The author and cofounder of “The Facing Project” gave NCC an inside look at the people and places that provide the world with everyday goods, the unfortunate reality of those people, and the compelling stories of his travels.
Kelsey Timmerman spoke Thursday at the fourth annual Peace and Justice Conference in the Lipkin Theatre to a large and attentive audience.
Timmerman started his travels by simply looking at the tag on one of his T-shirts. This sparked his curiosity to discover where his clothes come from and what the lives of those who make the clothes are like.
“Deep down, I didn’t really want to know,” Timmerman said, referring to the lives of people in other countries who make the low-cost goods we take for granted.
Timmerman met many working people in his travels who opened his eyes to a harsh way of life. One of these was Arifa in Bangladesh, who makes $24 a month, not enough for food, school for her children, and medical help.
“It may not be the best job, but they rely on it,” Timmerman said.
In Cambodia, Timmerman was introduced to one of the most horrific sights he has ever seen – the city dump. The dump smelled terrible and with so many people scavenging for goods it was “hard to distinguish the people from the trash,” he said.
“My hell on earth was someone’s opportunity,” Timmerman said.
Timmerman continued to travel the world and meet people who all shared the unfortunate fate of poverty and poor living conditions, but one man he met had a significant impact on him.
Timmerman met Solo, who had moved from Ghana to work in the cocoa fields of the Ivory Coast. Solo is essentially a slave, which was a hard thing for Timmerman to accept. He works long days in the field, is beaten, hardly paid anything, and forced to call the higher-ups “master.”
Solo told him that “donkeys get treated better than him because at least the donkeys get fed,” Timmerman said.
An unfortunate lifestyle was something that Timmerman found commonplace among most of those he met. However, a much more important similarity, he said, was that they all “share hope that future generations will have it better.”
Timmerman has written two books, “Where Am I Wearing?” and “Who Am I Wearing?” He is the cofounder of The Facing Project, in which he seeks to connect people through his stories and strengthen the community.
He encouraged the Lipkin audience to travel and experience some of the same things that he has. “The best education you can get is to go out and see the world,” he advised.