As the founder of Senda Athletics , I had an unforgettable experience when I recently visited the factory in Pakistan where our Fair Trade soccer balls are produced. Fair Trade is mostly known for products like coffee, chocolate, and tea, and at Senda we are working hard to educate people about the existence of Fair Trade soccer balls! During my trip I saw first-hand how Fair Trade impacts the factory workers, and it made me even more hopeful about our potential to change the lives of those who make our soccer balls.
(Learning how to stitch a soccer ball with the workers)
One of my most memorable experiences was getting to sit in on a Joint Body meeting and seeing how much Fair Trade benefits the people. The Joint Body is a group of workers elected by their peers, which helps manage projects funded through Fair Trade. I was happy to see that every part of the soccer ball making process was well represented. For a total of eight joint body members, three were ball stitchers, three were ball packagers, and two were from management. As I sat in on the meeting, the joint body was talking about using part of its Fair Trade premiums to fund an eye check-up examination program at the factory, and to launch a project to offer medicine at affordable prices to workers. I also got to see the Joint Body’s first community project put into action. The Fair Price shop, located inside the factory, offers products like rice, cooking oil, flour, and tea at wholesale prices, so that the workers can make their income go further.
A main goal for my trip was to get to know the people behind our soccer balls, and also their stories. I knew I wanted to share some of those stories here at home, so I took a camera to take some good footage of my trip to Pakistan. I’m now working on making it into a documentary so people will get a better idea of the impact they have on the factory when they purchase a soccer ball. I want to share this story of empowerment through Fair Trade and soccer with others, and so I just launched an Indiegogo campaign to make a short documentary, “Senda: Soccer’s Path to Fair Trade”  about this trip, how Senda came to be, and our non-profit soccer partners. Anyone can contribute, and we have some great soccer and Fair Trade perks for our supporters!
The people in Sialkot were very friendly toward me, and I was so happy to see smiles all around the factory. The Fair Trade standard gives the workers pride in the hard work they do. I feel that my trip to Pakistan was especially important, because now I personally know the workers. It gives me more of an incentive to make sure that the workers do well, and that they receive more Fair Trade orders from Senda.
Currently things have been going well for all of us at Senda. We’ve had companies like Google and Clif Bar  place some orders for soccer balls with their logos and designs on them. A growing number of schools, including UC Berkeley, UC Merced and Contra Costa College, are choosing Senda for their club teams. We’re looking to grow the company even more, and to educate more people about Fair Trade in soccer. We are excited to start working with groups like Fair Trade towns and Fair trade Universities. We share their belief that when people are informed and given the opportunity to do something good for others, and if it is within their reach, they will choose to do so. Sometimes it’s just about making people aware of their power to do good!