Look at any community around the world that works with Fair Trade, from the smallest village in Uganda, to a coastal fishing town in Mexico, and you’ll see that no two have the same exact set of needs. That’s why Fair Trade USA leaves power in the hands of committees of farmers and workers to decide for themselves how the additional funds earned through Fair Trade—called Community Development Funds—will be spent. Regardless of those unique challenges, many see education as the most promising solution. Our neighbors around the world are longing to write a better future for themselves and their children by creating opportunities to learn and grow.
This article explores a few different ways that communities across the world are using these funds to invest in learning opportunities for themselves and future generations. These are your dollars at work. Help enable more stories like these by doing your own back to school shopping with Fair Trade.
Air conditioning classrooms in Mexico
In Sinaloa, Mexico, where temperatures average 92 degrees Fahrenheit during the hottest months, fishermen voted to use Fair Trade Community Development Funds to install air conditioning units in the classrooms at Altata Primary School where many of their children attend school.
Pictured: Children in the sixth grade at Altata Primary School
Providing school kits at Miguel Valencia School in Colombia
Cooperativa de los Andes, a Fair Trade Certified coffee co-op with roughly 3,500 members, voted to spend Community Development Funds to provide school kits to their children. These kits include a backpack, notebooks, and other school utensils.
Pictured: Siblings Jhon Mario Taborta Lopez (left), 12, and Maria Nalleli Taborta Lopez (right), 6, with their school kits at Miguel Valencia School
Purchasing a school bus and nutrition program in Mexico
About 800 miles north of Sinaloa in Sonora, Mexico, farm workers at Wholesum Harvest have improved access to the local elementary school by purchasing a school bus with Fair Trade funds. Wholesum is a Fair Trade Certified tomato, eggplant, squash, and cucumber producer, and through the sale of their produce, has also recently implemented a scholastic nutrition program that feeds at least 290 children healthy food throughout the day at the public elementary school and the child care center.
Offering after school classes at a community center in Costa Rica
Locals can play soccer, take math and computer classes, adult level certification courses, and technical workshops in the evening at the community center funded by Fair Trade Community Development Funds.
Pictured: Deysi Baldonado, 29-year-old mother of three, takes a high school certification math course. Deysi, who is working towards her high school diploma, says, “One can not remain stagnant. I want to continually move forward.”
Paying school fees in Uganda
For tea growers in the Mpanga community of Uganda, paying for their children’s school fees is by far the biggest financial constraint. Fair Trade funds have helped pay those fees so that children can go to school and receive an education, leaving parents hopeful of one day sending their children to college. Fair Trade funds have also built a well to bring access to clean drinking water, enabled food security programs, and improved access to health care, but still many families say that help with school fees is the greatest benefit of Fair Trade. Elsewhere in Uganda, Community Development Funds have been invested into the local school to repair a roof ripped off during a storm and to purchase 60 desks, making it easier for students to learn handwriting.
Creating a scholarship for a worker’s son in India
The Fair Trade Committee at Bestitch Knits in Tiruppur, India, voted to create a scholarship for the 18-year-old son of one of the workers, fully funding his undergraduate education. He plans to get a degree in commerce and hopes to one day be a Chartered Accountant in the Tiruppur area serving the manufacturing industry and workers like his mother. Read Gautam’s full story here.
Pictured: Gautam, Latha’s son says, “When I was growing up, people talked about Chartered Accounting as something difficult, but I was attracted to the challenge. I am interested in giving back to this community.“