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Gifts and Good Will on Display at SU Fair Trade Festival

Published on November 25, 2009

SELINSGROVE—Holiday shoppers can find unique gifts—and make a difference for global artisans—when students at Susquehanna University host the third annual Fair Trade Festival Dec. 2–5. The event will take place in the Charles B. Degenstein Campus Center’s Mellon Lounge and is open to the public.

The sale will include items from fair trade merchants 10,000 Villages, Handmade Expressions, Equal Exchange Coffee and Divine Chocolates. Among items for sale will be wood carvings from Africa, hand-woven baskets from Indonesia, Christmas ornaments from Bangladesh, and handmade jewelry from India made from glass, wood and metal. Shoppers also can donate toward gifts of humanitarian aid from Heifer International and Church World Services Best Gift, such as reading kits, birthing kits, blankets and livestock for communities in need.

According to the Fair Trade Federation, fair trade is “a system of exchange that seeks to create greater equity and partnership in international trading system” by, among other strategies, “creating opportunities for economically and socially marginalized producers, paying promptly and fairly, supporting safe and empowering working conditions, cultivating environmental stewardship and respecting cultural identity.” Its practice helps discourage the use of child and indentured labor around the world.

“Fair trade is about changing structural injustices, not just sending quick aid,” explains Jessica Bontempo, a Susquehanna senior who helped organize the event. “People are without basic necessities of life, because they do not receive fair wages for their work. With fair trade, the coffee farmer works directly with the Fair Trade Federation, which then sells the coffee to consumers. About five to seven middle-men are cut out, thus keeping the price for consumers low, but providing the farmers and field workers with twice to 10 times as much pay.”

Bontempo urges festival attendees to use their purchasing power to affirm their values. “When I first became involved with the festival two years ago, I had no idea what fair trade even meant,” she says. “Now, I have come to realize that fair trade is not about handouts or favors, it simply means that people all over the world receive a fair wage for their work. The Fair Trade Festival is an easy way to help combat injustice all over the world from right here in central Pennsylvania.”

The festival will open Dec. 2 with music and entertainment to accompany browsing from 6 to 8 p.m. Additional shopping hours will be Dec. 3 and 4, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Dec. 5, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Founded in 1858, Susquehanna University is a national liberal arts college that prepares students for achievement, leadership and service in a diverse, interconnected world.Academic excellence, study away and service learning, student-faculty collaboration and rich opportunities for creative and personal growth are hallmarks of a Susquehanna University education. Susquehanna students come from 36 states and 13 countries, and more than 90 percent of them find jobs or pursue graduate study within six months of graduation. The university is located in central Pennsylvania, in the town of Selinsgrove, along the banks of the scenic Susquehanna River and about three hours from major East Coast cultural, financial and recreational centers. For more information, visit www.susqu.edu

Karen M. Jones

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