After attending the fair trade panel last week, I came to the realization that little things you do can affect someone else’s life halfway across the world. For example, buying a drink or a bag of coffee with the fair trade sticker on it changes the lives of thousands and thousands of people. The panel consisted of an array of speakers with a variety of perspectives on how fair trade impacts lives. Speakers included two female workers from a cocoa plantation in Ghana, a woman discussing Catholic relief service, a businessman in support of fair trade, and a member of the United Students Against Sweatshops. The workers from Ghana represented a sense of culture and pride for the cocoa and coffee production they worked for. They were genuine in their feelings of appreciation for fair trade and how much it has helped them to grow and become more successful. The woman with Catholic relief services discussed three goals that I think can apply specifically to Jesuit beliefs. The first was internal human development, which explained the idea that although helping people to survive was important, it is not sufficient. Like the Jesuits believe, Catholic relief services look at a person for their qualities as a whole. They focus on people based on all parts, from the emotional to spiritual to social being and beyond. The second goal the service focused on was economic justice for all, in that everyone plays a role in the economy. She stated that the economy exists for the person and not the other way around. The decisions we make can hurt or help farmers, such as the women workers in Ghana. The third goal was fighting global poverty, which is a worldwide struggle that many must face everyday. The member who spoke on behalf of the United Students Against Sweatshops was very passionate about her cause. She strongly urged people to make sure the clothing you wear is made in just conditions. This decision would persuade companies and businesses all over the world to change their unjust ways and give equal opportunites to all workers.
The traditional values of Jesuit belief provide a basis for all of these ideas. The importance of justice and helping to provide for others is the underlying message of fair trade. The concept that everyone in the production and trading process is equal makes for a just world. Serving others and being aware of fair trade may take much more time and effort then it does to ignore it, but its reward in the end is far more valuable.
Emily Dickinson’s poem, “Success is counted sweetest”, deals with the idea that a person who lacks or does not have something understands whatever is lacking better than the person who possesses it. This idea applies to fair trade because workers who do not work in just conditions would appreciate and love the opportunity to be treated with equality. They can better grasp this feeling because they understand the treatment of unjust conditions, compared to those who do not experience them. Giving a person his or her individual rights is a powerful thing, and many take this privilege for advantage.