I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the important role that forming part of a community plays in our lives. I don’t know if it’s an age thing linked to the fact that I have small children, but belonging to a community definitely feels more relevant in my life now, than when I was in my 20s, when I guess one’s experience tends to be more self-centred.
I’ m lucky to live in a lovely small village in the southeast on England (Edenbridge) which has a very busy High Street, which I walk up and down at least twice a day to and from my daughters Primary School. It’s a lovely feeling to stop off at least a couple of times to say hello to someone and to be involved with the village life and even hear the gossip!
My dear, dear (and slightly insane) sister visited us from the US for the first time a couple of weeks ago, and one of things that she said struck her most about life here, was precisely that… the community connections, which are often also friendships and which certainly contrast some of the loneliness felt in many other parts of the world, where isolation is sadly so common.
But belonging to a community is not a one way thing… it’s not about just taking and enjoying the benefits of belonging to a group… instead, it’s all about giving and caring enough to get involved with the local issues and decisions, putting in the work, the hours and yes, sometimes putting up with the politics.
Fairtrade is powerful precisely because it brings together individuals within communities. Of course this is true at the producer end, where farmers join together in cooperatives, but it is also very powerful at the other end where activists work together in their communities to promote the movement and encourage collective action.
Over the past 15 years fairtrade campaigner groups have worked hard for communities in consumer countries to achieve ‘Fairtrade Status’. Such status is given after a campaign involving the whole community increases the understanding that small collective actions can make a big difference and demonstrates a deepening of the understanding of the power of consumer behaviour and the importance of choosing Fairtrade products. From the very first small town in Lancashire in 2000, more than 1600 villages, towns, cities, districts, boroughs, etc. have achieved Fairtrade status in the UK, France, Belgium, Ireland, Spain, Italy Brazil, the USA, and more.
To mark our 10 year anniversary, my local activist group and I organised a Street Party last Saturday. Supported by of our local authorities we closed our High Street for a couple of hours and offered free music and fairtrade nibbles to the public.
What a great opportunity for children to just run around safely and for people to pause from their weekend rush and just chat to friends and neighbours for a while.
Will it encourage more people to support Fairtrade? Hopefully…. but it certainly served as a good community building exercise… which is just as important!
Here are a few pictures of the day!