Sale brings global fair trade items to Gannon

Gannon University’s Center for Social Concerns is bringing products from around the world to the Gannon community and selling them for a good cause during Friday’s Fair Trade Christmas Sale.

The sale will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Room 219 of the Waldron Campus Center and will feature items from countries like Haiti, India and several others, according to Sara Nesbitt, special projects program assistant at the Center for Social Concerns.

Fair trade is an organized movement that aims to provide workers in developing countries with appropriate wages to improve their living conditions.

CSC has partnered with SERRV, an organization that monitors global fair trade. The organization connects thousands of artisans in Africa, Asia and Latin America with customers and volunteers across the United States. SERRV markets these handcrafts and foods in an effort to eradicate hunger and poverty and provide the workers with fair wages.

“Let’s say you buy a pair of earrings, you’re paying about the same amount as you would for a pair of earrings you would get at Claire’s,” Nesbitt said. “But instead of the product going through a couple of men and instead of it being made in unhealthy working conditions, it’s purchased directly from the artisans so they make what is in their region of the world a fair living wage.”

Items on sale will include chocolate, jewelry, Christmas and wall decorations and houseware pieces like baskets and mugs from countries like Haiti, India and South Africa. Shade-grown and organic grown coffee from an organization operating out of Pittsburgh called Building New Hope will also be featured in the sale.

All proceeds from the sale are going to benefit the Alternative Service Trips. Buyers can use cash, credit or GU Gold to pay for their purchases.

“We did try to make sure that most of what we got was within a price range that would be good for college students,” Nesbitt said. “Most of our stuff is under $20 and we have a decent collection of stuff in the $10-15 range.”

According to Jeff Bloodworth, associate professor of the history department, first-year seminar students in his class have played a big role in assisting with the event by handling advertising, unpacking, gift wrapping and baking to fulfill their five-hour service requirement.

“Part of the Gannon Catholic Mission is to support people in having a dignified livelihood,” Bloodworth said. “Between the Center for Social Concerns and my first-year seminar, we thought it would be a good way to expose students to fair trade and economic conditions around the world.”

Vernedette Tongol Delos Santos, a sophomore legal studies major, said she was excited about Gannon’s promotion of fair trade awareness.

“A lot of people are still unaware about the things happening in this world including where their food and clothes come from,” Delos Santos said. “I’m happy Gannon is having a fair trade sale because fair trade is not common in small cities like Erie.”

According to Arlene Montevecchio, director of the Center For Social Concerns, this is the fourth annual fair trade sale at Gannon. The idea surfaced after a brainstorming session between the Center for Social Concerns’ staff and student leaders from service trips.

“We thought it would be a good way for us to raise money in a socially responsible way while educating others about the value of fair trade,” Montevecchio said.

Nesbitt said the fair trade sale is essential on several levels.

“First of all, fair trade is supporting people in marginalized areas that otherwise would not be able to feed themselves and their families,” Nesbitt said. “Second, it’s great because it supports ABSTs and those are trips that help people in the marginalized areas usually in the U.S. but also in countries that we are actually sourcing handcrafts from.

“I really don’t see a downside to this.”

The center is also starting to look into more of the food products its fair trade partners have available, such as extra virgin olive oil that comes from Gaza and the West Bank.

According to Lexie Mastro, a junior physician assistant major, Gannon is taking the right steps toward being more socially conscious.

“I think it is wonderful that Gannon is being ethically responsible and only getting their products from the right production practices,” Mastro said. “The bookstore even is not considered sweat-free merchandise.

“It may cost more to buy products that were made ‘fair trade style,’ however, if everyone joins the motion to support fair trade instead of the other alternatives, it will be more affordable someday.”



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