A unique Halloween event – Reverse Trick-or-Treating

Kids doing Reverse Trick-or-Treating will reach over 100,000 adults this year

Halloween’s a time for ghosts, goblins and the latest cartoon or sci-fi characters. And oh the candy!

This year is the fifth annual Reverse Trick-or-Treating on Halloween. Trick or Treaters around the country will be handing out Fair Trade chocolate to over 100,000 adults who normally would be handing goodies to them.

This national give-back event focuses awareness on the existence of child slave labor, trafficking, poverty, and hazardous environmental conditions rampant within the cocoa industry.

In 2003, the U.S. State Department issued a report stating that “approximately 109,000 child laborers work[ing] in hazardous conditions on cocoa farms in [the Ivory Coast],” a country where “the law does not prohibit trafficking in persons.”

There’s this huge grave problem of documented forced child labor in the Ivory Coast, a large source of the chocolate sold in the U.S., said Kelsie Evans, worker/co-owner of Equal Exchange, a chocolate Fair Trade organization that supports farming co-operatives around the world who provide sustainable farming methods.

The average cocoa farmer may earn up to $100 a year – no where near what it takes to take care of a family. To maximize cocoa yields, crucial wildlife habitat gets destroyed and increased toxic pesticide use is encouraged. All this for the gooey chocolate treats you hand out every year.

2011 marks the tenth anniversary of the signing of the Harkin-Engel Protocol – an agreement by this country’s largest chocolate companies, committing to put an end to forced child labor on cocoa farms in West Africa by 2005.  While some of the chocolatiers have made strides to correct these abuses, Hershey’s has done little.

A joint report issued by Global Exchange, Green America and the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) targeting Hershey named ‘Time to Raise the Bar, Hershey!’ details how hundreds of thousands of children are still being forced to work under abusive conditions for long hours on cocoa farms in West Africa, while others are victims of trafficking and forced labor. The documentary, The Dark Side of Chocolate, also profiles this sobering subject.

But change is happening.

Five years ago, Global Exchange, a San Francisco-based, international humanitarian organization focused on economic, social and environmental justice, partnered with Equal Exchange to create the first Reverse Trick-or-Treating.

It’s a hard topic to talk about, says Evans. “Chocolate is seen as a source of joy in the world,” she said.

But, she said, “children grasp some of these concepts about fairness.”

Equal Exchange provides all the chocolate for free to the campaign. Global Exchange creates kits to kids for Halloween for a $7.50 shipping and handling fee.

Global Exchange makes smaller kits for parents and individuals, containing 15 pieces of fair trade, gluten-free, mini dark chocolates plus fifteen informational cards and an instruction sheet that includes statements the kids can say as they hand out their chocolates.

Equal Exchange makes larger kits containing 150 mini-chocolates and the other items for school groups and organizations.

All kits contain a flyer and a coupon that lets you buy Fair Trade chocolate from Equal Exchange in bulk sizes, perfect for all year round delectabilty.

Reverse Trick-or-Treating happens Halloween night, says Kylie Nealis, the Coordinator of the Reverse Trick-or-Treating campaign.

“It’s kids taking action on a problem that effects other children,” she said.

“It’s a great teaching moment,” says Rodney North, Equal Exchange’s co-owner and it’s Answer Man. “There’s a surprise factor of the child down the street is bringing the lesson to me – and you get to eat the solution!”

Global Exchange is offering Reverse Trick-or-Treating kits on a first come, first served basis. The deadline to place online orders is Tuesday, October 11th. But they’ve agreed to extend that to Monday the 17th for my readers.

Global Exchange is only making 1,000 kits this year, so if you want to do something special this Halloween, don’t wait! You can order your kit at ReverseTrickorTreating.org. If you’re a day late, contact them anyway to see about getting you a kit. Schools or groups wanting kits need to order online immediately at Equalexchange.coop/rtt. Click on either the Retail Online Store” or Interfaith Store” links to order.

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