Next … moms on the move Robin Rossmanith: Shop to Stop Slavery
by Jean Blackmer
Robin Rossmanith lives in Jacksonville, Florida. She first attended MOPS after the birth of her third child in 2003. She’s been married to Tom for 14 years, and they have three children, Alana (11), Andre (9) and Aria (7). She began in MOPS as a Hospitality Coordinator, became a Discussion Group Leader, then Co-Coordinator and eventually the Coordinator of the MOPS Murray Hill Group in Jacksonville, Florida.
Recently, Robin Rossmanith and her 9-year-old son, Andre, were at the grocery store. He was pleading with her to buy some blueberries, his favorite fruit. But, when she saw where they came from she couldn’t do it.
“Sweetheart, I can’t buy those, they come from a country where women and children are forced to pick them,” Robin explained. He didn’t argue. He understands her conviction of not buying any items that might contribute to the problem of human trafficking.
A few weeks later it was blueberry season, so Robin took Andre to a local farm and picked blueberries until he was tired — about an hour. She reminded him of the grocery store incident, “Just think if we had bought these from the store, how much work it took for people to pick all those blueberries, and they didn’t have a choice to stop,” she said. Robin could see compassion and understanding in Andre’s dark brown eyes.
Robin discovered the horrors of human trafficking* in late 2006 when a friend began explaining her new job as a case manager for victims of human trafficking. Being clueless about the issue, Robin went home and did a Google search. She was appalled when she learned that at any given time 27 million people exist in some form of slavery, bondage or trafficking. With this knowledge, she couldn’t ignore the issue.
“As a wife and mom, I couldn’t up and go somewhere, but one area I could do something about is how I spent my money. I started to pay close attention to what I bought and didn’t buy,” Robin explained. For example, she carries a list with her to the grocery story of products, such as blueberries, and countries to avoid due to their labor practices. She found it hard to find products that didn’t involve human slavery. “So many products we touch every day like coffee, chocolate and cotton involve human slavery at some level,” she said.
One day she approached her husband, Tom, with an idea. “Wouldn’t it be great to start a store that would only sell products that didn’t allow human trafficking?”
“It would,” he agreed, “but starting a brick and mortar store is expensive. We don’t have the time and resources for that, but what about an online store?” he suggested.
This got the wheels in her head churning. Then her MOPS friend, Suzanne Turcotte, invited her to go to a conference on building a website. “I came back with Shop to Stop Slavery,” she said. “I wanted to make it easy for others to find products that advance the movement towards eradicating modern day slavery. The response has been amazing!” Within one year her site, ShopToStopSlavery.com, had 5,000 hits a month.
“I know buying everything 100 percent slave free can be overwhelming and expensive. I recommend making small changes in your purchasing habits. Commit to buying one socially conscious item per month or consider switching one type of product you normally buy with a fair trade/ethically made equivalent. Another idea to save money and be socially conscious is to not throw out what you already have just to buy something ethically made. Use what you have or buy secondhand before purchasing something new,” Robin suggests.
Through her training in MOPS, she learned to communicate by understanding the needs of others and how to relate to them. “This enhanced my confidence and ability to create a website geared to communicating with the buyers in the family — mostly moms,” she said.
“I also learned moms are moms, no matter where they are. My mom-heart longs to help the woman in Africa who was forced to be a child soldier and is now making jewelry to provide for her family. I can help her when I promote organizations that provide food, housing and jobs for moms like her.” Since Robin first became aware of the travesty of human trafficking, she has seen the number of people doing something explode. “God put this passion in my heart and the hearts of so many others at the same time. It’s awesome to see the world changing. Collectively, we are making the planet a better place,” she said.
Jean Blackmer is Publishing Manager for MOPS International. She’s the author of "MomSense: A Common-Sense Guide to Confident Mothering" and "Boy-sterous Living! Celebrating Your Loud and Rowdy Life with Sons". She and her husband, Zane, live in Boulder, Colorado, with their three sons.
*Human trafficking is the transportation, harboring, selling or employment of a person through the means of force, fraud or coercion for the purpose of forced servitude. — ShopToStopSlavery.com