Does Fair Trade Make a Difference?

A lot of people wonder about Fair Trade.... Does it really make a difference?

I believe it does and that’s why my partner, Laura Camp, and I started Simply Fair. I’m a big believer in making a difference the time we are here on Earth. I believe we’re here to make a difference. At the funeral of my friend, Patty, the minister charged those of us who had gathered, to live our lives so we would be missed. That has stuck with me, and that’s why I started Simply Fair.

Rene Bowers, executive director of the Fair Trade Federation, puts it like this: “Trading of ethically produced handmade goods is based on an idea that sits at the heart of fair trade: relationships matter,” writes Bowers. “ The connection-based structure of fair trade developed from the work of a few innovators who had a vision to alleviate poverty through the sale of traditional crafts. At this vision’s core was (and still is) the idea that trade should involve a true partnership between buyer and seller—one that empowers producers, builds their capacity to do business, and improves the quality of life for their communities.” To me, that boils down to making a difference in someone’s life even if they are thousands of miles away.

Many say the fair trade movement began in 1946 when Edna Ruth Byler, a volunteer for the Mennonite Central Committee, visited a sewing class in Puerto Rico. She discovered that despite the hard work of the local women, and their extraordinary talent for producing handmade lace and other fabrics, they still lived in tremendous poverty.Byler had the idea to carry these pieces back to the United States and sell them to American shoppers, returning the profits directly to the women producers. Her work eventually became more structured and led to the formation of Self Help Crafts. The organization, now known

as Ten Thousand Villages, opened its first fair trade shop in 1958—eventually expanding into Canada in the 1960s—and is now the largest fair trade retailer in North America.

Many of the items in Simply Fair are from Ten Thousand Villages. To me, Edna Byler was a hero. She did what she could to make a difference. That’s what we hope to do at Simply Fair. Thank you to all of you who help in that endeavor.

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