Fairtrade’s power to bring communities together

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I live in Edenbridge. A charming little village in the south east of England, which proudly boasts 0n a sign as you enter it that is it’s ‘Kent’s first Fairtrade Town’.

Even though we moved out here from London almost 5 years ago, and all this while I have been working on Fairtrade, it is only recently that I have gotten involved with the local fellow activists from the Edenbridge Fairtrade Group; and what a lovely and passionate bunch they are.

I guess because my work to date has been focused on the other end of the spectrum, that is, on the impact that Fairtrade generates in producers in their countries, it is fantastic for me to now also discover the impact that it also has in bringing communities together in ours.

I have attended many events over the past few years where producers have been the ‘stars of the show’, but they have always said to me that meeting the many churches, schools, universities and towns and villages that promote their products, ‘for free’ is what touched them the most, because without them the movement really wouldn’t be what it is today. I don’t know what it is about Fairtrade, but something about it makes it very different from many other, very worthy consumer related causes, like say: free range eggs, or responsibly caught fish or local, seasonal and even organic food. Or even the work of many other conservation, environmental organisations or charities. And I think it’s the fact that Fairtrade has also had this effect of creating such groups of community activists who are always thinking of different ways to promote it and spread the word. I may be wrong, but I have never heard of a say a ‘free range town’ or a ‘seasonal school’!

My local group organised such an event to mark Fairtrade Fortnight last night and invited me to come along and blog about it. As a mum of very young children who hasn’t ‘gone out’ on my own to any evening event (due to bedtimes etc!) in a VERY long time… it was a bit of challenge… but one that I was very happy to accept! and so with the support of my husband Chris, who took a day off and was left with lots instructions and tips on how to feed, and put the little ones down in my absence (why do mum’s worry so much about this things!) I left home, at nighttime, during bedtime… on my own and without a nappy bag! wow… talk about small victories… :)

Anyway, the event was orchestrated by Rachel from the eAt@Eden cafe and was called Come Dine with Me, and it was to be a fun competition between local ‘celebrity chefs and’ food enthusiasts’ who,  in pairs, had to cook a dish in 10 minutes using Fairtrade products and then the crowd would vote on which dish sounded the most delicious. After the cooking demonstrations, people would be invited to sample all 6 dishes. The event was sold out (over 100 tickets!) which for a small village on a Monday night is a fantastic achievement on its own!

The demonstrations were great fun and there was fantastic banter between the ‘local food celebrities’ and the crowd throughout, and even though I didn’t stay for the sampling bit of the evening, I could tell that everyone was having a really good time, and there was a real sense of community spirit.

I rushed back just before 8 pm (like Cinderella from the Ball)…. half expecting to find an orchestra of babies crying and my husband by the door… but to my amazement… both babies were down… the house was still standing… and my husband was sorting out our dinner… wow… double success.

Some photos from the event below.

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