This month’s Traidcraft Superhero is Judith Holmes from Wareham. Judith is involved in promoting fair trade throughout her local community, and it all started with a chance encounter with a Traidcraft leaflet…
- How did you first get involved with Traidcraft?
My interest was first kindled many years ago when I picked up a leaflet in a church I was visiting whilst on holiday. As well as describing Traidcraft’s work, it also explained how one could become a Fair Trader. I really felt that it was something I would like to do, so when the opportunity came along a few years later in my home town of Wareham in Dorset, I jumped at the chance. Not having much capital to get started, I approached the local Churches Together committee and, very generously, they gave me £200. That was back in 2003. I was excited to get started and began in a very small way with the occasional stall in church. As time went by more opportunities arose both in the community and in a local school. I gave the catalogue to anyone who expressed an interest and also began to meet others who were seriously interested in fair trade. So now in 2016 I find myself totally immersed and running a mini business!
- You do a lot to encourage different parts of your local community to support fair trade – can you tell us a bit more about what you do?
There is a thriving coffee morning in the local Parish Hall run by one of the churches in the town and I have a weekly stall there, helped by three ladies. This is a great way to get known by the community so now I have many regular customers. It isn’t just about the selling; talking about Traidcraft is just as important. My visit to N India in 2014 on a Meet the People Tour has led to countless presentations to many different groups of people.
Wareham is a Fairtrade Town so the churches use fair trade tea and coffee and I supply some of them. There is also a Farmers’ Market twice a month and I and a colleague take it in turns to run a stall there, too. I have a strong connection with a local primary school, going to their summer and Christmas fayres with a stall and sometimes prior to special assemblies for the parents. At present I am helping them to become a Fair Active School. Back in 2003 I never imagined that I would be doing all that I do now. It is important to seize all of these opportunities when they arise and then things will begin to escalate!
- Do you have any tips for other fair traders to engage their local community with Fair Trade?
Go to where the people are and where you have a personal connection – churches, community coffee mornings, schools, sports’ clubs, evening classes… And then offer to run a stall or supply refreshments. I sold Advent Calendars and Easter Eggs to my Pilates group, popped a catalogue in the bag and got some orders as a result. It is better to do one thing and do it regularly rather than several spasmodically. Distribute the catalogue to anyone who seems interested, stressing that there is no pressure to buy, but quite often they do! Keep a record of who has the catalogue and make sure they have a copy every time a new one comes out. Over a period of time you begin to get known and people approach you. It is hard work but so rewarding . Personal persistence is a good motto.
- You do lots as an individual, but how important do you think teamwork can be?
I am a Fair Trader in my own right but get others to help when appropriate. I certainly couldn’t run a weekly stall without help. If people are involved, they own it and become motivated. Nor could I do what I do without the support of the Wareham Fairtrade Group. Together we have been able to do things which would have been impossible for a single person. We have targeted local businesses asking them if they would switch to fair trade refreshments for their employees and consequently have been able to supply some of them. We have run special events for Fairtrade Fortnight, filled in the application form for the renewal of Wareham’s Fairtrade Town status and generally encouraged each other. I am also a member of the Purbeck Fairtrade Group which covers a wider area.
- How do schools react to your trying to engage them with fair trade?
You win some, you lose some. If there is a supportive member of staff and Head then you are more likely to get opportunities for a stall or to take an assembly. Concentrate on the school where you have an opening or know children who go there and build on that.
I always begin with what the children know, with their own experiences, and then compare that with the experiences of children in countries where they do not enjoy the things we take for granted. Little stories of individuals make it easier for the children to appreciate the difference. Children have a strong sense of fairness and any games which demonstrate the inequalities in our world will go down well. The schools’ resources website for Traidcraft and the Fairtrade Foundation have many examples and also slide shows. The primary school I am involved with had a cake and ‘bring a toy, buy a toy sale’ and raised a substantial amount of money for one of the Gifts for Life which supported schools.
- What motivates you to do what you do? Tell us everything!
My motivation comes from the fact that I am very aware that I have been born into a country which has enabled me to have a good education, have health care when needed and have enough to eat. There are many others in the world, however, who, while they have the same aspirations for themselves and their families, by virtue of their situation cannot always achieve them. Although what I do might be very little in the big scheme of things, with others like me, we can play a part in making the world a fairer place. As a committed Christian. I also see it as a working out of my faith.
Thank you Judith for all you do for Traidcraft – you’re an inspiration!