The Truth About the Garment Industry

Photo Credit: Heng Chivoan

Photo Credit: Heng Chivoan

Why does fair trade matter in the garment industry?

Try searching “garment protest” on the Phnom Penh Post, the Cambodian capital’s newspaper.

You’ll find articles entitled things like this: Glue fumes cause mass workplace faintings (August 2013), Strike violence erupts (January 2014), and even, Two monks hauled in for doing blessing on striking workers (January 2013), and this is just in Cambodia.

A staggering number of people worldwide are living on less than $1.25 per day, working in unhealthy environments and for unreasonable hours. It’s not an exaggeration that their lives are at risk—these garment factories have collapsed, the fumes from the products making employees sick. Then, when the workers push for change, asking for reasonable wages, they are sometimes literally beaten back by the Cambodian government, military officials and police.

Why should we care? Because we make the consumer market that drives these low wages that the workers protest. Our need and desire to see low prices on clothing continues to keep these workers in factories that have no concern for their well-being. So often, we unknowingly buy from retailers that keep these workers under their thumbs, playing a naive but not altogether innocent role in the problem.

What can you do? Be a knowledgeable consumer, know where your products are made and support fair trade and local operations. It may cost you a little more, but at least it’s not costing a life half a world away.


(By the way, we know a great place to shop, and the employees are paid four times the poverty level in Cambodia)

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DSC_0238Financial debt plagues a huge percentage of the impoverished in Cambodia. This isn’t like the debt you and I know in the US. There, loan sharks prey on families facing desperate situations, imposing staggering interest that makes repayment almost impossible. In a country where many families earn less than $2 a day, any crisis–a health problem, a natural disaster, a disruption in income–can put them at risk for starvation. So they take out loans for small amounts that snowball into larger amounts over time, and often find themselves desperate once again, this time for a different reason. This is one of the biggest reasons that children are forced into the sex industry.

Not all parents in this situation sell their daughters to traffickers, but some do. This article on CNN explores the issue in depth, and sheds some light on the mentality of the mothers who make these desperate decisions.

Debt is a heavy burden, and follows many of the girls in CGI’s programs. Many of them have shared stories of accrued family debt that they want to help alleviate, even at very young ages. Fighting trafficking is certainly a priority of CGI, but fighting poverty is our main focus. It is the underlying factor–the common thread–in so many trafficking narratives. Our programs in Cambodia emphasize vocational training in the hopes of freeing these girls from poverty, giving them the ability to make decisions apart from the influence of desperation.

Will you link arms with us in this fight? Sponsor a Program Participant

CTC Graduation Day!

Chef Ryana and the CTC graduates

Chef Ryana and the CTC graduates

On Saturday, the first and second class of Culinary Training Center (CTC) students officially graduated from the program! These girls spent 18 months learning the art and craft of cooking and working in a restaurant from CGI’s resident chef, Ryana DeArmond. Last week was also another important milestone–the second “birthday” for the Green Mango Cafe in Battambang!

The graduation ceremony was a poignant event for the girls, staff, friends and supporters who have helped make this day happen. With the skills they’ve acquired, they are now equipped to find employment in the growing restaurant and tourism industry in Cambodia.

The capacity to turn their backs on the sex trade and use their education to earn income is a monumental step. Let’s praise God and celebrate with them!

Not Just Clothes

Kien Svay Kids in their new gym clothes

Kien Svay Kids in their new gym clothes

Last week, the children in our Kien Svay Kids program (part of CGI Kids) received new gym clothes. And here they are, grinning from ear to ear in their new outfits!

This photo warms our hearts because its a picture of more than just new clothes. It’s new opportunities and hope and excitement. It’s evidence of forward steps. So many of these children are trapped in a heartbreaking cycle of poverty and are gaining skills to help break free someday. We have already seen huge progress in their academic performances just since entering Kien Svay Kids, and we know its just the beginning!

Would you consider becoming a monthly supporter of CGI, and programs like these that help protect the vulnerable?

The Beringers in Cambodia

Alan and Katy

Alan and Katy


Alan Beringer is CGI’s Director of Operations in Cambodia. Two years into serving in the mission field–along with his wife Katy and son Jonah–Alan plays a vital role in our organization, connecting the dots between supporters in the States and the day-to-day work of CGI in Cambodia.

He knows the whole package, from the visions of our stateside office to the faces of girls living into that vision. We caught up with Alan for a quick Q&A on what he does, how he does it, and how we can pray for his family.




What is your role with CGI?
I’m Director of Operations in Cambodia.  Basically, I make sure that our projects in Cambodia are running smoothly.

Can you walk us through a typical week in your shoes?

There really isn’t a typical week! But here’s a little bit of my weekly routine: I attend a Khmer language school. (Yes, I continue to learn language; it brings smiles to Cambodians’ faces whenever they hear Katy and I speak Khmer!) I spend time with the CGI office staff reading the Bible and praying. Currently we’re reading the Book of Acts.  My wife, Katy, attends a weekly meeting with the social workers at the Imprint Project, and I spend time at both Imprint and byTavi (only about a 5 minute walk between those buildings) throughout the week. I lead a Bible study with the women of byTavi and we normally end our time with a song.

I observe our Kien Svay Kids program (part of CGI Kids) each week and also learn how to sew with the women at byTavi. We have CGI staff meetings on Fridays and our time is filled with prayer, discussion about the week and staff development. I stay in constant communication with the CGI office Stateside, with regular Skype calls and weekly reports with details of what’s happening in our programs and with the individuals we serve here.

You have a unique view of the fruits of CGI’s programs and projects. What can you tell supporters half a world away about what their efforts are doing in the hearts and lives of the women we serve?
I first want to say thank you for your support of CGI. We would not be where we are without people like you. I have seen first hand how God is moving in our programs and how people’s lives are being transformed and redemption is happening. It’s amazing to me how new program participants come to us with little hope, but after they have been in our programs for a few weeks even, they are filled with joy and hope. God is at work here in Cambodia.

Being in the mission field can be challenging, and requires faith and plenty of prayer support. How can we pray specifically for you and your family?
Please pray that God would continue to give us strength as it would not be possible otherwise.
Please pray that we would stay healthy.
Please pray that we would continue to listen to and obey the Holy Spirit.

Please join us in praying for the Beringer family as they serve the people of Cambodia!