This month’s super hero is Rachel Witham from Cinderford. Rachel has been involved in supporting and promoting Traidcraft at her church for most of her life, and it all started with an innocent looking table brush – shaped like an angel…
How did you first get involved with Traidcraft?
My very first memory of Traidcraft was probably a jute angel table brush that appeared in the house one Christmas when I was a child after catalogues had been passed around at church. (I did actually order my own last year after seeing them reappear!) I bought stuff on and off through my teens and university years, seeing Traidcraft and Fairtrade products at Oxfam and church events. My brother was the Fairtrade ambassador at Leeds University (a Fairtrade University) and really got my mind more focussed on what Fairtrade was about and the difference I could (and should!) be making with my shopping.
I really ‘got into’ Traidcraft as a Fair Trader when we moved to Cinderford. I was keen for the church to become a Fairtrade Church and wanted to kick start the process during Fairtrade Fortnight. Traidcraft seemed like the perfect way for the church to really engage with Fairtrade, so I opened a Fair Trader account for the church and we had our first stall, a Fairtrade Bake-Off and a service. As to motivation, my faith motivates pretty much all I do. I love Micah 6:8 and think it speaks well into all that Traidcraft stands for, “What does the Lord God require of you? To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly”.
Did seeing Traidcraft products as a child affect what you were to do later?
I think that the family involvement in looking to purchase ethical gifts where possible, along with generally putting others before yourselves certainly led towards me wanting to make a difference as an adult. I think generally our upbringing (and understanding of the Bible) gave my siblings and I a sense of wanting to strive to make a difference, it’s just been working out where we are best placed to do that. For me, Traidcraft is a good fit; making a real difference through the choices we make whilst shopping, bringing ‘making a difference’ into more aspects of life than just financial giving.
You run a regular stall in your church... Have you got any tips for new Fair Traders?
If I had to use one word, it would be ‘height.’ My husband has now built shelves for the permanent stall at St Stephen’s, but when I go ‘on the road’ I take a variety of boxes and use hanging trees, chocolate stands and the packaging that some of the products come in to create layers to the stall. It makes it more attractive, easier for people to see different things and you can fit more on a table.
Also, display your prices as clearly as possible without making the stall look cluttered. A lot of people think fair trade products are too expensive and won’t necessarily think to ask what the price actually is. If the prices are clearly displayed, it might encourage people to look for longer and find something that fits in their budget, which also gives them the chance to see just how wide a range of fair trade products there actually are beyond tea, coffee and chocolate!
Do you ever do any extra activities in church to promote Traidcraft?
Yes!! We have at least two fair trade themed services a year; hold two Fairtrade Bake-Off’s (Fairtrade Fortnight and Harvest), a Big Brew, sales on certain Saturdays, a Fairtrade Focus in each month’s Benefice Magazine highlighting a particular Traidcraft product and the producers behind it, I’ve spoken at Mothers’ Union, and this year talked and had a prayer space all about GPI at our Ladies’ Conference - all alongside the stall being a permanent feature in the church.
That’s loads, Rachel! As we’re feeling Christmassy right now, we’re also thinking about New Years’ Resolutions. Do you have any for fair trade in your church?
Always! I’ve already started thinking about Fairtrade Fortnight and other ways we can get involved in the community and spread the message about Traidcraft. It’s also a good chance to encourage others to think about permanently switching purchasing another common grocery product to Traidcraft.
We will have a Big Brew during Fair Trade Fortnight, which will encompass a Fairtrade Bake-Off and lots of product tasting alongside lunches and craft activities (with Traidcraft packaging)! We will also have at least one service with a fair trade theme. Last year, I visited several local schools for assemblies and lessons and have been asked to go back. I discussed the idea of taking a small stall with me and that was well received, so hopefully I will be doing that this year.
Do you have any words of advice for other Fair Traders?
I’d recommend having a good range of price points on your stall. I try and have something for 50p or less (chocolate buttons, individual FairBreak wafers, friendship bands) and then work upwards, splitting packs of craft items if needed (such as the tea-light holders). It gives people the opportunity to buy something even if they don’t have a lot of money, which in turn gives you the opportunity to talk to them about Traidcraft and fair trade alongside possibly giving them some more literature, a catalogue or at least contact details.
Do you have an anecdote about anything you’ve done that worked particularly well?
Last year for Fairtrade Fortnight I spent days (I was going to say hours, but days is more appropriate) putting together a giant noticeboard spread of all the countries that the Traidcraft products come from and producer info. It was a lot of hard work, but I was really pleased with the results and people enjoyed reading more about where the products came from (and tasting samples).
It also encouraged people to look at the stall in a different way, especially if theyhad had a previous connection with a particular country that they then wanted to purchase a product from.
Thank you Rachel – you’re really changing the world!