Two Southern California towns, Claremont and Pasadena, have recently become Fair Trade Towns, among only 32 cities in the nation so designated. And it just so happens that a local parish’s JustFaith group provided the spark that ignited the communities’ interest.
At the end of a JustFaith program at Our Lady of the Assumption (OLA) in Claremont, the grads were looking to start a ministry that would enhance awareness of Catholic social teaching at their parish but also be something tangible and accessible to all parishioners.
Their fair trade ministry began to take shape in 2010 after Jim DeHarpporte, Regional Director of Catholic Relief Services (CRS) for the Western United States, spoke to the group about the agency’s fair trade program which includes educational resources and the sale of fair trade products.
The effort was formally started with twice monthly sales of coffee and chocolate. The sales built awareness, educated parishioners and provided opportunities for conversations about the relevance of fair trade to the Church’s social teaching.
Once fair trade was rooted in the parish, the ministry sought to share the concept with the broader community. Fair Trade Claremont (FTC) formed in 2011, with the steering committee coming largely from the leadership of OLA’s fair trade ministry. Most importantly, however, they enlisted other churches, environmental and sustainability groups to join the movement.
Like at the parish, education was the primary component. But local businesses also began to highlight fair trade products they were already selling and added new items. Many owners mentioned the correlation of socially responsible products to the Gospel’s call for equity and social justice.
In April 2012, Claremont became the first Fair Trade Town in Southern California . Others are following suit: Pomona College, of the Claremont Colleges, became a Fair Trade University in September 2012. Groups addressing human trafficking have collaborated with FTC in hosting film evenings. Merchants selling two or more fair trade products now have decals on their windows, as a sign of support for the movement.
Linda and Joe Michon – two of OLA’s fair trade ministry members — spoke to religion classes at St Lucy’s High School in neighboring Glendora. They shared their experience of seeing fair trade improve the quality of life and dignity for farmers from their twenty years as medical missionaries with Maryknoll in Central and South America. And they presented the concept to the parish’s youth group called U-turn.
Last month, they had a CRS Work of Human Hands Sale, with youth from U-Turn offering support with logistics. The more than $4,000 in sales doubled the previous year’s sales.
Pasadena became a Fair Trade Town in January of this year. St Andrew’s parish contributed to the movement as one of the organizations supporting move.
Like Claremont, participants in St Andrew’s JustFaith program shared information on fair trade as an educational effort of their new peace and social justice ministry. Now, they serve fair trade coffee after Sunday masses and recently hosted their own fair trade boutique.
Catholic Relief Services defines Fair Trade as business with the following characteristics:
Paying a fair wage in the local context
Offering employees opportunities for advancement
Providing equal employment opportunities for all people, particularly the
Engaging in environmentally sustainable practices
Being open to public accountability
Building long-term trade relationships
Providing healthy and safe working conditions within the local context
Providing financial and technical assistance to producers whenever
For more information and parish resources on fair trade with the Catholic Relief Services Fair Trade site: http://www.crsfairtrade.org/