Here's the info from Ajiri's website:
Ajiri Tea was started with the social mission of creating employment for the people of western Kenya and of educating the local orphans. Through the sale of Ajiri Tea, we hope to create a sustainable cycle of community employment and education. Ajiri means "to employ" in Swahili, the national language of Kenya.There's just something so...wincingly saccharin about this to me. And how can I be so callous? But there's something about the combination of "orphans" and "handcraft" and "women" and "farmers"--just the whole thing--that makes me squirm. If only they had been orphaned women farmers!
We buy our tea from a tea factory in the Kisii district of Kenya and employ women in Kisii to handcraft the box labels, beads, and twine. All profits are sent back to the community through our donation to the Ajiri Foundation to educate orphans by paying their school fees and purchasing their books and uniforms. By supporting farmers, employing women to create the unique handmade labels on every tea box, and paying school fees for orphans, we hope to make a difference in Kenya today and in the future.
I'm glad these folks are doing this. I really am. It sounds to me like they are doing a lot of good and making some real impact. And yet I am disquieted. Perhaps by the "Let us come and help you" aspect (according to Sarah Vowell in The Wordy Shipmates, this is a long-held American trait). Perhaps it's the confluence of so many liberal buzz-words in one small space. Perhaps it's my own experience, seeing the production of "handcrafts" to play on the pity of folks in the west, all made to spec with supplied materials. I still may buy the tea, but something about this--this kind of helping--doesn't sit right with me.
You know what I think it is? It's the power thing--that I can help you, but you don't have anything that can help me. Even though that may not be what's really going on, that's what it feels like to me. And, of course, the people who founded Ajiri Tea are themselves earning a living this way. Nothing wrong with that. But I think those of us in the helping professions are kidding ourselves when we forget that we owe our livelihood to the people we're trying to help.