Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Children and Chocolate

I love chocolate. I love it so much, I actually pack my favorite kind of chocolate (70% dark) when I travel. One day a couple of months ago, as our trainer was going over our "foods list" (the 30 most consumed foods we eat) with us, he noticed chocolate was close to the top of my list. He asked me, "Is it just a favorite thing of your's to eat or do you eat a lot of it?" I know I gave him a funny look, because the answer to both questions was "yes." 

I buy a bar of dark chocolate every other week. A bar usually lasts me two weeks. It doesn't cost that much, it calms me when I'm stressed, and it has antioxidants. So, it's worth it... 

Or is it? 

A week ago, if you had asked me, "How much would you be willing to pay for a piece of dark chocolate?" My answer would have been, "Well, it depends on the quality." Because like I said, I only like a certain kind.

But, now my answer is, "It depends, how was it harvested?"

Because the truth is that most of the chocolate we consume in America, costs more than a couple dollars.

It is costing moms in West African countries like Burkina Faso their children.

Children are being trafficked, sold into slavery, to be used in the cocoa harvesting business found in many West African villages. 

Much of the cocoa harvested by these children makes its way into our Kit-Kat bars, chocolate chip cookies, and my 70% dark chocolate squares. 

BBC produced an incredible documentary within the last couple of years about this issue called "Chocolate: The Bitter Truth." It is broken down into five short (under ten minutes each) sections on YouTube, and I strongly recommend taking a look at it.

I know, for me, when I think about human trafficking, immediately I think about the sex trade. I think about women, who are helpless, who are treated worse than animals. 

When I lived in downtown Atlanta, I felt a little more connected to the issue, because Atlanta is the capital for human trafficking in North America. But that was so naive of me. Because, it doesn't matter where in the world we live, each and every one of us is connected to the issue of human trafficking. The things we purchase and consume, even things that appear to be lovely, like chocolate, connect us to this sickening issue. 

It's very much like Satan's nature, isn't it? He's so camouflaged. The way he works. What used to be a shiny candy wrapper enveloping a bite of happiness now, to me, symbolizes a child slave. 

So, what to do? We can't ignore it. It's not just in a far away place, anymore. It's in your box of chocolates that your boyfriend is planning on buying for you for Valentine's Day. It's in the carpet of our homes. It's in the clothes we're wearing, the electronics we use, and the cars we drive. 

I know, just in the last week, as I learned about the tiny hands that could have harvested my dark chocolate, the 70%-dark-chocolate-bar-with-a-touch-of sea-salt in my refrigerator makes my stomach turn just to look at it. 

So, do we stop buying everything unless it has a "Fair Trade" certification stamp or a "Made in America" seal?

One thing is certain, if we're going to help stop this, the first thing we need to do is become aware. We need to wake up to horrific reality that slaves work for us. 

And, if you have a problem with that, which I truly hope you do, then, start educating yourself on this issue. Talk to other people about what you're learning. And, consider what your purchases, your lifestyle, and your candy bars are really worth, and the message we send the manufacturers when we buy from them.

As David and I have begun to wrestle with the intensified understanding that we contribute to slavery more than we help prevent it, it's been helpful to have organizations and resources who have already started to make a difference. I've included just a short group of resources, below. If you have any you'd like to add to this list, please comment. We can help end this. We just need to start doing something about it.