Students learned about new service opportunities on Feb. 7 during a visit from the founder of a Bronx-based clothing enterprise that helps poor Guatemalan communities.
“Goods of Conscience,” based on Watson Avenue in the Bronx, provides livelihoods in Guatemala while also supporting environmentally sound cotton farming and giving work to the underemployed in the Bronx. Its founder, the Rev. Andrew O’Connor, vicar of Holy Family Church, described the project and stoked Fordham students’ interest in either taking part or setting up similar international collaborations.
Goods of Conscience uses “Social Fabric” that is produced in cooperation with Textiles Proteje, a foundation serving the needs of Guatemalan Mayan weavers. O’Connor provides a synthetic, reflective yarn that the weavers combine with rare organic cotton, and the finished fabric is shipped to the Bronx, where it is fashioned into clothing by local garment workers.
The distinctive reflective yarn used in the clothing ensures that it can’t be counterfeited, so workers can earn a living wage, O’Connor said.
O’Connor got the idea for the project during a retreat in rural Guatemala. He wanted to help preserve the tradition of back-strap weaving and help the weavers earn a living wage.
The project has brought electricity to homes in one Guatemalan village and enabled residents to start building a church and community center, he said.
In the Bronx, Goods of Conscience also offers courses in home arts, recycling, and conserving resources. The organization also promotes local gardening, and will establish a yard this spring to grow hops for use by the Bronx Brewery.
“The business has been growing pretty organically,” O’Connor said. “I want to enable people to be able to come up with ideas that are generative, that help to promote Catholic social teaching.”
The event was organized by Jon Friedrich, Ph.D., assistant professor of chemistry, and attended by students in the Environmental Science and Environmental Policy programs, Students for Fair Trade, and Students for Environmental Awareness and Justice.