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Fair Trade Week Brings Vendors To BC

Four Seniors Hope To Inform Students

Assoc. News Editor

Published: Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

This week marked a major step in Boston College's evolution as a socially just campus. Four students, Jinah Kim, A&S '12; Megan Monahan, A&S '12; Matthew McCluney, A&S '12; and MaryJo Maliekel, A&S ‘12, worked together to plan Fair Trade Week, a week of events designed to inform students both generally about the fair trade movement and specifically about fair trade resources and issues on campus.

"This started because we were all concerned about social justice," Maliekal said. "The four of us went to a fair trade symposium at MIT this fall and decided this was an issue we wanted to bring back to BC."

The week's first event, "Fair Trade at BC and Beyond," which took place on Monday in the Murray Function Room, featured a host of student organizations involved with fair trade issues, as well as both corporations and independent businesses that sell free trade products. Student organizations that set up tables at the event included R.E.A.C.T.— a group that raises awareness about human trafficking—EcoPledge, and Real Food. Ben and Jerry's and Equal Exchange both offered free samples of their products, including ice cream and chocolate, and representatives from these companies gave speeches about how they have incorporated free trade practices into their business models. A representative from the Autonomie Project, a free trade clothing company, also spoke.

Two national social justice organizations similarly spoke at the event, including the Student/Farmworker Alliance, which fights for better conditions for farmworkers, and Not For Sale, a group that fights to end human trafficking.

A host of independent fair trade sellers offered a wide range of products from around the world, including everything from t-shirts to vases and wooden sculptures. Some of these businesses do much more for the communities they work with than simply offer a fair wage for their products, however.

"On top of selling Guatemalan fair trade products, I spend two to four months in Guatemala each year offering free business consultation to cooperatives, and I also offer scholarships for Guatemalan students," said Eliza Strode, the owner of A Thread of Hope.

Tuesday night's event, "The Truth Behind BC Dining and Coffee," was held in Gasson 305. Real Food and BC Dining presented a panel of representatives from BC's three major coffee suppliers, Dean's Beans, Peet's Coffee, and Equal Exchange, that spoke about the fair trade work of their companies. Helen Wechsler, the director of BC Dining, also spoke about BC Dining's commitment to fair trade practices.

A film screening of Trade, a movie about human sex trafficking, was held Wednesday night in Higgins 300. This event was hosted by R.E.A.C.T., the Asian Caucus, and the AHANA Leadership Council.

Tonight's event, "Wear Fair," will be held in the Rat at 8 p.m. Students will be able to tie-dye free t-shirts provided by the free trade clothing company Alta Gracia. They will also be able to learn more about the BC Bookstore's involvement with the free trade movement. The Volunteer Service and Learning Center and Nights on the Heights will sponsor the event.

The final event of the week will be a student brainstorming session for fair trade activities on campus hosted on the second floor of Corcoran Commons. Malieka has high hopes for this event. "We're hoping to find students to take over after we leave," she said. "We hope there will be a fair trade registered student organization in the near future."

Though the student leaders who planned Fair Trade Week are looking for students who have a passion for social justice to take over their efforts in the future, they hope that this week will have an impact on all BC students.

"We want students to realize it's not a stretch to support fair trade," McCluney said.

"Consciousness and awareness is what we hope we've achieved this week."

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