Photo By: SERRV
CRS Fair Trade Crafts
Gifts That Give Twice
Who knew that creating new opportunities for disadvantaged producers abroad could be as easy as shopping? Whether you’re doing your Christmas shopping, looking for a meaningful baptism or communion gift (check out the Gifts of Faith Collection), or want a unique work of art to spice up a room, by choosing to do your shopping through Catholic Relief Services Fair Trade you’re helping skilled artisans and farmers maintain their craft and improve their lives.
CRS and our nonprofit partner, SERRV, work together to offer you the chance to buy high quality, fairly traded handcrafts and gourmet food items from struggling farmers and artisans all over the world. With every purchase SERRV will make a generous contribution to the CRS Fair Trade Fund.
Interview with Serena Sato, Director of Sales and Marketing for SERRV
Can you tell me a little about your organization?
SERRV was founded in 1949 and we are now celebrating our 60th anniversary!
We have approximately 35 regular staff, and more during the holiday season.
Our mission is to eradicate poverty wherever it resides by providing opportunity and support to artisans and farmers worldwide. We do this by:
- Purchasing and marketing handcrafts and food products.
- Promoting sustainable development within our producer partner organizations and artisans and farmers.
Why have you chosen to be a fully committed Fair Trade organization?
This is core to what SERRV has always been. We are a nonprofit organization that has focused on providing opportunity through trade since our founding.
What do you feel your role is in your community and in your producer partners’ communities?
As SERRV is a national organization, we strive to educate our supporters wherever they may be, through our catalog, newsletter, web site, and other materials.
In our producer partners’ communities, we work with local organizations to ensure there are quality of life improvements.
Our model of working involves developing relationships with organizations that go beyond just purchasing products. As a development organization, we are interested in partnering to support organizational growth and to build the skills and capacity that will enable an organization to work into the future. We are also interested in seeing artisans and farmers gain skills that will increase their independence, empower them, and give them tools for their futures.
What type of outreach do you do in the Catholic community in the U.S.?
Our Work of Human Hands partnership with CRS started in 1995 and now has thousands of participants through catalog purchases or parish sales. We also share the CRS Chocolate Program which has several hundred participants.
Why do you think Catholic involvement in the Fair Trade movement is important?
There is a strong Catholic theological basis for supporting fair trade work. CRS has done a fabulous job of making the connection between Catholic Social Teaching and Fair Trade. Through our partnership, we have found that US Catholics are keen to have the tangible opportunity to improve the lives of their brothers and sisters overseas.
Besides price, what impact do you feel Fair Trade has had on producer communities?
We believe that Fair Trade is much more than simply selling products made by people who are paid a fair wage. It includes:
- Assuring there is a developmental aspect to each transaction.
- Acting as an advocate for our partners, helping consumers to understand the conditions under which producers work and educating them about how their buying habits have an impact on poor and marginalized people.
- Helping producers secure new customers.
- Being transparent about where products come from.
- Ensuring that the Fair Trade principles as defined by the WFTO are implemented, and that artisans and farmers have access to resources such as education, health care, banking, and skills training.
We believe in the whole package that makes up Fair Trade. Organizations like SERRV that are 100% Fair Trade exemplify the very highest values of Fair Trade. We evaluate the performance of our entire organization according to Fair Trade values which include social impact, capacity building, and producer empowerment, not just our product sourcing methodologies. SERRV participates in the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) self assessment and monitoring process, has been independently audited by WFTO, and has been certified as a Fair Trade Organization.
From all of your experiences with Fair Trade, can you share a memorable experience?
There are so many stories we could tell. We find inspiration with the women of Delta Survie, a group in Mali providing care and handcraft employment and training to women who are recovering from obstetric fistula surgery. Another example is the head of Get Paper Industry in Nepal, who learned about fair trade and turned his company into a cooperative in order to benefit more artisans.
CRS believes each of their partners is unique – if you had to define the “uniqueness” of your organization, what would the definition be?
It is very unique among fair traders to reach a 60 year milestone!
As a nonprofit organization, our goal is that all of SERRV’s activities, including those related to marketing Fair Trade products, have a developmental aspect which helps our partners to improve their skills, gain needed experience, and reach new markets.
SERRV and CRS share a long and close relationship of working together to spread the word and build support of Fair Trade. We appreciate CRS’ dedication to this goal.