A TrailBlazer’s Farewell Post

After a year of interning for the Laboratory for Civic Engagement and the Fair Trade Trailblazers, the time has come for me to pass on the torch of justice to the summer fair trade intern, Megan Draper.

The experiences that I have had working for the Laboratory, for Dr. Guertin and David Rosenberg, have taught me some of the most important and challenging lessons. Through the course of my internship, I was able to organize a fundraiser from scratch, a goal that I had been aspiring to accomplish since the very beginning of my college career.

The path to hosting such an event involved a vast series of obstacles, as I learned to consider the more practical aspects of charity work. For instance, being flexible and open to change were the two biggest lessons that I garnered. After spending months planning the Fresh Artists event, Hurricane Sandy unexpectedly came along during the week of the event, bringing all my plans to a screeching halt. It all worked out in the end, though, when a short conversation revamped the entire event, making it more successful than ever! We were able to get students from The Walden School involved, and we not only collected enough money to make a significant contribution to Fresh Artists, but also were able to spread awareness on the fair trade movement.

It was amazing to get involved with people in the local community and to work with everyone to discuss ways to combat human trafficking and unethical labor practices. Of course, my journey does not end here. This internship has given me just the foundation I needed to embark on my own journey to further promote global social justice issues.

I leave today with the powerful words of Anne Frank:


— Contributed by Fair Trade Intern, Labanya Mookerjee

Meeting Divine Chocolate Cocoa Farmers, Christiana & Afriye

As the season turned to spring on the first of May, it came time for the Penn State Brandywine Fair Trade Trailblazers to once again don the great banana suit and conduct one final performance on fair trade to a energetic group of students at Media Elementary School.

The fantastic event, organized by Earth & State, invited fair trade Divine Chocolate farmers, Christiana Adusei and Afriye Kwesi Boateng, to discuss the cocoa farming process to all of us in Media. Let me tell you, all of us were amazed by the amount of hard work that went into harvesting cocoa!

As consumers, we only really get to see the neatly-packaged end product of hours and hours of painstaking labor. And so, meeting Christiana and Afriye in person and hearing their stories helped so much to bring the process alive; engaging in conversations with them about their lives humanized the great effort in producing a simple bar of chocolate.

The event made me realize that in this era of increased globalization and amazing technological advancements, communication is truly the key in making the world a more transparent and more moral place–one in which unethical labor practices cannot go unanswered.

Aimee and I performed the prelude to the event with a short dialogue. While Aimee had a basket of fair trade items that she enthusiastically showed off and explained to the crowd, I was dressed in a banana suit, telling the crowd of the story of the lives of bananas as they are farmed and, later, sold in the USA.

Overall, we had a wonderful time meeting so many amazing people in the local and national fair trade action team. It was an absolute privilege to talk to everyone from Divine Chocolate and Earth & State!

To learn more about Afriye and Christiana, check out the Media Fair Trade Committee’s May newsletter!

Contributed by Fair Trade Intern, Labanya Mookerjee.

When Fair Trade Meets Earth Day…

Earth Day, 1990

Tomorrow, April 22, is Earth Day – one of the few days of the year that all of us, internationally, come together for a common cause: to help further initiatives to protect the environment.

A movement that started as a grassroots movement in the 60s (the official Earth Day event was held on April 22, 1970!) has led to the development of hundreds of environmentally-conscious organizations nationwide!

Earth Day, April 1970

Today, the Fair Trade movement follows the Earth Day mission in working hard to  foster both social and environmental responsibility. After all, Fair Trade plays a huge role in not only advocating for the human rights of laborers worldwide, but also in the promotion of more sustainable agro-ecological practices.

Fair Trade’s commitment to sustainability promises, among many other things, the reduction of toxic chemical usage and the protection of complex ecosystems. As the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) states:

Organizations which produce Fair Trade products maximize the use of raw materials from sustainably managed sources in their ranges, buying locally when possible. They use production technologies that seek to reduce energy consumption and where possible use renewable energy technologies that minimize greenhouse gas emissions. They seek to minimize the impact of their waste stream on the environment. Fair Trade agricultural commodity producers minimize their environmental impacts, by using organic or low pesticide use production methods wherever possible.

This means that roughly thirty-percent of Fair Trade farmers dedicate their premiums to powerful initiatives that promote community development, reforestation, environmental education, and water conservation! So, choosing Fair Trade-certified goods means that we care about both the people & environment where our food is produced.

On campus, our Laboratory for Civic Engagement is encouraging everyone to get involved by answering the question, “Where on Earth is your favorite outdoor destination?” via Twitter. Be sure to use the hashtag #PSUEarthDay in your tweet when answering. All tweets will be gathered at the end of the day and posted on the Laboratory’s Facebook and Twitter pages to find out some of Penn State Brandywine’s favorite destinations!

If you’re interested in volunteering for the day, check out the EPA website to find exciting new options in your local area! Here is the link: http://www.epa.gov/earthday/take-action.html.

Contributed by Labanya Mookerjee, Fair Trade Intern

The Justice Conference & Social Responsibility

On February 23rd, I attended the 2013 Justice Conference in Philadelphia, where I had the privilege of listening to a large variety of speakers, ranging from the CEO of World Relief to the leader of social innovation at Twitter.

The diversity in subject matter and the enthusiastic audience made the conference a terrific success, rekindling the embers of inspiration and passion among all of us.

Today, we are so much bombarded with callings for “justice” and “activism” that we have become somewhat numb to the serious reasons behind them.

As Gary Haugen, CEO of the International Justice Mission stated, “As we are constantly ambushed with stories of suffering, they begin to dull at our ears and the sense of urgency dissipates….But, to those suffering, the realities are immediate, never fading.”

I have recounted some of the highlights of the conference in an attempt to revitalize that sense of urgency for justice that these world leaders tried to foster within us.

Here are the links to the conference summaries:

>Running the Justice Marathon: Close-Up on Eugene Cho of One Day’s Wages

>Stephan Bauman, CEO of World Relief, Talks Human Trafficking and Immigration Policy

>Twitter’s Claire Diaz-Ortiz Discusses Using Social Media for Good

>Half the Sky’s Sheryl WuDunn at the Justice Conference

Also, if you are interested in listening to any of the main speakers from the event, check out the conference videos posted on the Justice website: http://thejusticeconference.com/videos2013.html.

Contributed by Labanya Mookerjee, Fair Trade Intern

Penn State Brandywine Hosts Mid-Atlantic Fair Trade Student Leadership Training

Today is the day that Penn State Brandywine is hosting college students from across the region for the Mid-Atlantic Fair Trade Student Leadership Training! Our own Dr. Laura Guertin and founding Fair Trade TrailBlazer Sarah DeMartino are leading the event, along with Billy Linstead-Goldsmith (national coordinator of Fair Trade Campaigns). Keep an eye out for our summaries of the day!

Also, keep updated on the latest news by following us on Twitter (@PSUBW_FairTrade) and by liking us on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/psubwfairtrade)!

Victory: Hershey’s Finally Commits to 100% Fair Trade Certified Cocoa

After years of activism by passionate fair trade activists, the Hershey Company has promised to purchase all of its cocoa from fair trade certified sources by 2020!

The Raise the Bar, Hershey! Coalition has identified forced and child labor practices and has been very active in demanding Hershey to: a) “trace its supply chain to the farm level”; b) source “from farmers who can show through independent verification that they do not use forced labor or child labor”; c) ask “suppliers to end such practices at the farms from which they source.”

The Coalition states that although this is a very significant step in the right direction, it will still continue to “hold Hershey accountable for the treatment of cocoa laborers” and to “pressure major corporations, working in chocolate and other sectors to address the issues of forced labor, child labor, and human trafficking in their supply chains.”

As committed fair trade activists, all of us at Penn State Brandywine are deeply encouraged by this victory – with time, all the hard work and patience pays off! It reminds me of a few words that Gary Haugen, CEO of the International Justice Mission, had spoken at the Justice conference: “The book of justice is long and boring…full of waiting rooms, long lines, and instructions for perseverance…but I love it. I love it, especially, when we read it together.”

As we continue this journey together, feel free to send a thank you note to Hershey to encourage it’s commitment.

Contributed by Fair Trade Intern, Labanya Mookerjee

Mission Accomplished: Fair Trade Art Sale for Fresh Artists

On Thursday, February 21st, The Walden School joined forces with the Fair Trade Trailblazers at Penn State Brandywine to host the Fair Trade Art Sale for Fresh Artists. The event was a huge success, raising over $375 to support art programs in Chester schools and engaging the community in a vibrant discussion on all things fair trade!

Colorful artwork made by K-8 Walden School students to describe the role that fair trade in their worlds!

The event began with a short presentation on the important work that Fresh Artists does in the community. Here is a short feature clip from 6abc news on Fresh Artists:

With hearts full of excitement and anticipation, we finally moved on to the art display, where all the students stood by their artwork, explaining the meaning of their pieces to everyone who passed by. We all even had a chance to enjoy fair-trade and Fresh-Artists themed cupcake cakes!

“Home Run for Fresh Artists!”

The event was such a great way to keep the conversation going about the importance of fair trade in the community – the enthusiasm and creativity of The Walden School students brought fresh energy to the dialogue!

Here are a few more pictures from the event:

Dr. Laura Guertin, Professor of Earth Sciences & director of the PSU-BWFair Trade Trailblazers with Carly Tolson, Assistant Head Of The Walden School

Penn State Brandywine Students enjoying their newly-purchased fair trade artwork!

Art supplies collected by the Penn State Brandywine Community for Fresh Artists

PSU-BW student & Media Fair Trade Intern, Aimee Ralph, with the donations collected at the end of the day!

Contributed by Fair Trade Intern, Labanya Mookerjee