The Power of Fair Trade Advocacy: From Los Angeles, California to Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Isabel May 22, 2017

Fair Trade advocacy connects individuals from different ages, backgrounds, interests, passions, and even geographies. As a college student who is new to advocacy and nonprofit work, I was eager to become the Southern California Colleges & Universities Fellow to gain work experience – little did I know that I would come to value the people I met and worked with the most.

September Conference

Last September, when I began my position, we hosted a conference for all campaigns in Southern California. While setting up for the event, a magazine caught my eye at the check in table. I read “Haiti in the Hands of Haitians” and was instantly intrigued because I had just visited Port-au-Prince a few months prior. I searched around for who had brought the magazine and had the pleasure of meeting Elisha Chan – UCLA alum, Fair Trade LA member, founder of Elisha C. (the magazine I had seen), and someone deeply connected to Haiti, just I had recently become. Within minutes of meeting Elisha, we began brainstorming events that she could host at UCLA. In just 30 minutes, all aspects of my student-advocate life had been connected in my conversation with Elisha. 

Elisha C.

Elisha has expressed to me how vital Fair Trade has been in her life as she evolved from a student to an entrepreneur.

“I found Fair Trade LA at the right time. I had just graduated from UCLA and launched Elisha C., a social enterprise working with artisans in Haiti. It was started after many trips to Haiti and a passion to end poverty through job creation. But I didn’t know there were a group of such supportive and like minded people already in Los Angeles! When I found FTLA, it opened up so many platforms in the Fair Trade community to work with other socially conscious organizations and businesses.”

Students for Haiti Solidarity at UCLA

Recently, Elisha collaborated with Students for Haiti Solidarity at UCLA, an organization that I joined last year, by hosting an Expo Event on campus featuring Haitian artisan jewelry, art, and chocolate. I had just returned from my second trip to Haiti and this event reminded me of the message my Haitian mother shared with our group as we left: “this is solidarity, not charity.” This message not only encapsulates the work that my group does in providing scholarships for university students, but also the work of Fair Trade worldwide.

Fair Trade ensures equal wages and standards of living for workers all over the world, including chocolate and coffee farmers in Haiti. In purchasing Elisha’s products and other Fair Trade goods, you continue this mission of empowerment and equality that respects the dignity of all workers, continually working in solidarity.

My Trip to Haiti 

Elisha is one of the many individuals I have met in the U.S. that work every day to empower and provide a voice for those that are victim to injustice. Their work is made possible by partnerships and efforts to work in solidarity with activists worldwide.

On my second trip to Haiti, I was again in awe of the Haitian activists that Students for Haiti Solidarity at UCLA works with. We first traveled to SOPUDEP, a school in Port-au-Prince that provides free tuition for K-12 students that otherwise would not receive an education. We also traveled to SAKALA, a community organization in Cité Soleil, the poorest slum in Haiti and the Western Hemisphere. The site that was once a trash dump is now an incredible space for kids to play soccer, receive tutoring, work in a computer lab, and spend time in the garden.

Our organization is working with both SOPUDEP and SAKALA to help provide solar panels so that their vital and empowering work does not have to end when the sun goes down. An education, access to technology, and other basic rights are not realities in other parts of our world.

The privilege I’ve had to travel to Haiti and meet hardworking activists sparks my passion to keep working towards equal access for all, by providing tuitions for students to attend university or to always purchase responsibly.  

Apply to Be a 2017-18 Fellow!

My fellowship connected me to incredible advocates on the UCLA campus, in the Los Angeles Area, and motivated my work in Haiti. I am so grateful to see how the vital work of Fair Trade connects to so many other missions and builds a community of passionate, hard-working advocates. If you also wish to broaden your understanding of Fair Trade and gain professional experience, you should apply to become a 2017-18 fellow! This position aligned very closely with my work as a student and allowed me to gain hands-on experience supporting grassroots organizers, building regional networks, and executing communications strategies.

Fair Trade Campaigns is hiring eight fellows to support advocacy work in communities and on college campuses in the following regions: Southwest, Mid Atlantic, Northeast and Great Lakes. Learn more and find out how to apply here:

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Isabel, Fair Trade Colleges & Universities Fellow, Southern California