Freshmen learn Fair Trade first-hand

By Andrew Stettler
September 25, 2008

Staff photographer

Cabrini freshmen got a chance at hands-on learning about Fair Trade when their class used multimedia reporting at a Fair Trade fair in nearby Media, Pa. Over the past two years, Media, Pa., has been recognized as the first Fair Trade town in the United States. Recently, a freshmen ECG 100 class visited Media for the town’s Fair Trade live concert and “Fair” Fair to learn first hand about Fair Trade.

Freshman communications major Michelle Costa said, “Speaking in class and taking notes on Fair Trade, certainly does not compare to being at a fair where one is surrounded by the pride, hope and quality of Fair Trade products and the passionate people dedicated to this moment.”

A new core general education class, ECG 100 Our Interdependent World, pushes students down the path to making the world self sufficient. Putting emphasis on developing countries as well as impoverished people in the United States the class is challenged in their own personal core values.

“It made me want to get involved. I was so inspired by the dedication,” Alyssa Davies, freshman communication major, said. She was one of the ECG 100 students who attended the fair. “It is not just helping one person; it is helping a community, that is important.”

In short, Fair Trade is a trade system that cuts out the middle man and assures that the majority of the profit goes to the suppliers themselves. This practice is helping to solve global problems around the world in developing areas like Africa who are fighting among other problems, AIDS, and Indonesia who is still recovering from the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

To find out more about Fair Trade, the students interviewed the owner of local shops in Media such as “Earth and State” and recorded their interviews using video, audio and photography as part of a multimedia project. Earth and State sells products like pottery, glass-work, metal-work and other Fair Trade items. Many of the products sold in Earth and State come from local artisans right out of Pennsylvania.

Areas in Pennsylvania like Lancaster that are, for the most part, left out of the mainstream markets are becoming more and more desperate for retailers who will sell their items. This is where stores like Earth and State come in.

“About 20 percent of everything in the store is from Pennsylvania,” Earth and State store owner Drew Arata said.

“It’s important to support our local economy first, because if the local economy does not thrive then we won’t be able to support these developing countries.”

Local artist Bob Dean is just one of these producers struggling to find a market. Dean collects clay from local creeks and then uses the clay to make pottery items which are then sold in Fair Trade shops like the ones in Media. Through Fair Trade, it is not Earth and State that collects the majority of the sales price. It is Dean.

Last year, Cabrini’s Jazzman’s Café started selling free trade coffee through their supplier Sodexo. Now all of the coffee flavors in Jazzman’s are Fair Trade.

“Fair Trade is a way to alleviate global poverty, [while] paying attention to living wages, minimal ecological impact and social justice,” Arata said. About 30 percent of Arata’s store’s products come from fair trade co-operatives as well as individual manufacturers from around the world. These co-ops connect Arata and other businessmen to farmers and craftsmen in developing countries who are not being given their fair share of the earnings in the products they produce.

Arata is not just a store owner in Media. He is also part of Media’s Fair Trade Committee which raises awareness of Fair Trade by holding town events. Media’s annual Fair Trade Live concert and “fair” Fair is just one of these weekly events. The festival brought Philadelphia radio station, WXPN, and the town’s businesses into the streets by holding a four-block-long party on State Street. With bands playing on several stages surrounding the streets and vendors sitting behind tables on the side walks, Media gathered publicity to the Fair Trade cause.

“If people can get together like they did for this fair, then the idea will take off,” Costa said.

Highlighting the day was the African Boys Choir’s performance ranging from traditional to contemporary African choral songs.

One American song, however, hit a chord in many students. A few students to tears when the children’s chorus collectively sang the lyrics, “I’m everything I am because you loved me.”

“For as much trouble as America is having and has made for itself, we’re still an incredibly generous society,” Arata said

Drew Arata and the Media Fair Trade Committee hold community events supporting Fair Trade on a weekly basis.

Andrew Stettler

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