Have you ever shopped at a fair-trade, ethical kind of shop or company and ended up buying stuff more because of the goodness of the cause than because you actually really liked the stuff? I sometimes do the same overseas. Buy something because I love the story behind it, then get it home and think, ‘what was I thinking’ and never wear or use the item again. Now clearly there are worse motives for buying something, but I have just had a very different experience in Bangkok.
Chris and Jodie McCartney are an Aussie couple who live in the biggest slum in Bangkok with their three gorgeous blond daughters. They’re part of UNOH (Urban Neighbours of Hope) – and you can find out more about them from my recent video diaries. Jodie is a self-confessed op-shop fanatic (op-shop = opportunity shop = what Aussies call charity shops) and after she and the family had been living in the slums of Bangkok for a while she hit upon a way to bring the joy of the op-shop to the locals.
There are heaps of ex-pats in Bangkok, Westerners on assignment to the city who accumulate lots of stuff while they’re there and don’t want to ship it all on to the next place. So an amazing amount of high quality gear (clothes, furniture, appliances) gets left behind. And here Jodie saw her opportunity, and Second Chance Bangkok was born.
Not only does it help reduce the piles of refuse in the landfill, it also gives a boost to many people who make the local slum in Klong Toey their home. There is work to be had. Enterprisings locals often queue up in the mornings to bag a bargain and sell the best stuff on again elsewhere. The profits support community projects and help start other small businesses.
I have to be honest that I didn’t buy anything from the main shop when I was there. It was in the midst of a huge sort out and looked like a bomb had hit it. But, I snagged a brilliant bargain from another wing of the business. They up-cycle!
I met a beautiful girl who is the single mother of five daughters (whose names all begins with B – the very cute baby is BunBun!) and who was working in a garment factory, barely surviving. Second Chance Bangkok have started her out in her own sewing business – she’s really gifted – and she’s now designing and making her own clothing which they also sell.
And my purchase, which I am as excited about in the cold light of London as I was in the muggy smog of Bangkok, is this fab bag, up-cycled from a bare of jeans and lined with a man’s dress-shirt. I’m holding out for the day they start selling on-line. Until then, you’ll just have to envy my fab bag. (Or make one?)