Hey Change Maker!
My guest this week is Jessica Ray with GOEX Apparel.
We begin the episode by discussing how GOEX was founded and how Jessica got involved. GOEX was initially founded by the Global Orphan Project (GO Project), which has been around since 2003. GO Project’s mission is “To break the orphan cycle through the power of community, commerce, and the love of Jesus”. The organization believes that the best place for a child is with their biological family, which can only happen if a family is able to secure Fair Wage employment. GOEX was created to help “sustain Fair Wage jobs that liberate workers from poverty and empower them in their families and communities”. Jessica joined GOEX when the company was 3 years old.
GOEX was first started in Uganda when team members from GO Project were visiting the country and learned of a woman named Lucy with a sewing operation that had no work. GO Project stopped importing school uniforms for the orphans they supported and started working with Lucy to produce uniforms. After the earthquake in Haiti in 2010, the team at GO Project recognized a critical gap in the Haitian garment industry. For many years, the garment industry was the top employer in Haiti, but after the devastating earthquake, there were almost no jobs. GOEX was officially launched in 2012 to help provide Fair Wage employment to workers in the Haitian garment industry. GOEX originally made and shipped t-shirts, but has since expanded to engage in fundraisers, dropshipping, and custom manufacturing.
Next, Jessica and I talk about how a simple t-shirt can make an impact. According to Jessica, “It’s all about how the person at the sewing machine is cared for”. She explains how people at the bottom of the supply chain – the workers producing garments in developing countries – are often the ones who pay to ensure that Americans can buy t-shirts at cheap prices. “When you buy fair trade, when you buy something with authenticity and transparency in the supply chain, you can know that people were paid fair wages all the way through the making of that item,” Jessica states. She describes how critical it is to pay attention to how workers and the planet are cared for, especially since the typical t-shirt travels the globe six times before it hits the shelves.
After that, we discuss GOEX’s tagline and how its leadership team operates. The tagline “Feel good, do good” is a double entendre. Not only does the soft cotton of GOEX’s shirts physically feel good, but customers can also feel good knowing that they’ve helped provide Fair Wage employment with their purchase. Jessica describes how the leadership team for GOEX is split between Kansas City and Haiti. Though leading the organization is not without its challenges, Jessica credits modern technology, as well as the female leaders in Haiti, for their success.
We next discuss the Transition Academy, which is a 2-3 year vocational training program that teaches basic life skills to kids growing up in orphanages in Haiti and India. These skills also cover a variety of job-related skills, which could include topics such as sewing, agriculture, diesel mechanics, computer skills, and HVAC installation. Jessica remarks that “Wherever it is, we want to make sure that kids who are aging out of care have a way to become a productive adult because they just can’t learn those skills when they’re living in an orphanage situation”. She also explains how kids living in orphanages typically have more privilege than their peers. These “economic orphans” often receive sponsorships from other countries that ensure they have three meals a day, clothing, textbooks, school uniforms, textbooks, play time, and few chores. This privilege often stands in stark contrast to other child peers, whose families may be just getting by. However, there is a growing issue with economic orphans: how do they learn life skills so they can successfully transition out of the orphanage? The Transition Academy aims to solve that challenge. We also briefly touch on GOEX Guardians, which is a group of brand ambassadors committed to championing people, the planet, and the Fair Trade movement.
As we near the end of the episode, Jessica and I speak in greater detail about GO Project, GOEX’s parent organization. The organization is rooted in local empowerment – there are no Americans from GO Project based in the countries they support outside of the U.S. In the United States, GO Project operates a technology platform called CARE portal, which links children and families in crisis with churches who can provide help and resources.
As we wrap up the episode, I ask Jessica about her inspirations. She replies that Ariane, GOEX’s General Manager in Haiti, is inspiring to her. She also calls out her adopted daughter and the Fair Trade community as inspirations. Jessica encourages listeners to help usher change by becoming a GOEX Guardian, buying a t-shirt, spreading the word about GOEX’s mission, and learning about how they can make an impact with Fair Trade. Listeners are encouraged to visit www.goexapparel.com, follow GOEX on social media, and email Jessica with any questions they may have.