as I had been told that the harvest had already taken place. However, another memorable experience was about to take place.
On arrival two young men drummed us a greeting and as I walked into the village I was surrounded by excited children and smiling adults. The harvest was not over and I was shown around the crop by a group of proud farmers. . They seemed honoured by my visit and interest which was so touching because of course it was me who was so honoured at their kind and excited reception.. Later I sat with the head of the village in the yard, and was presented with an Indian doll carrying Fairtrade cotton which was a very touching moment for me. These people, who in comparison to our Western lifestyle have so little, gave so much to me in time and smiling pride, and it may seem cliché but I was truly moved by the whole experience.
Once back from our trip I was absolutely committed, even more so than before, and it seems to me that we to supply Fairtrade school uniform seems the perfect thing for Cotton Roots to concentrate on. It’s fairer, has a good impact on the environment, and helps these children with an education that all our children in the UK already enjoy.