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SMC hosts lecture on fair trade items

Mandi Stirone | Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Three years ago representatives from Just Goods and Ten Thousand Villages came to Saint Mary’s to discuss purchasing organic and fair trade products. Students liked them so much that they were invited back, said Regina Wilson, the assistant director of Campus Ministry and organizer of the “What Difference Does it Make?” lecture series.

It was Becky Reimbold’s, of Just Goods, second visit to Saint Mary’s and Cheryl Schairer’s, of Ten Thousand Villages, first when they presented “A Series on Justice, Contemporary Life and Faith: What Difference Does it Make to Buy Fair Trade and Organic…Clothing?” Tuesday, Wilson said.

The lecture series, which offers two lectures every fall, is for students to look at different aspects of their lives and see how the choices they make affect the world around them, she said. They also “try to bring in Catholic social teaching,” to show how “faith can come to bear on individual choices.”

Reimbold spoke first about her organization, Just Goods, a South Bend store committed to providing “clothing and products for the home, made with respect for workers and the environment,” according to the website.

“Just Goods is kind of focused on clothing,” she said

During her talk, Reimbold passed around some samples of products that are sold in the store.

They come from all over the world, and they “research the companies that produce our goods, assuring that they pay their workers minimum wage or above and that they use environmentally-friendly materials and methods of production,” according to the website.

One of the Companies, Global Mama’s, works with women in Ghana who own their own businesses, have their own sewing machines and some even have their own shops, Reimbold said.

Most of the tags on the clothing are signed and buyers can go on the website and read the stories of the women who made the clothing, she said.

Scharier explained why Ten Thousand Villages works for fair trade.

With fair trade conditions, women can work from their homes, their children can go to school, and they can make their lives better, she said. These families can purchase things like health insurance, savings accounts, medical care and other things that they have never had before, she said.

These jobs become the “one point of stability in their lives,” Scharier said.

Ten Thousand Villages is a not for profit company that works with artisans, she said.

“We market quality products from diverse cultures around the world made by people that we know and care enough about to do business in a manner that together we consider fair. We strive to operate as a business with a compassionate mission so that we can provide vital, fair income to artisans,” according to the website.

They have over 150 stores around the country that are almost completely run by volunteers with the exception of a few management employees, she said.

The important thing is to not getting overwhelmed by the amount of fair trade and organic products out there, both presenters said.

“As a consumer, it’s hard because you want to do the right thing … [but] you don’t have time to look it up,” Scharier said.

Trying to take it one thing as a time, for example purchasing fair trade coffee and making a commitment to do so, Reimbold said.

“[The important thing is] knowing you’re part of something good…it’s really amazing,” she said.