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Sunday, June 24, 2001


Charity begins at the checkout

Staff writer

No time for voluntary work? An easy -- and fun -- way to alleviate your conscience is to go shopping.

Some stores donate profits from specific goods to designated charities. At agnes b clothing stores, for example, 50 percent of the profit from scarf sales goes to the Japan Foundation for AIDS Prevention, while half the profit from sales of the label's popular heart-shaped badges goes to the Japan Red Cross Society.

Some of the goods available at Asante Sana

Other stores stock goods produced by the charitable organizations themselves. UNICEF's range of 50 products, which includes T-shirts, postcards and toys, is sold in stores throughout Japan ( see www2.unicef.or.jp for store locations). Half the profits go to help children in 161 developing countries.

One of the most popular UNICEF products is its range of greeting cards (launched in 1955), which made a 510 million yen profit in 2000. Funds generated from card sales are used to pay for vaccination programs.

Shopping -- and helping others -- at Asante Sana

"A vaccination for one child costs about $15, so purchasing 30 cards will pay for one vaccination," said Shin'ichi Miyata of the Japan Committee for UNICEF.

Most organizations are smaller than UNICEF, but with Internet and mail-order sales, they can still do their bit for the disabled and the less well-off. One such organization is Kobo Kai, which helps people with Down's syndrome, autism and other conditions. Kobo Kai sells goods made by disabled people, and aims to help them become financially independent.

The institution in Hiratsuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, has given opportunities to the disabled to create artwork, helping develop their individual talents. Their creations are made into cardboard-framed postcards, badges and objets d'art, and are sold at the office as well as at more than 18 shops and museums around the country.

Postcard by Noriko Kawamura

Artwork by Noriko Kawamura, a 28-year-old autistic woman, depicts mainly people and animals in combinations of bright colors.

Kobo Kai Director Motoshi Sekine says offering a place for people with or without disabilities to interact was one of his aims.

"We needed a common goal for people with disabilities and the staff to share. And we came up with art," Sekine said. "Of course, we appreciate the fact that part of the profit from selling these goods is reflected in the salaries of disabled people here. On the other hand, I don't want people to buy our goods just because they are made by the disabled. I want people to give a fair evaluation to our artwork. Consumers shouldn't buy them if they don't like them," Sekine said.

Postcard by Kobo Kai

Following are some other places where you can shop and support good causes at the same time:

* "Asante Sana" (meaning "thank you" in Swahili), (03) 3791-2147: Press Alternative Co. Ltd. owns this shop in Tokyo's Meguro Ward. This was the first company to start a shop solely selling goods made by people in developing countries, aiming to support them financially and socially. The idea has prompted more than 300 nongovernmental organizations to open similar shops across the country. The shop sells such goods as curry paste from Sri Lanka, bags from India and Bangladesh, jewelry from Africa and coffee from Mexico. Prices range from 200 yen to 100,000 yen; the products are sold at the shop and through the Internet. In addition to helping people in developing countries, Press Alternative also promotes exchange programs to help develop their skills. www.p-alt.co.jp/asante

* "Panda Shop" of the World Wide Fund For Nature, (03) 3769-1241: Its products can be purchased only through mail order or the Net. There are about 200 items, from T-shirts and stationery to makeup and food. Last year, it received about 20,000 orders, bringing 200 million yen in sales, from which 45 million yen in profit was used for activities such as controlling deforestation. www.wwf.or.jp

* Sri Lankan restaurant "Koshin Shubo Pallette," (03) 5489-0770: This restaurant, serving curry during the day, turns into a bar and restaurant at night. It is run by people from Pallette wo Sasaeru Kai, a group based in Tokyo's Ebisu district that employs intellectually disabled people. The group also sells biscuits baked by disabled people at 10 stores in Kanto. For biscuit orders, call (03) 3409-3774. A package of eight types of biscuit goes for 310 yen.

* Tierra: This shop, which opened 31/2 years ago, is run by an NGO out of a single room in an apartment in Ebisu. A wide variety of items traded with studio workshops for the disabled all over the country and NGOs in developing countries are always in stock. In line with the aim of supporting disabled children and those in developing countries, all the goods are "fair trade" and reasonably priced. Items include handmade soaps priced 100 yen made at a training studio for the physically and intellectually disabled and wooden puzzles (600 yen to 3,000 yen) made at an institution for the intellectually disabled in Hokkaido. For more info, contact the owner, Chieko Suzuki at (090) 2940-4670.

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