Honoring Mothers Fair Trade Tea (+ Chocolate!) Party

I grew up going to mother/daughter teas and other such church functions with my mom. I proposed taking that idea and using it to lift up mothers around the world, who are better able to support their families through fair trade agriculture or handicrafts. Here was my “script” for the event, with some notes. I’d be delighted if others wanted to copy and adapt the idea!

This is a different kind of tea party. It still includes time to sip and chat, enjoy all generations playing together, and some delicious treats. But all of the tea, coffee, and cocoa we share today is certified Fair Trade, and in the midst of appreciating it, we’re going to learn about why that matters.

We are planting seeds, so that every generation knows about the value of fair trade.

By serving fair trade products, we’re honoring mothers, because products that pay fair wages to those who farm or craft them help marginalized women around the world to support their families, send their children to school, and build up their own skills.

We are showing that we have choices for everyday products we drink, chocolates with which we treat ourselves, and in clothing, accessories and gifts that we buy.

We are giving thanks for all of the women whose thousands of small actions, have added up to big differences in our lives. And we are attempting to be those agents of change in the lives of others.

Our 1st Course of the Tea Party features… fair trade Coffee!

Since coffee is frequently grown on the continent of Africa, a church member has made creamy rice banana bread to share, from her home country of Liberia in West Africa. You will also be served some other treats listed on the program on each table, and there are notes as to which items are gluten free. Lemonade is available for our younger tea partiers, and others. Once all of the tables are served, I will give a short introduction to fair trade…

Introduction to Fair Trade

We all eat foods and drink beverages produced in developing countries, in the global South. We all wear clothes and buy products made in developing countries, often without much thought to how those on the other end of the supply chain are paid, what their working conditions are, or what impact the production of what we will consume has on the environment. The truth is, not all trade is fair. The Fair Trade movement aims to bring all of these factors into view in the “developed” countries so that consumers can knowingly choose to buy fairly. It cuts out the middlemen, who shield us as consumers from knowing the true costs of low prices, to the farmers and artisans.

The World Fair Trade Organization has Ten Principles of Fair Trade, which are shown with the “program” on every table here today. For every principle, the opposite is what’s happening in the majority of industries in developing countries. For example, if the principle is “no child labor and no forced labor,” both of those deplorable practices are a reality in many industries. Through fair trade, farmers are given a fair and dependable price for their crops and artisans are given a fair price and markets for their handiwork. They gain access to fair credit that helps in creating a more sustainable livelihood. Their cooperatives, democratically-run organizations, give workers a stronger voice to negotiate fair prices, teach best practices and make sure children are protected from forced labor. The cooperatives themselves reinvest in their communities through projects such as clean water systems, disaster response and solar power. They encourage and educate about ecologically sustainable practices. I’ll share some specific examples during the fashion show.

Where do we find Fair Trade products? This is the 20th year Lutheran World Relief, a development and relief organization our church body supports, has partnered with a fair trade organization called Equal Exchange to market fair trade coffee and chocolate through our churches. It was a way to get the word about fair trade out to people who believe in caring about our neighbors, and a percentage of each of those sales went from Equal Exchange to LWR’s agricultural programs. LWR is now transitioning to direct purchasing from the farmers in their own development projects, but obviously the strong commitment to fair trade remains the same. The centerpieces on each table and handicrafts to be featured in our fashion show are mostly items ordered through SERRV, one of the first Fair Trade handicraft organizations in this country, which started in the late 1940s. But we also have a fair trade store in St. Paul, Ten Thousand Villages on Selby Avenue; BTW, Monday they’re kicking off a summer emphasis on fair trade clothing from 3 organizations: Mata Traders, Global Mamas, and Maggie’s Organics. Church member is a fellow with the Bush Foundation, and told me about a Twin Cities Hmong fair trade group that markets in the U.S. the handiwork of artisans from SE Asia (Red Green River). “Trades of Hope” markets fair trade handiwork based on house or online parties (similar to how tupperware used to be sold). Now fair trade chocolates, tea and coffee are available at grocery stores. That is all to say: “Fair trade” is becoming more widely available as an option for food, gifts and apparel, but to adopt “buy fair trade” as a value we all need lots of reminders, opportunities and reinforcement. We can remind each other: there are things to consider beyond getting a good deal at the check-out.

Note about this congregation: We serve fair trade tea and coffee during coffee hour already. If you wish to donate to that specifically, your financial contributions buy more fair trade products!

When you are finished with your course, I invite the “models” for our fashion show to join me over at the handicrafts table.

Our 2nd Course features Fair Trade Tea, and because tea is most commonly grown in parts of Asia, church member has made us wontons, and church member has made us coconut jello to go with the other refreshments.

Our fair trade fashion show is comprised almost entirely of handicrafts from SERRV (serrv.org) one of the oldest fair trade handicrafts organizations, founded in the late 1940s.

(Information and quotes shared during the fashion show were taken from SERRV’s website and catalog. I chose items that could easily be carried and displayed in a fashion show, grouped 2-4 per country. In addition to jewelry or accessories, I also ordered some décor, such as serving platters and trivets. All of these items are available for “consignment sales” from SERRV, which means we did not need to pay in advance for anything as long our congregation registered an account, but just ship back what we did not sell, and payment for what we did sell. The consignment order form has items grouped by country. Clothing is not included in the “consignment sale” category, but we did model clothing that I already owned, from SERRV. Highlighting items from a dozen countries made our fashion show last around 30 minutes.)

Excerpts from the fashion show:

Mexico and Guatemala

Teenaged church member and pre-school church member are showing you fair trade products made in Mexico and Guatemala! Teenager is wearing a tree necklace & bracelet made in Mexico, and an apron from neighboring Guatemala. Pre-schooler is showing you her turtle backpack, made in Guatemala.

The jewelry Teenager is modeling was made by Union Progresista Artesana. Lucina currently assists with packaging and jewelry assembly for UPA in Mexico and is enrolled in a new women’s project to learn jewelry-making skills. Her hope is that with the new skills she will be able to work full-time and earn a steady income. She has two teenage children to provide for on her own, as her husband migrated in search of work but has gone missing. She said, “I am a single mother and I have to give my children a better future.”


Mother and daughter church members are showing you fair trade handicraft items from Indonesia. Mother is wearing a pearl heart cross necklace, and scarf, and daughter is carrying two fans with traditional designs.

In many parts of Indonesia, rural families have increasingly had to migrate to find work to support their families. Pekerti, the Indonesian People’s Handicraft Foundation Marketing Service, has been working since 1975 to preserve traditional Indonesian handcrafts skills and to promote income-generating projects among the rural, enabling them to remain in their villages with their families. They have had programs that provide heath care, school scholarships, and loans. They encourage the use of raw materials from sustainably managed sources and provide information and projects on conservation. The pearl heart necklace our model is wearing was made by Pekerti.

Our 3rd Course features Mexican hot chocolate! Cocoa grows especially well in the Caribbean and Latin America. Church member has made us Mexican wedding cookies to accompany the other assorted treats.

When you are finished with your food and drinks, you are invited to take a walking tour of the other tables, as all the centerpieces are Fair Trade handicrafts owned by members of this congregation.

Coffee, tea, cocoa and most items from the fashion show today are available through a “consignment sale” arrangement with SERRV; that means that you can purchase them today at a discount if there is something that speaks to you. We will also make them available on Sunday after worship. After that, whatever remains will be sent back to SERRV. We also have a dozen SERRV catalogs, and they ship items remarkably quickly, within 3-5 days, so you would have something in time for, say, Mother’s Day if you ordered soon. Take a catalog with you if you think you would use it. Or just look up their website: serrv.org

Thank you to the servers, those who prepared the food and drinks and especially those who have run this event from the kitchen, to those who decorated, greeted, modeled in the fashion show, and who will clean up afterward.

A public photo album from the event is available at: https://www.facebook.com/leeann.machoskypomrenke/media_set?set=a.10155330504503453.1073741898.599858452&type=3

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