Organizer Spotlight: Laura Mullin – Winter Park, FL
It was two years ago that I walked into the Ten Thousand Villages in Winter Park, Fl. A friendly and enthusiastic store volunteer explained to me the concept of what a ‘Fair Trade Certified’ product means, and I was immediately hooked. I quickly became a more conscious buyer and with my persuasion, family and friends soon followed. As a volunteer at Ten Thousand Villages, what was once an interest has developed into a passion for the Fair Trade community. I am committed to my ongoing effort to make positive changes in my own community and now in communities in underdeveloped and developing countries.
How Fair Trade Winter Park Came To Fruition
A year into volunteering my time at Ten Thousand Villages, I became aware of the Fair Trade Towns national campaign. The manager and co-manager of the store, Jenn and Lisa, along with myself were ready to develop a steering committee for the town of Winter Park, Florida. Our committee, composed of five people, is quite small compared to other towns/city campaigns, but luckily we are all incredibly motivated. We keep our monthly meetings structured around an agenda; the meetings are lighthearted and easy going. We are extremely dedicated to educating our town and spreading the fair trade word.
I am the Community Outreach Coordinator for our campaign. With the help of the other committee members, we have been able
to get five community organizations to join our campaign. I have also reached out to the local schools and have organized classroom presentations to educate the students about the concept of fair trade and our local campaign. Teaming up with Ten Thousand Villages has been a wonderful way to be able to bring in some items from the store so the students can get a clear idea of the uniqueness of fair trade, as well as, the beautiful skills and talents of the artisan group.
Seven months after we started the campaign, Winter Park, FL became the 27th Fair Trade Town in the nation, and the first Fair Trade Town in the Southeast! Our efforts have been widely accepted throughout the community and we are excited to put this energy towards the Orlando, FL campaign.
A Constructive Look at Campaign Challenges
Our recent event on World Fair Trade Day we planned to have a Fair Trade scavenger hunt that would allow participants to visit the stores in our campaign and get a feel for the Fair Trade items available. For the first time we teamed up with a local Ben and Jerry’s scoop shop who were ecstatic to be involved with our event, and are anxious to assist with future events. The event was well executed; unfortunately we discovered one shortcoming – the lack of community participation. The city of Winter Park still has quite a way to go to become fully educated about the campaign and the concept of Fair Trade. As part of the steering committee, we have agreed to focus our attention on marketing for our events. We hope to have a stronger following when we put together our “Fair Trade Film Festival” for Fair Trade Month!
Benefiting from Fair Trade Towns’ Life-Changing Opportunities
My involvement in Fair Trade Towns has given me unbelievable opportunities. For example, I recently traveled to the Dominican Republic, where I immersed myself in the lives of various coffee, cocoa, and banana farmers. I also had the chance to host Raymond Gitau, a Kenyan Fair Trade coffee grower, while he was on a Producer Tour. Taking him around to the fair trade areas in Winter Park and Orlando was a very proud moment for our steering committee. We were able to show him our efforts and involvement in this movement. These opportunities remind me of the positive impact our efforts are making.
It is so empowering to be a part of a worldwide campaign. I hope that one day Fair Trade is not just a limited option, but instead the opposite; the only option. I am excited to continue to develop relationships with those dedicated to the fair trade movement. I am proud to know that I have had something to do with the awareness of fair trade in my own community, and I am ready to see this movement grow into something beautiful!