I hate wearing T-shirts with messaging all over them, even more so when the messaging is nothing more than branding. But I write this post wearing a T that features an image of Martin Luther King and his comment that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
To purchase the T I traveled from the relatively developed centre of Phnom Penh to slum ridden periphery. Here a group of seven young men, who couldn’t otherwise afford to continue their education, screen print the Ts. The shirts are purchased from a women’s sewing coop and the screen printing takes place in a small workshop at the end of a dusty road filled with shops selling mostly shrimp and pastries. The scents that waft into my nostrils as I walk the street range from the sweet aroma of the pastries, to the seafood scents of prawn, to the distasteful pungency of rotting garbage.
These young men and women could work in the export oriented garment factories, earning a paltry income of US $60 a month in a city where even slum dwelling requires an income of around $230 /month to meet basic needs. Instead they work in these businesses.Three of the young men in the T business screen print in the morning other and go to school in the afternoon. The other four go to school in the morning and work in the afternoon
The business is the brainchild of Dave Bryce, a Victorian who lives in the slum. The Ts are sewn and screen printed in ways that respect the dignity of the workers and ensures they receive a decent wage. A fledgling cottage industry, they can’t afford to source cotton from Fsairtrade suppliers. They buy the unused portions of the garment factories.
The T traveled 7.5 hour bus drip with me today, from Phnom Penh to northern town Stung Treng. They’ll travel back to Australia with me. And I’ll wear them gladly, even if they are filled with pics and slogans. At least they’re clever…and just…and rooted in something transformationally good.
To learn more about the Ts or to purchase your own go to justees.org