Nonprofit Helps Aspiring Entrepreneurs Abroad

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Latitudes Handmade Fair Trade Products is a nonprofit organization in North Texas that uses craft sales to help in-need communities abroad become financially stable. Latitudes allows these communities to sell their crafts as a way to reach financial independence.

Mark Latham, the organization director, told Community Impact that they hope to change the way people shop.

“You can just tell the authenticity we have based on the products they can see,” Latham said in a recent interview. “So it’s a labor of love.”

Over the past nine years, they have sourced artisanal creations from Papua New Guinea, Morocco, Uganda, the Republic of Georgia, Jordan, Nepal, Kyrgyzstan, India, China, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia.

The organization does not work with partners that use child or slave labor.

“We want them to say, ‘You have the ability, even if you have no education, to create something beautiful. We want to erase that stigma of what they can and what they can’t do, based on their own abilities—not what someone else may be saying or doing,” Latham said.

Those who work with Latitudes learn how to give back to their own community.

Latham said, “In areas of India, we have people that will help fund a water well. And so from the community standpoint, it’s the women working that have the ability to give back and give their community a water well. So it gives them a sense of honor that they’re able to help their own community.”

Latitudes uses donations for funding so there are no costs to the artisans they partner with.

“The whole premise is we go and fundraise to do this type of work so that our cost of selling is not placed on the back of the artisans,” Latham explained. “And I can sell as much as I want and I make no more money than if I sold nothing. That is all based on my ability to engage people and raise funds to cover and support the work we do.”

Though much of Latitudes’ work is done abroad, they also positively impact communities back home. They use social media as a way to market and spread their mission, and have received donations from people across the country.

According to Latham, it has made people care about more than just purchasing something.

He said, “Most people are excited that their purchase goes to something bigger than just [an] item, that it’s going back to helping a community or a family, or a person.”

According to the Latitudes website, they are partnered with a business in India that employs widows with HIV, another that works with those at risk for human trafficking, and one in Jordan that trains handicapped individuals in woodworking.

The nonprofit’s site states, “In so many areas of the world, safe employment and job training can be the difference between life and death, and can be the foothold needed to escape the cycle of poverty.”

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