Powerful Purchasing: Fair Trade Goods Offers Locals Real Buying Power
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Powerful Purchasing: Fair Trade Goods Offers Locals Real Buying Power

To most Americans, purchasing power means getting more for your dollar. To folks like Patty Pece, that buying power represents helping the impoverished, education, clean drinking water, providing a fair wage and putting some power in the hands of those who have virtually none.

Pece is the owner of Sobonost For the World, a Fair Trade market she created in 2003. Her main drive back then was to provide support for sub-Saharan orphans who lost their parents in the AIDS pandemic. She is also striving to bring Fair Trade a little closer to those who haven’t encountered it in their local community. They operate under the Fair Trade Federation in the USA, comprised of producers, wholesalers and retailers who agree with nine principles covering Fair Trade issues.

Information today floods us at a stunning pace. We are given calorie counts when we go to McDonald’s. We can choose restaurants that promise produce picked from the local farmstand or meats free from pesticides. We can visit Whole Foods and learn if the chicken we are about to buy was treated humanely or forced to live in cages. Americans are now slowly beginning to ask for disclosures on how our clothing and goods are made as well.

“It’s a shop until you drop mentality and many Americans are not aware where their goods come from or how they are made,” said Screen shot 2015-01-08 at 2.17.11 PMPece.

She had what she called a faith crisis. Active in her church, she wondered if she was doing enough to help the less fortunate in other parts of the world like Africa. “The human crisis was, how do I make a difference,” she said.

She began pounding the pavement for information on how she could get involved in a way that would make a meaningful difference. She gathered some volunteers and launched Sobornost for the World Foundation in 2003 to “increase justice, love and hope in the world through Fair Trade and by supporting programs for young vulnerable orphans with no way to support themselves in sub-Sahara Africa.”

The organization supports and buys goods from marginalized countries where work is scarce and wages and work practices are often unfair. Much of the products are handmade and are produced using recycled materials. Foil chip bags are turned into small baskets, metal from oil drums are pounded and cut into beautiful ornaments. The workers gains skills and income.Screen shot 2015-01-08 at 2.17.31 PM

Up until this year, Pece and a volunteer staff operated World Village Fair Trade Market in Hampton Bays for eleven years. When it began to become cost prohibitive, she closed the store and now travels to fairs and markets across Long Island to sell goods and get the word out about Fair Trade and her cause.

Tables lined with Sobornost’s scarves, ornaments, purses and bags, filled the conference room in Edgewood that was set up for a recent employee holiday sale. Each item seemed to have its own story. “These baskets from Nepal were made from recycled foil potato chip bags,” explained Pece as she held up the colorful and metallic basket.” Metal ornaments, hammered from discarded oil barrels sat alongside hand woven purses from Africa by workers who received a fair wage for their handicraft. Producer groups and growers are able to provide a better life for their families because they receive fair wages, support, resources, loans, and training due to organizations like Pece’s.

Her efforts, along with the volunteers who give their time to help her sell and run the operation, have helped to build a school, provide clean drinking water, supply medicine and build three industrial kitchens for a school in Kenya. In India, food is provided for 23 orphans and financial aid is given to three children in order to help keep them is school.

Purchasing power indeed.

Visit Sorbornost for the World Foundation at www.sobornostfoundation.org or visit them on Facebook.

-by Jennifer Sloat

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