Monday, April 26, 2010

Made in Pakistan

As a big soccer family, we are in the full swing of the spring soccer season. As I lug a bag of soccer balls to the field and back nearly every day, I have noticed that all of the soccer balls are made in Pakistan. Now I don’t know exactly how the balls were made, but the image I can’t shake from my mind is one that I came across a few years back. It was a photo of a young Honduran boy – maybe 8 years old - who had fallen asleep at a dilapidated worktable as he was stitching softballs. His clothes were indistinguishable from the dirt around him. He was holding a softball in one hand and a needle in another, but he was sound asleep. My heart went out to the boy.

The photo moved me enough that I hung it up in my classroom for a few years. Now, every time I pick up a softball I think about that boy. Did I get a better price on the softball by shifting the cost to that young boy?

But those were softballs, and we don’t play much softball in our house. But tonight I decided to do a quick search about all of the “Made in Pakistan” soccer balls in my home. The top Google hits were not encouraging. It seems like getting children to sew things for us Americans is not limited to Central America.

My searches made me feel uncomfortable enough that I decided to look for some fair trade soccer balls. They were easy enough to find, but they cost more. (At you can search “soccer balls” and compare that to “fair trade soccer balls”.)

So what will I do the next time I need a soccer ball?

I hope I put my money where my mouth is.


Anonymous said...

You should buy the fair trade ones if you can, but even if you can't, that cheaper ball may provide the only source of food for some child. We look at children working through our glasses of plenty. That exhausted child may very well have volunteered to work longer so he could afford shoes or some other necessity. Some money is better than none.

CrazyD said...

Thanks for the comment, BettySue. You are right that the situation is complicated. Maybe the child is better off being able to earn some money. On the other hand, if everybody bought fair trade soccer balls that pay the parents fair wages, maybe their children would not have to work. I am not an econ major, so I guess I don't really know for sure.

Emily said...

I so appreciate this post. Child labor is a very scary thing. And think of the infinite objects we purchase that fit into this category. It's overwhelming. You've probably already heard if it, but I love International Justice Mission (, an organization working to eradicate child labor and sex trafficking.

You may not know me. I met your wife at Children's. We both have children from Kidane Mihret.