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Henrico woman helps string fair trade goods to the U.S. one bead at a time

Posted at 5:55 PM, Dec 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-12-15 18:33:39-05

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. — Linda Edwards's home off of Lauderdale Drive in Henrico sits 7,000 miles from east Africa, but she closes the distance using a string of beads.

“Each tiny bead is made from a triangle,” Edwards said. “It is not all work. There is a lot of joy in it.”

Edwards is the founder of A Fair Trade World.

She works with talented artisans across the globe who make jewelry and clothing by hand.

“In some cases it’s their total livelihood,” Edwards said.

The former teacher befriended a Ugandan jewelry maker named Alice during a trip with her daughter in 2008.

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“When you picked it up she would say ‘Oh you like that one, you like that one. Maybe you take that one,’” said Alice.

Edwards recognized the quality immediately. She knew there would be a market for Alice’s wares in Virginia.

“We bought a few pieces that evening by the next morning I said, ‘Where we can we find Alice. We need to buy all of her jewelry,’” Edwards said.

Linda’s nonprofit distributes the handmade goods to businesses that practice fair trade, like 10,000 Villages in Carytown.

“In fair trade, you buy directly from the person that made it,” Edwards said.

Her organization cuts red tape, eliminates the middleman, and puts more profit in the pocket of crafters around the world.

“Once you really learn and get educated about fair trade you realize it is a worldwide movement,” Edwards said.

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Edwards said a few dollars can change the course of the artisan’s life.

Her friend Alice, a jeweler and widow with two children, was able to send her son to school with the profits.

“It is certainly satisfying to know that you’re helping,” Edwards said.

A Fair Trade World also helps doll makers in Thailand ship their creations to the U.S.

“If I buy one of these dolls, they make two and give one to a child in a refugee camp,” Edwards, who doesn’t earn a penny, said. “It has changed my life, that is for sure. I look at everything I buy with that in mind.”

The founder of the nonprofit said the handmade goods were far superior than anything mass produced.

“I hope that people have learned that they can buy almost anything fair trade,” Edwards said.

The fair trade movement also emphasizes the health of the planet.

“I don’t think there is any plastic in this basket,” Edwards said.

Like a snowflake, the jewelry and dolls are one-of-a-kind.

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“If you examine these first five, they are not alike at all,” Edwards said. “You think twice before you go to a big box company."

She said buying a bracelet or necklace goes deeper than accessorizing your outfit.

“This is really art. And every bead is different,” Edwards said. “If we do not do for others, then others will not survive.”

Linda Edwards — improving lives one bead at a time.

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“But when you are working with someone on the other side of the ocean, you have to imagine what you did that day made a difference,” Edwards said.

Linda Edwards is so invested in sustainability and helping others, she wrote a book — “The Fair Trade Movement” — which will be released in February 2023.

If you would like to purchase goods that will help others around the globe you can contact Linda directly at 804- 338-4524

Greg McQuade features local heroes in a weekly “Heroes Among Us” segment. Watch Greg’s reports Thursdays on CBS News at 6 or here on WTVR.com. If you would like to nominate someone to be featured on “Heroes Among Us,” click here to email heroes@wtvr.com.

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