Kelsey Timmerman, the author of 2015-16’s summer reading book “Where Am I Wearing?” visited Gilmour Academy and discussed the message of his book in depth during Convocation. His story connects the reader to those who work in sweatshops or sweatshop-like conditions to make our clothes, showing us how we are all connected.
Timmerman traveled through Honduras, Bangladesh, Cambodia, and China to find out how his favorite pieces of clothing were made. Throughout the journey, he met the garment workers who made his clothes and was able to learn about their lives.
His book passes along the essential message of the need for awareness of social conditions through sharing the stories he has heard from the people he encountered. Timmerman conveys the problematic issue of globalization and the consequences that comes along with it. Although he points out that there is no definite solution for this problem, he proposes Fair Trade products to get on the right path. Fair Trade products enable us to purchase items made in factories where workers are treated fairly. Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that the garment workers as a whole will have improved conditions anytime soon.
we need to raise [our] voices to outright slave labor
Timmerman shares his thoughts for the purpose of finding a solution to the unjust working conditions in foreign factories. He makes sure we understand that boycotting may not always be the best solution. Mr. Richard Grejtak, Instructor in English, agrees saying we need to “raise [our] voices to outright slave labor,” but boycotting will only close factories.
When factories close, all of their garment workers are put out of work and into the streets, making them fall into poverty. As much as we’d like to think that companies and factories will change their policy if we don’t buy their products, positive change is not always that easy.
During his travels, he saw the strong family bonds of those working in poor conditions. Like Timmerman mentions in his novel, family ties are impossible to cut loose. Many garment workers send the majority of their paychecks to their families back home. Timmerman emphasizes that it’s hard for young people to advance financially because of these relationships. Because of this, Timmerman believes that more jobs with fair pay and conditions will make it possible for families to send their kids to school, improving the lives of the next generation.
Sarah Krakowiak (`16) and Bella Caruso (`18) sit with Hilary Dell (`05) and Kelsey Timmerman during a Peace and Justice club meeting with Miss McKinnon.
While supporting Fair Trade can be a legitimate solution, many people are not exposed to the idea or can’t afford it. However, Mrs. Pat Brubaker, Assistant Director of the Upper School, says, “We are a global community.” The issue is becoming aware of what the larger problem is, so that we can find the right solution.
We’ll eventually find a way to fix this challenging problem, but it requires support and determination. Sweatshops won’t be eradicated over night; it will take a combination of a variety of methods to resolve this problem. Taking small yet efficient steps will help us address the problem of sweatshops and human trafficking.