The Great Turning Trip...From Every Angle: Global Exchange
The first day of the Great Turning trip started off with a stop a Global Exchange. Walking into the first nice city building of the week was a bit overwhelming until I stepped into the offices at Global Exchange. I was greeted by smiling faces and art of all different kinds promoting every peace, justice, and sustainability cause out there. This was definitely a place for the Woolman students.
Our group settled into a large conference room and began an activity defining words like justice and collectively understanding why much of our society is set up to benefit only 1% of the population. That introduction really helped to get in the mindset of why Global Exchange was there in the first place. They saw how our world has all of these issues and are answering the question: How do we create a world where everyone and everything has a high quality of life?
When two women began talking about all that Global Exchange does, I felt overwhelmed again. One part of their work is to work with communities to create a specialized way of living in order to create community rights. They also sent people to many different areas of the world on reality tours to show how different life is in areas like North Korea. Some of their staff helps organize other groups that want to create justice. There is even a Global Exchange store that sells fairly traded goods. They seemed to hit from all angles, and even though it was confusing to understand how it all fit together I realized that was exactly what the world needed. One of the greatest things I have learned from my education so far at Woolman is that no issue stands alone. Everything is connected and that’s how Global Exchange creates change. Working through issues through each branch of their influence.
Part of our time at the Global Exchange office was with a woman named Chie who previously worked in a sweatshop and is now working with Global Exchange to end sweatshops. Her story was heartbreaking, but also extremely inspiring. Through realizing that this kind of labor needed to end, she eventually managed to create a documentary on the horrible conditions in this sweatshop and have it shown on ABC’s 20/20 with Barbara Walters. Such a huge exposure of the GAP company and their use of sweatshops was not tolerated, and to this day Chie cannot go into any GAP store without being asked to leave. Chie introduced me to one of the most important lessons that I learned on this trip: do not simply ask, “Please change this.” Instead, assert your rights as if you have them, because you do.
After leaving those offices with motivation and possibility I held onto that one large lesson that Chie taught me through the entire trip and realized that it applied to every group and organization that we visited. I realized that this is the way to make change. Did the civil rights movement make strides by asking, or demanding that their rights be respected? Maybe, but what really shook people up was when those oppressed people acted how they wanted to be treated and demanded by action. This is one of the most fundamental concepts of activism, and I thank Global Exchange and everyone at Woolman who made this trip possible for teaching me how to make our world a more just place.
If you are interested in learning more about Global Exchange's community rights work, please check this out:http://www.globalexchange.org/communityrights/actnow