On Saturday, Nov. 2 and Sunday, Nov. 3, rows of tables filled with vendors lined the Aula, each filled with a hodgepodge of unique fair trade items. When something is fair trade, it means that no one involved in the trade gets a bad deal.
Often, those producing items in less industrialized countries are unable to make the profit they deserve. Fair trade ensures that these skilled farmers and artisans are paid and treated fairly.
The Duchess County Interfaith Council, Inc. and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Poughkeepsie sponsored the Fair Trade Bazaar in Ely Hall.. The purpose of the bazaar, as described on the DCIC’s website, is to make people socially and economically aware of the origins of their goods.
Throughout the two days of the bazaar, live music played as visitors shopped around the bustling room.
Many of the products being sold at the bazaar were made by artisans from all around the world with the intermediary party eliminated.
One such a group was Handcrafting Justice, which is run by Sisters of the Good Shepherd, a group of women who teach their religious values around the world. Through this mission, they meet the people who create the pieces sold by Handcrafting Justice.
Handcrafting Justice sells handmade items from over 20 countries around the world. Projects included stuffed animals, wallets, photo albums, headbands and earrings. As the organization states in its website, “HandCrafting Justice promotes human dignity by empowering women to overcome social and economic injustice.”
Another table sold jewelry made by teenage mothers in Uganda brought to the U.S. by the Child Care and Youth Empowerment Foundation. Meghan Miller is a member of Peace Corps currently volunteering in Uganda and working in conjunction with the foundation; her mother and sister were representing the foundation at the bazaar. All of the money from the sales of the beads provides the mothers with funds for childcare and help returning to school.
Vision of Tibet is a group that supports Tibetan exiles living in India without access to employment. The refugees make a variety of things including scarves, wallets, Tibetan prayer flags and a wide variety of jewelry. Things are bought directly from the refugees, brought to the U.S. Vision of Tibet has a store in Rosendale and also sells at events such as the Fair Trade Bazaar.
One woman was at the bazaar for her project SHONA Congo. After living in Congo for a few years teaching English, she developed a relationship with four differently-abled women. SHONA Congo was created as a way to help these women receive regular and fair payment for their sewing.
According to the SHONA Congo website, “The opportunity to work independently, with dignity, has made an enormous difference in the lives of these 4 women, and their families.” There is no middleman or outsiders involved in their project, only the five women. Each piece, whether it be a bag, an apron, or a bracelet, comes with a tag upon which is written the names of the women who made it and their story.
A group called Women’s Work was represented at the fair selling a variety of goods, particularly jewelry made from ostrich eggshell beads, one of the oldest known forms of art in the world.
Produced in Botswana, the jewelry is crafted using uncommonbead-making techniques. The fair trade items from around the world were not only art; a variety of fair trade foodstuffs had a noticeable presence as a part of the as well.
Lafaza, who had a table at the bazaar, is a company that buys vanilla directly from farmers in northern Madagascar and the only vanilla company in the U.S. that works directly with the growers they buy from. This allows them to control quality and ensure that growers are paid fairly. They produce vanilla extract, vanilla beans, vanilla sugar and powder.
Equal Exchange was represented at the fair selling fair trade coffee, chocolate, tea and other snacks.
The Bazaar also served as an opportunity to support Mid-Hudson Valley vendors. Along with the many trade products from overseas, several small businesses were present selling their local wares.
Earth to Table is a group that does a lot of work with colleges, including Vassar. This is the group behind Vassar’s recent Food Day. Their mission is to promote sustainability and eating locally grown food. They do a lot of work with community gardens, greenhouses, and helping to feed the needy. The group’s representative at the fair, Joe Baldwin, expressed excitement to continue educating Vassar students on eating local and healthy food when the farmer’s market moves indoors.
Our Lady of the Resurrection Monastery, a local church, was selling homemade soap, herbs, vinegar, salsa and other foods.
Back when Vassar was still a women’s college, the girls who attended the school would take their dates to the Kimlin Cider Mill in Poughkeepsie.
Though the mill has been closed since 1990, a private, non-profit group called The Cider Mill Friends of Open Space & Historic Preservation has since undertaken the task of restoring, preserving, and turning it into a historical site. The group was at the fair educating about their project and fundraising.
Throughout the bazaar, there were many tables selling locally made jewelry. One of these was Lorelei Designs, a local small business that features jewelry made from natural gemstones such as amethyst and turquoise with wire-wrapping done by hand. A similar table was Vibrant Art, whose beaded jewelry made from many genuine stones was proudly described as fair trade, vintage, recycled and upcycled. “Upcycled”, as explained by the vendor, is a term meaning that many of the beads were taken from other pieces that have broken or were no longer used.
Other handmade, local items included intricate, handmade dolls made by Eto Kukhianidze. She was also selling Christmas ornaments, glasses cases, vests, belts and cookies.
One table was selling bar soap, lotion and soft soap all made from goat milk. Relay for Life was represented at the bazaar selling items made by volunteers to support their cause. Another table contained handmade beaded purses.
Ulana Salewycz is a local artist selling small pieces at the bazaar as well as spreading the word about her mandala workshops, art therapy and watercolor classes.
Another local artist was selling artwork as well as promoting her Peace Rocks project. She has, over time, painted over 12,500 rocks with peace signs on them and spread them all around campus in order to promote peace and happiness. She was giving them out at the fair to anyone interested in participating in her project.
Towards the back corner of the Aula, a group called Sound Earth brought kittens to the bazaar in order to promote their adoption. Sound Earth partners with animal rescues, and profits go towards general animal welfare.
All of their cleaning products, pure essential oils, roll-on perfume and other products are made locally in Fishkill and are cruelty free.
Shea Ocean is a local business that sells organic shea butter made from ingredients from Ghana. They make their shea butter in a variety of scents that they like to call flavors because customers tell them their products smell and look good enough to eat. The business is owned by Mamadou Ndoye and Mark Cunningham, who are passionate and dedicated to their business and say they have dreams to one day expand to do more.
Aside from these, many other unique vendors were present at the Fair Trade Bazaar. The event provided an opportunity for people to buy items that were high-quality and also helped support individuals who, though talented, are often not given payment and appreciation they deserve due to corporations and big business.