Mark Latham has made it his goal to help change the way people shop as director of the fair trade nonprofit Latitudes Handmade Fair Trade Products. The 501(c)3 organization provides artisans from developing countries the opportunity to sell their crafts while helping them become financially independent.

“You can just tell the authenticity we have based on the products they can see. So it's a labor of love,” Latham said.

In the last nine years since starting the nonprofit, Latham has worked with his teams in Morocco, Uganda, the Republic of Georgia, Jordan, Nepal, Kyrgyzstan, India, China, Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia and most recently Papua New Guinea to source artisanal creations from communities that have often been pushed away for their disability or lack of resources.

Latitudes places an emphasis on who it employs, making sure none of its partners employ slave or child labor.

“We want them to say, ‘You have the ability, even if you have no education, to create something beautiful,’” Latham said. “We want to erase that stigma of what they can and what they can't do, based on their own abilities—not what someone else may be saying or doing.”

Latitudes’ partnerships in those countries are also helping create financially independent and stable communities. Artisans who work with the nonprofit—mostly women—are taught ways to give back to their communities.

“In areas of India, we have people that will help fund a water well. And so from the community standpoint, it's the women working that have the ability to give back and give their community a water well,” Latham said. “So it gives them a sense of honor that they're able to help their own community.”

Running such an organization has not been easy, Latham said. Latitudes is entirely funded by donations, a method that prevents the cost of selling from falling back on the artisans.

“The whole premise is we go and fundraise to do this type of work so that our cost of selling is not placed on the back of the artisans. And I can sell as much as I want and I make no more money than if I sold nothing,” he said. “That is all based on my ability to engage people and raise funds to cover and support the work we do.”

While Latitudes’ mission has brought positive changes to the communities it works with, its impact is also felt back home in the United States. Through social media, the organization is working to market itself and has received support and donations from around the country.

“Most people are excited that their purchase goes to something bigger than just [an] item, that it's going back to helping a community or a family, or a person,” Latham said.

Latitudes Handmade Fair Trade Products

351 E. Hudgins St., Grapevine.


Editor's note: The original version of this post has been updated to reflect that Mark Latham is the director of Latitudes Handmade Fair Trade Products.