Fair Trade helping the world and the local community
By: Judi Stuart
Port Discover: Visitor Services Manager
Here at Port Discover, we take our citizenship seriously in many ways. Through our programs like the annual Earth Day Celebration and our many conservation efforts, we promote efforts to conserve the resources of the earth.
To help support our organization and give the kids an opportunity to take something science related home, we opened a science shop last year at Port Discover. The small area at the center offers a wide variety of science education related products that people can purchase during a visit to Port Discover.
The selection includes such things as stuffed animals, games, books, science experiment kits, seeds and plants.
Recently we added products from the World Fair Trade Organization. If you have purchased coffee from Starbucks and Nestle Corporations, you are probably acquainted with Fair Trade products. The largest producers of Fair Trade coffee which is their largest selling product are Uganda and Tanzania.
The first Fair Trade markets began in the 1940s and 1950s when some religious organizations received craft products for their donations to third world countries. The current Fair Trade movement began in the 1960s with an emphasis on “trade not aid.” A philosophy of helping others to help themselves was the core value of the organization.
Profits from selling the products are used for community projects that improve the lives of everyone, such as, roads and bridges which connect people to each other and the world. The market-based model provides and alternative to dependency on aid from other countries. The communities learn the democratic process concepts of being self-governing and making their own decisions.
The businesses operate fostering the principles of reforestation, water conservation, and environmental education and awareness. They continuously support practices which help their community and the planet. Also, Fair Trade standards require that people have access to health care and education. Participants are taught about wise business practices and sustainability.
Women in these developing nation communities are empowered through their work with Fair Trade. They are guaranteed access to health care, job rights, freedom from harassment, and opportunities for education and leadership roles.
Fair Trade principles include payment of a fair price, restricting child labor, transparency and accountability, non-discrimination, good working conditions, and respect for the environment. Products are made or grown from sustainable natural resources, recycled, and biodegradable materials.
For example, beads from Uganda are made by rolling glossy, colorful paper into a bead shape and then coating them with lacquer. Other meticulously made products in the science shop are crafted from recycled wire from cars, plastic bags, banana leaves, telephone wire, steel drums, and old tires.
Handcrafted paper from India, African paper art dolls, and Mayan weaving are among the products offered from Fair Trade. Products come from all parts of the world including Kenya, South Africa, the Caribbean, and Haiti.
Port Discover strives to help us all understand more about our small planet, and in the process, we hope to support our educational programs.