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

Mid-Atlantic Fair Trade Student Leadership Training

It all started with an idea for an event… and then, making the event happen!

Join Fair Trade Colleges & Universities and our host Penn State Brandywine for the Mid-Atlantic Fair Trade Student Training! The training session will focus on helping students, faculty, administration and others organize their campaigns in order to become the next Fair Trade College or University.

Sharpen your tools and skills, learn what others are doing on campus to promote Fair Trade and get to know the network of students, faculty and staff across the region who are working on Fair Trade College & University campaigns!

Guiding the training will be:

Dr. Laura Guertin – Founder of the Fair Trade Trailblazers and professor at Penn State Brandywine, the first Fair Trade University in PA and 8th in the nation.

Sarah DeMartino –  National Steering Committee Member for Fair Trade Colleges & Universities, and student leader of Fair Trade Penn State at Penn State University Main Campus. Sarah also served on the Trailblazers steering committee before transferring to PSU-Main Campus.

Billy Linstead Goldsmith – National Coordinator of Fair Trade Campaigns

Sarah DeMartino (left, Penn State University Park) and Aimee Ralph (Penn State Brandywine) as the "welcome bananas" for today's events!

Sarah DeMartino (left, Penn State University Park) and Aimee Ralph (Penn State Brandywine) as the “welcome bananas” for today’s event!

So on a sunny-yet-windy day (with La Colombe Fair Trade coffee to warm us up from Seven Stones Cafe in Media!), students and faculty from Penn State Brandywine, Penn State University Park, Saint Joseph’s University, Cabrini College, and Drexel University gathered at the Brandywine campus to spend time discussing individual campus campaigns for Fair Trade University status.  The group discussed a range of topics from successes and challenges to having events on campus, to renewing leadership, and engaging the faculty, staff, food providers, bookstore managers, and everyone else on campus in creating a sustainable effort and program for Fair Trade.

A range of Fair Trade-themed events have been taking place at our schools.  Drexel and Penn State University Park have shown Fair Trade movies.  Saint Joe’s held a tasting event with chocolate (Kopali), tea (Runa), and soda (Maine Root).  Cabrini College held a Fair Trade Catholic College Philly gathering with speakers from Philly Fair Trade Coffee and Ten Thousand Villages.  Penn State Brandywine shared the success of our Fair Trade Clothesline Art Sale.  All of us want to increase the opportunities for students to take trips that incorporate Fair Trade and to purchase (or at least taste) Fair Trade food items – to quote Billy, we want to “taste the equity!”

The day ended with everyone thinking about how to prepare for the fall semester.  Yes, even though the spring semester hasn’t ended yet, it is important for all of us to think about how to keep the momentum of our efforts continuing through the summer and to start the fall semester strong with recruiting efforts.  At least in southeast PA, we hope to get students/faculty together from our neighboring colleges for one or two Fair Trade meetings to continue today’s conversations.  Anyone up for some Ben & Jerry’s Fair Trade ice cream this summer?  😉

— Contributed by Dr. Laura Guertin

Facing the Monster Together during Human Trafficking Awareness Month

Panelists: Assistant District Attorney Pearl Kim, Detective Mark Bucci, Author Carol Metzker, Professor Sam Lemon

“What’s past is prologue,” said Neumann University professor Dr. Sam Lemon, kicking off the evening’s presentation on January 30 at the Media Municipal Building on “Slavery Then and Now” by quoting a line from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. “And that means that what happened the year that slavery occurred [in early America] doesn’t matter. It’s the impact that matters.”

Dr. Lemon, whose ancestor, Martha Jane, had escaped the bonds of slavery in the 1860s, noticed a connection between slavery in the early nineteenth century and today.

Martha Jane, he said, was a “breeding woman” in the early 1860s, meaning that she would bear children for her owner, who would then sell the children to other traders.

“The part that’s not often discussed is sexual exploitation,” noted Dr. Lemon. “Americans have a strange disconnect when it comes to real life tragedies…when we see real horror…We need to overcome this and learn to face the monster.”

A part of Dr. Lemon’s plan to combat human trafficking involved simply gaining more awareness on the issue and sharing the knowledge with others. He said, “We can’t do much for Martha Jane, but we can do something about human slavery today.”

Carol Metzker, author of Facing the Monster: How One Person Can Fight Child Slavery, was up next with her talk on Jaya, a powerful woman who escaped the chains of slavery in India in 2011.

Jaya, born into a family nearing the point of starvation in a small village in India, fell victim to her trafficker, who had captured her with promises of a better life. Locked in a dark room for two days, she experienced unspeakable horrors.

However, in time, Jaya was able to escape imprisonment and was accepted into an ashram that was supported by Pennsylvania Quakers and Rotaries. There, she was given the chance to read and write.

“When you are illiterate, you may not know that you have certain human rights that you are entitled to,” said Metzker.

Given a second chance, Jaya soon grew to become the first female tailor in the area; she also began developing more efficient ways of producing rice, and all of this was accomplished in 2011, when she was only 17 years old.

Slaves…work unpaid, unable to leave, held by violence or threat of harm to themselves or their families.

Today, India and Africa remain as the two biggest locations of human trafficking. However, in the United States, itself, there are over 100,000 slaves, and it is predicted that by 2013, the number will double.

In fact, just last year Detective Mark Bucci of the Delaware County Criminal Investigations Division and Pearl Kim of the Delaware County Courthouse caught a sex trafficking case in the area.

Metzker went on to name the four main components that enable human trafficking:

  • Vulnerable People: “When you are illiterate, you are vulnerable to being deceived.” Individuals that do not have access to proper education and resources are most prone to exploitation. Solution: Donate to organizations, like Dawn’s Place to support vulnerable people
  • Traffickers: “Historically and today, traffickers are hard to talk about,” especially because they are difficult to identify. Solution: Learn to recognize the signs of human trafficking and report any suspicious behavior to the hotline (1-888-3737-888)
  • Apathy/Helplessness Feeling in Society: This is the destructive sense that the problem is too big to be handled; one way to overcome this feeling is by further education on the topic. Solution: Start by reading Metzker’s own book:  Facing the Monster: How One Person Can Fight Child Slavery
  • Consumers: “I don’t want just the deal, I want the steal.” Metzker asked us to contemplate on what exactly it was that we were “stealing.” If it looked too good to be true, then it probably was; there was a human cost to everything. Solution: Switch to fair trade products, which can be identified by any of these symbols:

Following the presentation, we (the Fair Trade TrailBlazers of Penn State Brandywine’s Laboratory for Civic Engagement) had set up a table with the Media Fair Trade Committee to distribute more information on fair trade!

Photo credit: Dress for a Good Cause

Want to Learn More?

a) First, start by calculating the number of slaves that work to maintain your lifestyle by visiting slaveryfootpring.org;

b) Help us spread awareness about SB75, a senate bill proposed to extensively revise laws on human trafficking;

c) Lastly, check out the Fair Trade Federation to learn more about the fair trade movement!

Contributed by Labanya Mookerjee, Fair Trade Intern

Fair Trade Gathering over Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream

After weeks of rainy days, the sun came up strong and bright for our meeting with Elizabeth Killough, chair of the Media Fair Trade Town Committee, and David Rosenberg, generous donor of the Laboratory for Civic Engagement. Over lunch, we discussed  the inspiring origins of the fair trade movement in Media and talked about ways to sustain and expand awareness in the coming years.

The interesting thing about fair trade, said Killough, is that “it is something that appeals to everyone across the spectrum.”

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Dr. Laura Guertin with Elizabeth Killough

The conversation took on a whole new dynamic as lunch turned into a Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream social, which was part of the celebration for our winning the nationwide Go Bananas for Fair Trade campaign. Students that had helped with Fair Trade events in the fall semester (the Alta Gracia t-shirt swap and bananas) were treated to free Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

Director of the Penn State Brandywine Laboratory for Civic Engagement, Dr. Laura Guertin, assembled this incredible pyramid of fair trade greatness, composed of 18 delicious fair trade flavors of Ben & Jerry’s. She even created fresh whipped cream with fair trade sugar to top off our dessert creations!

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Ice-cream has a special way of bringing everyone together, and between scoops, we not only talked about the social issues surrounding the fair trade movement and its impact on communities internationally, but also on Ben & Jerry’s trailblazing path to a more just world. The company truly stands as a model for other influential corporations to follow.

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Senior and Fair Trade Intern for Media’s Fair Trade Town Committee, Aimee Ralph, enjoys her bowl of Ben & Jerry’s

Overall, the celebration was quite a success and each of us departed, brimming with enthusiasm for future fair trade events!

Contributed by Labanya Mookerjee, Fair Trade Intern

2012 Fair Trade Campaigns Conference – Day 3

The third and final day of the Fair Trade Campaigns Conference in Chicago – filled with more great conversation and nervous conference attendees that were not sure if they would be able to leave Chicago (thanks to Hurricane Sandy).

The third day started with a Producer Panel, where banana farmers and artisans talked about how Fair Trade makes an impact in their communities.  Felipe Echeverri Zapata and Jorge William Restrepo represented Bananeras de Uraba in Columbia, Hannah Dodoo represented Global Mamas in Ghana, and a third panelist Andreas represented Minga Fair Trade Imports.  The group shared some fascinating information, such as the challenges of climate change and El Nino causing a loss of up to 30% of banana production, and shared some inspiring quotes, such as Hannah Dodoo telling us that “if you train a man, you train an individual, but if you train a woman, you change a nation” (I’m guessing she based the quote on this African proverb).

The Producer Panel ended with the panelists being asked about what they saw as future challenges for Fair Trade.  Hannah stated that Fair Trade must be embraced in all businesses, with continued purchasing from Global Mamas.  Andreas said that he did not see a challenge because many people know what the tagua is, but he stated what he really needs are better designs of products.  Jorge ended with the comment that those who market Fair Trade products are still “missing,” and the system still needs to be much more transparent.  It was inspiring to hear how Fair Trade has had a positive impact on their lives, and how they believe that this impact will continue in the future.

For the morning breakout session, I attended the Building a Strong & Sustainable Committee talk by Gwendolyn Tedeschi and Ben Thomas.  We at Penn State Brandywine certainly have built our committee, but sustaining a committee when most of our students leave after the first two years is a challenge for the future I am worried about.  The session had some great discussion about making sure the committee is diverse across students groups, faculty, administrators, food service and the campus bookstore.  There were also suggestions to add staff and alumni.  Finding an institutional anchor is key, as well as giving each student an important task/responsibility with the movement.  I am excited and nervous about the future of the Penn State TrailBlazers, but this information is great for me to bring back to my group as to what we need to keep focused with, and information that I can share with students at other campuses looking to form their own Fair Trade movements.

Our working lunch had everyone split into two groups – the Fair Trade Towns people in one room, and the Fair Trade Colleges & University people in another room.  I was excited to see Parker Townley, coordinator of Fair Trade Colleges & Universities, show us a new tool kit for campaigns looking to be approved, and I had some great conversation with the students from Penn State – University Park in attendance at the conference as to what they could do to keep the movement moving forward at their campus.  Having more online resources available should better assist all campaigns, especially the University Park group.

Parker ended his session with the “Let’s Get to Work!” challenge.  Parker is asking all university campaigns to create change by moving our campaigns forward by major steps.  We are asked to either increase the number of our social media followers, add more Fair Trade products or host two educational events, or reach out to two new groups to form new partnerships.  We are totally going for the social media challenge (stay tuned for a future blog post about this!).

The final session of the meeting was a closing keynote by Kirsten Moller, the co-founder of Global Exchange.  If you ever get a chance to hear her speak, it is a must!  She is so passionate about social, economic and environmental justice.  And her sharing of the Raise The Bar, Hershey! campaign energized the entire room.  I think her take home message was that we have done great work, but there is still much more to do and we can’t sit back and assume it will get done by others.

I think it is going to take me some time to digest all of the information and interactions from this conference.  I do not think that I have yet realized all of the impacts this conference has made on myself as an individual and the impacts it will make on my students, my campus, and possibly, even on the larger Fair Trade movement.  I wonder what I will be blogging about a year from now….

Contributed by Dr. Laura Guertin

 

2012 Fair Trade Campaigns Conference – Day 2

Day 2 of the Fair Trade Campaigns Conference, our first full day of Fair Trade connections and conversations!  It has been exciting to be in Chicago, the second largest city in the world to be a Fair Trade City.

The morning began with a Panel Discussion: Building Partnerships for a Stronger Movement.  The panel consisted of individuals representing Local First Chicago, Pioneer Valley Local First, UC Davis/Sodexo, UC San Diego, Five for Water Foundation, Fair Trade Towns, and myself representing the “town and gown” connection of Media Fair Trade Town and Penn State Brandywine as a Fair Trade University.  The questions from the moderators and the audience were very thought-provoking and provided new ideas to think about as well as a refresher of items and programs already in place.  Even as a participant, here are some of the takeaways I had from the panel:

  • Go back and think about the term “partnerships”… What do partnerships mean to us? How do we define “what is a partnership”?
  • Who else can we work with to think outside of the box to make a partnership?
  • Partnerships are efficient if you have the same audience
  • Have an inclusive message, such as “buy local, buy fair”
  • Brush up on “appreciative inquiry”

It was off to Breakout Session 1, where I decided to stop in to hear more about the History & Scope of Fair Trade by Jackie DeCarlo (Catholic Relief Services) and April Linton (Author, Fair Trade from the Ground Up).  The presenters started with a reflective question, when did YOU first become involved in Fair Trade?, then moved in to a true/false format of posing questions to the audience to move us through where Fair Trade has been and where it stands now.  For example… TRUE OR FALSE…. Fair Trade only encompasses products that bear certifiers’ labels.  Jackie encouraged us to check out the CRS Fair Trade website for more information and history of Fair Trade.

For the next breakout session, I headed to Bringing Fair Trade to the Classroom.  The session was filled with university students and faculty sharing ideas and strategies for bringing Fair Trade to every discipline and making it either a part of a course or an entire course.  The group shared how courses in statistics, economics, geography, agriculture, and even writing could have a Fair Trade component.  Suggestions I am going to follow up with included checking out the anti-Fair Trade literature, the scholarly articles listed on the Fair Trade Resource Network website, seeing if our campus common read program can select a Fair Trade book, and looking for K-12 curriculum for outreach purposes on the Global Exchange website.

I then grabbed my box lunch and headed to the networking session by Green Mountain Coffee.  It was interesting to hear them talk about their Fair Trade varieties of coffee, but there needs to be more consumer demand for more Fair Trade options to be available, as Green Mountain makes less money off of this line (it costs more, but those costs are not passed along to the consumer).  Several people from Fair Trade Universities and Towns also shared how they are struggling to get attendance at showings of films on Fair Trade topics, and everyone in the room suggested strategies that could be pursued (partnering with other groups to increase attendance, perhaps just call it a film festival and not a Fair Trade film festival, etc.).  In the end, we got back to a message heard several times previously at the meeting – get the word out to consumers.

The Open Forum on Fair Trade had some interesting and challenging questions, and again, some great statements to think about:

  • Fair Trade is dialogue, transparency, and respect
  • Do we ask everyone to purchase more Fair Trade, or just have all purchases be Fair Trade, and is there a difference?
  • Moving forward, let’s not agonize, let’s organize
  • If Fair Trade is all over, the world will be at peace (this statement was made by Hannah Dodoo of Global Mamas)

For the Crafting & Tasting Demonstrations, I decided to attend the jewelry making session led by Minga Fair Trade Imports.  We learned about the tagua bead (actually an ivory-like nut harvested from palm trees indigenous to South America) and got to make our own necklaces, bracelets, key chains, and earrings.  Personally, I’m not a big jewelry-wearing person, but I love my tagua necklace I made, and each time I wear it I’ll be sure to tell the Fair Trade story behind it.

Next up was Courtney Lang reviewing the Go Bananas for Fair Trade Challenge and announcing the winners.  Guess what???  Penn State Brandywine and Fair Trade Boston were declared co-champions!  (more to come about this in a future blog post…)

Fair Trade Chicago gave a keynote on their stories and lessons about Fair Trade, sharing interesting activities such as mapping out where Fair Trade items are sold, connecting Fair Trade to job creation, establishing an education program, and bringing Fair Trade fashion shows and soccer balls to young adults and kids.  Way to go, Chicago!

The final activity for the night (phew! such a long, information-packed day!) was fascinating.  I attended a talk by Felipe Echeverri Zapata and Jorge William Restrepo from Bananeras de Uraba, (English summary), who discussed the benefits of Fair Trade for banana farmers in Columbia.  The Zapata family clearly cares deeply about their workers and has done much to help them.  Alas, the realities of climate change are impacting the growth of the bananas, preventing them from providing a constant number of bananas for the market.  I will certainly be keeping an eye out for their bananas! (they recommended checking out Sam’s Club and Walmart)

Another day filled with great information and connections.  Day 3 should be just as exciting – with Hurricane Sandy coming towards the east coast for an added bit of excitement!

Contributed by Dr. Laura Guertin

2012 Fair Trade Campaigns Conference – Day 1

Today, supporters of Fair Trade gathered in Chicago, Illinois, for the Fair Trade Campaigns Conference, “Building Partnerships for a Stronger Movement.”  My flight from Philadelphia to Chicago had several people heading to the gathering, with Ira Josephs representing the Fair Trade Towns USA side of the conference for Media, PA, and Sarah DeMartino representing Fair Trade Colleges & Universities for Penn State -University Park.

Sarah DeMartino with the Nittany Lion in Millennium Park in Chicago

I won’t summarize all the details of everything that was covered Day 1, as my head is still spinning and trying to process some really powerful information that was shared with the group.

We started the evening session with a Regional Networking Dinner.  Each person was to sit at tables with other people from their geographic region (in my case, the Mid-Atlantic region).  I ended up at a table filled with Penn State – University Park students working towards making their campus a Fair Trade University.  It was great to be able to share my insights and suggestions for connections they can make at their campus.  We also met some very energetic students from Saint Joseph’s University, and we looking forward to connecting with them more in the future and hopefully collaborating on future events.  I also saw someone with a Cabrini College sweatshirt… many universities are represented at this conference!

Next came the general welcome and announcements.  It’s always great to see Billy Linstead Goldsmith and Courtney Lang get up and speak, even if it is just for logistical announcements.  Their passion really keeps the rest of us excited for all things Fair Trade.  We received a welcome from the Fair Trade city of Chicago and heard comments/saw videos from Green Mountain Coffee, where the new battle cry for everyone this weekend is “great coffee, good vibes, pass it on!”  Their videos online are a MUST SEE!

Next up – the Ben & Jerry’s Fair Trade Ice Cream Social (check out all of their Fair Trade flavors!) & Tweet-Up.  Ice cream and Twitter – you can’t go wrong with that combination!  Several people have been tweeting with the conference hashtag #FTCconf, and some people jumped in and joined Twitter this evening to get in the online conversations of 140 characters or less.

The Keynote Speaker for the evening was Kelsey Timmerman, the author of “Where Am I Wearing? A Global Tour to the Countries, Factories, and People that make our Clothes.”  I greatly appreciated how Kelsey made us all stop and think – where do the clothes we wear come from, and who made them?  What is his/her story?  The stories he shared about Solo and iPod Girl were very moving.  My favorite takeaways from his talk – use personal stories to inform others about Fair Trade, form a League of Superheros, and think carefully about being a “No Impact Man” to being someone that takes actions to have an impact.

I’m exhausted already!  But I’ll definitely be ready for Day 2 of the conference – so many more connections to make, so much more to learn!

One of my goals for Day 2 is to try to get names and email addresses of students from all the Pennsylvania schools that are here.  It’s time we do a better job partnering and networking in our own state to move Fair Trade forward.  So if you are reading this and are from a PA school, please leave a comment or email me at fairtrade@bw.psu.edu so we can add you to the list!

Contributed by Dr. Laura Guertin