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Fair Trade: Change the world one cup of coffee at a time

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placeholder September 22, 2014   •   VOL. 52, NO. 16   •   Oakland, CA

A parish can host Fair Trade sales after Masses, such as this one at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Livermore.
Courtesy photos

Fair Trade: Change the world
one cup of coffee at a time

Patrick Shandonay

Is that a cup of coffee on your desk? Do you know who grew those beans? Were they able to feed their families on the proceeds of their labor? Or consider that chocolate bar. Is it too farfetched to think whether you can change the world one bar of chocolate, or one cup of coffee at a time?

Maybe not.

As the Oakland diocese's Fair Trade Coordinator and a CRS Fair Trade Ambassador, Patrick Shandonay is spreading the good news of Fair Trade and helping individuals and parishes become involved with Fair Trade in their in their daily life. Shandonay, a parishioner at St. Joan of Arc in San Ramon became interested in Fair Trade about three years ago. "Knowing that helping our sisters and brothers to become economically self-sufficient was one of the best ways to alleviate poverty, I learned how Fair Trade can help make this a reality," he said.

October has been designated Fair Trade Month. The Catholic Voice asked Shandonay about the basics of Fair Trade, how to involve your parish in this cause, and whether that chocolate bar can be a game-changer.

What is fair trade?

Fair Trade is a tangible way to live the seven themes of Catholic Social Teaching. It is a movement that allows people to unite in solidarity with our sisters and brothers all over the world through the daily acts of producing and purchasing items which we use on a regular basis. Farmers and artisans produce things that we purchase knowing that what we buy is being produced with concern for God's creation while making sure that the producers are being fairly compensated for their efforts.

How can you know something is "fair trade"? Is there certification?

All Fair Trade products are labeled with a Fair Trade label that ensures consumers that their purchases are both environmentally and socially responsible. To become Fair Trade certified, each group of farmers or artisans goes through a multiple step certification process. The final step is the certification or verification of the product or material by an independent third party.

How does fair trade fit in Catholic Social Teaching?

Fair Trade touches on all seven themes of Catholic Social Teaching. By purchasing Fair Trade certified products we are fostering a sense of solidarity with a world where products are produced with the dignity of the human person as the number one priority. The first way this is supported is through the dignity of work. Fair Trade promotes the dignity of work by ensuring that workers are paid a fair and equitable wage. Also, because most Fair Trade products are grown or produced by farmers and artisans assembled into cooperatives in poorer, developing countries, when we purchase Fair Trade products we are showing a preferential option for the poor and recognizing the call to family, community and participation. Also, since Fair Trade products are certified to be produced both socially and environmentally responsible, we are showing our care for God's creation.

What can an individual do to promote fair trade?

Look for the Fair Trade Certified label where you shop. A list of what products and materials are Fair Trade Certified can be found on the following Fair Trade USA website http://fairtradeusa.org/products-partners. If you cannot find Fair Trade certified products where you shop, ask the store management to stock Fair Trade items. If a number of people ask, the stores will carry Fair Trade Certified products.

What can a parish do to promote fair trade?

First, it can use Fair Trade items at all parish events. Whether it is Fair Trade coffee or tea in the office or Fair Trade coffee during community or fellowship events, using Fair Trade products help to grow an understanding of what a Fair Trade product is and how it impacts God's creation. A parish can set-up regular Fair Trade sales after the Saturday and Sunday Masses. For many people it is an opportunity to learn about Fair Trade while purchasing products that support our sisters and brothers all over the world. Integrate Fair Trade education into the various curriculum; for example, RCIA or CCD.

Can you save the world by choosing fair trade chocolate?

Yes, but it takes time. Although we often want to see huge, instant results, saving the world through Fair Trade will take time. However, by continually buying and asking for Fair Trade products, we will be able to make a huge impact now and in the future for our sisters and brothers in need of a level playing field in the global marketplace.

How can one get started?

You can contact me at patrick.j.shandonay@gmail.com and I can help you set-up educational programs or sales at your parish. You can also go to the Catholic Relief Services' Fair Trade website at www.crsfairtrade.org.

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