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Author - Jane Chaffee

A Quick Update | Navigating Coronavirus in Haiti

 

A quick update from Ariane, General Manager at LIFE, will fill you in on what’s been happening since opening our doors back up in Haiti:

 

Greetings from Haiti! It’s been just about one month since we re-opened our doors here at Life. Since then, we have successfully been able to transition back into our work flow while maintaining a clean and organized environment. Our daily routines have been adjusted to make sure we are doing everything in our power to keep each other safe, which is our number one priority amidst COVID-19. My hope is that the safety precautions our team takes while at work they are able to bring home with them.

 

Haiti is still under a “state of health emergency,” but there is talk of the airport reopening within the next month to come. We are currently at 4,500 confirmed cases that increase at a rate of approximately 150 per day. There has been a gradual resumption of activity country wide. Most if not all businesses have re-opened under limited hours and continual sanitation requirements before entering. As for the apparel sector, the Haitian government has mandated a 30% cap of the workforce at all times until stated otherwise. For the past month we have rotated our employees in and out giving everyone a chance to earn. It is not an ideal situation by any means, but I am grateful that our team is able to be flexible and understanding.

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COVID-19 | Regarding the temporary shutdown of our production facility

 

Right now the news is full of retailer and manufacturers jumping to make medical masks and gowns. We wanted to share why, at our apparel manufacturing facility LIFE, we’re not.

 

On Thursday, March 19th, we received a call from Bickford Senior Living, a longtime client, asking if we could make masks for their senior living facilities as they only had enough for one per person and were struggling to get additional supplies. Within 24 hours our team designed a mask and put it into production. At that time, Haiti only had one case of COVID-19 and factories were running. By the end of day Friday there were five cases and the Haitian government announced a shut down that evening putting a stop to all textile production in the country. Over the weekend, we adjusted the pattern for home sewing and got it out to volunteer sewers to make masks for Bickford and other facilities. (Learn more and download the pattern here.)

 

Right now in Haiti, the textile sewing industry is putting enormous pressure on the government to allow factories to reopen. They’re pushing with the angle of sewing medical masks and gowns, but most don’t have the ability to make the shift quickly because of fabric supply. While they are putting plans together for hand washing stations and other sanitation measures, many of these factories have thousands of employees who work in close conditions and pass garment parts from person to person. There is no way to prevent germs from passing within the factories.

 

That being said, there is the reality of the Haitian economy – people don’t have savings accounts for deep freezes. Stocking up on supplies is not a thing. Without the factories running, the 55,000+ people who work in the textile sector are unemployed. If the factories reopen, they will go back to work. There are no safety nets in Haiti, the government will not be depositing cash into everyone’s bank accounts. If factories open, workers will make a choice between a paycheck and the potential threat to the health and safety of them and their family and neighbors. In a country with very little healthcare and little ability to social distance, going to work could be a devastating decision.

 

 

So what are we doing differently?

  1. As soon as the shutdown was announced, we got on the phone with our team and told them we would continue to pay our people at least for the next two payrolls (one month).
  2. Our management team is advocating for the workers on industry calls and text chains. We are not pushing for factories to reopen next week, instead we’re asking for all of the factories to consider the risks to their employees above the desires to make money or even to help sew hospital gowns.
  3. We’re analyzing cash positions and expenses and talking to suppliers and customers in the hope that we can continue to pay our workers so they can care for their families during these unprecedented times.

 

Here is an update from Ariane, our COO, who chose stay in Haiti when most American citizens were leaving:

 

“Since the announcement of the first reported cases of COVID-19 in Haiti, my every day life has completely changed like everyone else all around the world. The country was in complete panic the next day with everyone frantically trying to run last minute errands at the same time. It’s been almost been two weeks since then and I’ve noticed that things have definitely calmed down. I’ve noticed a shift in precautions taken by not only the government but the people of Haiti as well, as their awareness on the virus has expanded.

Our team is doing a great job of frequently touching base with one another and keeping the morale high during these difficult times. The gesture of granting two payrolls spoke volumes to the employees. I didn’t get to speak to everyone, but those I did get the chance to talk to were extremely grateful. They know that we are all in this together and have their best interest at heart.”

 

How can you help?

  1. If you sew at home, jump in on making masks or gowns. We’ve provided a pattern for masks but there are several options out on the internet. Have questions? Shoot us an email and we’ll find an answer!
  2. Buy a tee, or two or ten! Many people are taking this opportunity to clean out closets and organize their homes. Make rags out those old tees and hoodies and restock for spring with new basics or graphic tees that, now more than ever, care for the people that make them.
  3. Share our story! Online shopping is trending up now more than ever. Encourage your friends and family to make ethical choices while shopping. Follow the hashtag #StayHomeLiveFair to see other consumers and brands connecting in solidarity with workers and promoting Fair Trade goods.

 

Watch for additional updates from our team in Haiti over the next few weeks as we navigate our ever-changing world.  Thank you for your continued support!

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COVID-19 | A simple way you can join the relief efforts

 

 

 

In response to the nationwide face mask shortage created by the COVID-19 pandemic, we immediately shifted all production at LIFE in Haiti to sew masks. When the factory had to close for the protection of our workers, we quickly altered the pattern for home sewing and connected with networks of home seamstresses. Now we are inviting you to join our relief efforts! Our team designed a DIY template with step by step instructions for anyone at home to participate.

 

 

 

Download our easy to follow pattern

 

 

 

Gather your family, pick out your favorite fabric and sew! Don’t have fabric? Ask us and we will send you some.

 

 

 

Due to tight regulations in the healthcare industry, we will be donating all masks to our network of senior living facilities, one of the most vulnerable populations. We can provide you contacts to deliver yourself, or you can mail your finished masks to us and we will make the deliveries.

 

Mail to:
GOEX Print and Apparel
3161 Wyandotte Street
Kansas City, MO 64111

 

 

If you have any questions as you get started about the pattern, fabric or delivery instructions, email us and we would be happy to help! Thank you for linking arms with us from afar — we are all in this together.

 

 

 

 

[The team at LIFE in Haiti sewing masks before production was stopped.)

 

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10 Things to Know About the Screen Printing Process

 

Glasses on, pencils out.

It’s time for a little screen printing 101. Here are ten quick, digestible facts that will make you that much closer to being a screen printing expert. Or maybe they will just help you on Jeopardy someday.

 

 

  1. Screen printing is the most common type of garment printing.
  2. Modern day techniques were born from ancient Chinese silk-screening techniques.
  3. Now, giant automatic presses can do the work that’s been done manually for centuries. Although, plenty of people still print on manual presses.
  4. Screen printing is called screen printing because it literally pushes ink through screens. If you have a multi-color print job, each color requires a separate screen. This is why there’s a limit to the number of colors and why the cost increases with each color.
  5. Not all garments print the same. Different inks or techniques are better on different fabrics. Talk with your printer about how best to print on a certain garment. GOEX tees are fabricated to be great quality and to provide great prints!
  6. Different looks can be achieved based on how the art is created or with the specific mesh of the screen used to print the graphic or with the type of ink. All of these elements factor into the overall look and feel of the print.
  7. There are different types of inks. Plastisol ink lasts in gel form forever, limiting waste. Water-based inks dry out quickly so they have to be opened/mixed right before the shirts go on press so printers have to know how much ink they’ll need in order to avoid waste.
  8. After the ink has been transferred onto the shirt, the shirt must be “cured” — a fancy way to say the shirt needs to dry. Our conveyor belt oven is about 40 feet long and it takes shirts around a minute and a half to get from one end to the other.
  9. Did you know screen printing can be a recyclable process? Screens can be reclaimed, meaning that the emulsion, ink, and design stencil are removed, using a power sprayer and diluting solution. Then, the screens can be prepped again for a new design.
  10. Screen printing is an art, not a science. Printers learn the best combination of art, ink type, screen type, squeegee pressure, etc. to achieve an optimal print quality and look.

 

 

Try your hand at it.

We have an open door policy! Swing by our Kansas City office anytime. We may even let you take a spin on the hand press — see if you have the squeegee-skills to push the ink onto a tee. Or watch this short video from our friends at Ryonet on how to print tees in your own home.

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GOEX | What’s the story behind our name?

 

 

We’re often asked about our name, and it’s a story we love to tell. After all, there’s a lot in a name, right?

 

At GOEX print + apparel, we believe in the power of commerce to create positive social change and improve lives. Commerce, in contrast with charity, always requires an exchange – “giving, or transferring in consideration of something received as an equivalent.” And creating social change means going out in the world to identify need and develop solutions. This is not a passive endeavor, it requires active engagement and a clear understanding of how to help without harming. 

 

These fundamentals led to the name GO Exchange — “GO” discover the world around you and “Exchange” goods that promote positive social change.

 

GOEX for short.

 

 

For those who have been around since the humble beginnings of GOEX, you remember when we were sewing a small collection of apparel, primarily jammie pants, and also selling artisan goods. While this supported seasonal production on a small scale, it wasn’t effectively using commerce to create lasting change. Commerce requires a commodity product and larger scale production. Thus the shift to custom apparel and the related investments in equipment both in Haiti and in Kansas City. We now have the capacity to manufacture and print hundreds of thousands of garments each month, employing hundreds of people in stable jobs. And we can scale efficiently to serve increasingly large or complex accounts. 

 

So, from now on, when you think of GOEX, we hope you’ll be encouraged to do two things:

 

 

 

  1. GO — Get out and experience things and people. Learn from those who are different from you. Discover how you can support efforts to create positive and sustainable social change. Or travel with us to Haiti to see our Fair Trade apparel facility!
  2. Exchange — Use the power of your purchases for good! Choose products from Fair Trade or ethically conscious companies. Support local jobs, especially those companies compensating their employees well and engaging in the community.

    You make a statement with every purchase you make! What do you want yours to be?
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Respecting Cultural Identity in the Marketplace

 

 

 

Last Fall, we announced our membership into the Fair Trade Federation. With that honor came the commitment to uphold the nine principles on which FTF was founded. Over the following months, we took a deeper look into each of those topics. “Fair Trade” means many things. It means creating opportunities for marginalized producers, developing transparent relationships, cultivating safe & empowering working conditions, ensuring the rights of children, being kind to the earth, and lastly:

 

Respecting Cultural Identity

 

Fair Trade celebrates the cultural diversity of communities, while seeking to create positive and equitable change. Members respect the development of products, practices, and organizational models based on indigenous traditions and techniques to sustain cultures and revitalize traditions. Members balance market needs with producers’ cultural heritage.

 

At GOEX, we share the story of resiliency that runs through Haiti. We champion Haitian culture and desire to take customers to Haiti to experience their culture and see the lives that make their apparel. Along with the product, our main selling point is the story behind the apparel. We do everything we can to amplify who makes the product and how they make the product. We tag our t-shirts with the GOEX label because we want all customers to know where their shirts come from and that they’ve lifted lives through the power of purchase. We exist to champion Haiti.

 

 

Here are a few examples how:

  • The main form of communication at LIFE is in Creole, Haiti’s official language.
  • Within the facility, we celebrate locally made artisan goods and decorate the grounds with Haitian flags.
  • Haiti is a relationship-driven country, so we allow time for fellowship and community building
.
  • All Haitian holidays are recognized to ensure that employees can spend time with their friends and families during special occasions.

 

 

 

 

Open for all!

We want everyone to see and know Haitian culture, so we implemented an open door policy. We believe open door policies play a vital role in reforming the industry and creating transparency in the apparel manufacturing sector. Here’s how else GOEX opens the door (literally) to reveal all the things you’ve wanted to know or never even thought to ask:

 

SEE INSIDE

 

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Cultivating Environmental Stewardship

 

The ultimate test of man’s conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard.

—Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day

 

Cultivating Environmental Stewardship

If we work hard to practice Fair Trade principles, but fail to cultivate environmental stewardship, we have missed the mark. If we work hard to make things better for this generation, but in turn, make things harder for the next generation, we have missed the mark. We must value the producers, empower the workers, defend the rights of children, AND be mindful of the earth while doing it. This is the Fair Trade Federation’s 8th key principle.

 

Fair Trade Federation members seek to meet their own needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. This requires active consideration of the environmental impact of every decision the company makes and creative adaptations in business practices that advocate responsible stewardship of resources.

 

Simply put, members reduce, reuse, reclaim, and recycle materials wherever possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are three key ways GOEX implements healthy environmental practices.

 

1) Responsible Sourcing:

We incorporate sustainably grown materials into our products by sourcing our fabrics from Carolina Cotton Works in South Carolina — they offer a variety of recycled materials. We use Repreve, a recycled polyester yarn and then spin our tri-blend shirts from US-grown cotton, recycled polyester, and rayon. Every tri-blend shirt contains the equivalent of approximately 6 plastic water bottles!

 

 

2) Responsible Use:

A large part of environmental stewardship is the day-to-day operational practices we have established. Our screen printing facility in Kansas City operates from an environmental and sustainable neutral position. We work with local authorities and agencies to ensure that the disposal of all waste/excess is in accordance with our positive environmental policy. We have an electric car charging station at our office and print shop to encourage electric cars. We recently moved into a new industrial building with large windows and low dividing walls to capitalize on the natural light, thus conserving electricity.

 

The main challenge we face is screen printing effluence. We are currently evaluating a system to capture all of our effluence from printing in tanks and to recirculate them and dispose of them. Attention is given to our suppliers to ensure the types of chemicals included in their products are friendly to the environment.

 

 

3) Responsible Waste:

When we can, we take extreme care to avoid waste in the first place, but it’s near impossible to be a Zero Waste print shop. Instead, we focus our attention on how we want to responsibly handle the waste we can’t avoid. We go back to the elementary school basics: reduce, reuse, recycle.

 

When it makes sense, we gift extra materials from the production facility in Haiti to the community. For other materials, like plastic, paint, cardboard, etc., we diligently recycle! We also reuse screens, boxes and ink containers in an effort to reduce our overall consumption.

 

 

 

Shop tees made with you in mind.

We’d love to get you started with a better basic tee today! Choose from our many styles, colors, and fits to make the perfect garment for your next group event — something you can feel proud to wear. Browse our Digital Catalog today!

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The Right of Every Child

 

Fair Trade means that all children have the right to security, education and play. What we really mean, is that kids have a right to be kids! Fair Trade Federation members are no exception to this fundamental rule. Members must respect and support the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as local laws and social norms. This means: zero tolerance for child trafficking or exploitative child labor.

 

 

 

Defending the child is the core of who we are. It’s the reason we exist.

 

GOEX is fully owned by The Global Orphan Project, a nonprofit that began investing in the lives of vulnerable children in 2004. As they continued to care for kids around the world, they learned a few things along the way.

 

The best form of orphan care is orphan prevention, and the best form of orphan prevention is a strong job. They dreamed, “Was it possible to create a sustainable model of ministry in which commerce played the biggest donor?”

 

 

 

It starts with the workers.

If we can give parents the opportunity to care for their own kids, that is our first choice. Many times, family breakdown is a result of the lack of opportunity. Parents want to love and support and provide for their children, but without a job, it’s just not possible. So, let’s create some jobs. Let’s create jobs that pay more. Let’s create jobs that make it possible for parents to put food on the table and love in the home. Let’s create jobs that keep families together.

 

 

 

And ends with the kids.

We are giving it all away. Every penny. 100% of the profit from every sale goes to care for kids through The Global Orphan Project. Their partnerships with local churches empower local leaders to be the hero to their own community. Whether it is family strengthening programs, medical care, access to education or all the little things in between — each vetted need pushes a child’s story forward.

 

If you print with us, use our garments or just advocate for our story — you have already made a difference. Real stories of real impact on real families!

 

SEE THE IMPACT

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Supporting Safe and Empowering Working Conditions

 

Fair Trade means a lot of things, to a lot of different people. But if we get down to the nitty gritty, it means “better”. Better standards, better treatment, better pay, better conditions, just better. Member’s of the Fair Trade Federation seek to do “better” as they follow principle #6: Support Safe and Empowering Working Conditions.

 

 

 

“Fair Trade means a safe and healthy working environment free of forced labor. Throughout the trading chain, Members cultivate workplaces that empower people to participate in the decisions that affect them. Members seek to eliminate discrimination based on race, caste, national origin, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation, union membership, political affiliation, age, marital, or health status. Members support workplaces free from physical, sexual, psychological, or verbal harassment or abuse.”

 

— Fair Trade Federation

 

 

Empowering Workers

Our first priority is our workers — they are the reason we exist. When major changes are necessary due to adjustments in government labor policies, we update our rules to comply and then meet with employees to educate them on those updates. Our urgent priority is to make sure we have engaged with all questions or concerns. Employees are invited to work on strategizing and implementing key business objects. This requires regular team meetings to get input on specific business needs or decisions, as well as overall strategic direction. Both in Haiti and in Kansas City, all employees are hired and retained based on skill regardless of race, sex, union affiliation, religion or any other factors.

And Keeping Them Safe

For our producers at LIFE in Haiti, we regularly participate in audits or reviews of our workplace and policies. This is done through third party companies like BetterWorks Haiti and the Fair Trade Federation. At our printshop in Kansas City, we practice similar disciplines in working with our employees. We update policies annually and review with employees. We pay attention to industry standards and requirements for workplace safety for both warehousing and screenprinting.

 

 

 

Travel with us to Haiti

See for yourself.

You play a big role in keeping us accountable — so come visit our facilities first hand! We know Haiti isn’t a “drop everything and head down next weekend” kind of destination for everyone, so start planning now. Check out our trips calendar, find a week that works for you, and then say “yes!”. Travel with us to meet the makers of your tees and see their facility conditions in person. We promise to let you have the aisle seat on the plane.

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Pay Promptly and Fairly

Fair Trade Apparel — Living Wages

Arguably, one of the biggest challenges with Fair Trade business is convincing the world to accept those few extra dollars on the price tag. We are conditioned to paying undercut prices, and change is hard to accept — especially when that change is not a tangible difference to the consumer but instead, a tangible difference to the producer.

 

Those few extra dollars empower producers, who commonly get taken advantage of, to set prices within the framework of the true cost of labor, time, materials and sustainable growth. This is the motivation behind the fifth principle that GOEX and other Fair Trade Federation members must follow:

 

 

 

Pay promptly and fairly.

 

This practice begins by examining international, national, and local minimum standards, and then complying with or exceeding those standards for employees and producers. Once fair wages are established, it’s equally important to ensure prompt, impartial payment. While our shirts sport a slightly higher price tag than the warehouse down the street, we offer that Fair Trade difference.

 

Fair Trade Apparel — Living Wages

 

 

 

Not just fair wages, but living wages.

We looked at the minimum standards in our producers home nation, and realized it was barely enough to make ends meet. We wondered, “Could we charge a little more to pay a little more?”. Daily wages at Life S.A., our apparel manufacturing facility, are 65% higher than the sector minimum and our employees have the ability to earn 140%+ of minimum based on production. In other words, they get paid a LIVABLE wage. All operators are paid the same rate based on production and time worked regardless of age or sex. We understand the challenges of cash flow in manufacturing and strive to be dependable partners — never wanting our makers to miss a pay day.

 

 

 

Prices that are fair to both you and our producers.

In selecting vendors, we do some competitive shopping to ensure our pricing is fair and will give the best value to our customers, but we do not request extended terms or push for heavy discounts. In addition, GOEX management has spent countless hours with our team in Haiti to help analyze costs, employment and tax law, and production benchmarks. We want our local team to have the best training and skills possible to maximize production and create high quality garments for you.

 

 

 

Fair Trade Apparel — Living Wages

The Story Behind Your Shirt

We don’t exist to make money. We exist because a nonprofit, The Global Orphan Project, had a dream that commerce could make a sustainable difference in a hurting world. They quickly realized that many children living in residential care did not lack family. Rather, their parents lacked opportunity. The answer? Create opportunity.

 

To make this dream work, we needed a creative team, premium product, and a community of customers ready to use their purchase power to create life-giving alternatives within the apparel industry.

Use Your Purchase Power

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