McKay Public School Named Canada’s 9th Fair Trade School!

June 22, 2016 | Port Colborne, Ontario. McKay has become Ontario’s First Fair Trade designated School! The designation comes after a great deal of planning and preparation. The new designation was celebrated at a school wide event on June 22nd, and staff and students at McKay are thrilled to be a part of the Fair Trade movement.

Local dignitaries and community partners were in attendance as well as all members of the school community. During the ceremony, guests enjoyed world music, Fair Trade refreshments and snacks, and a formal presentation of what it means to be a Fair Trade school. Following the ceremony, guests were invited to circulate through the classes to see Fair Trade learning in action. “We are honoured to receive this designation and look forward to maintaining the momentum of our Fair Trade culture and attaining our Fair Trade goals for the next school year”. – Amber Christie, Teacher, McKay Public School.

It all started with an intermediate presentation earlier this year by Jane Nigh from the local Ten Thousand Villages on the principals and products of Fair Trade. This interactive presentation lit a spark among the students in attendance, and the interest in doing something more ensued. Nigh left behind a pamphlet on becoming a designated Fair Trade School, and French Immersion teachers, Jenn Vanderlaan and Amber Christie, decided to pursue the challenge. Since Port Colborne is Ontario’s first Fair Trade town, it seemed fitting that Ontario’s first Fair Trade school should be in Port Colborne as well.

With enthusiastic support from administration and staff, a Fair Trade culture at the school began to emerge. Teachers committed to delivering grade-appropriate Fair Trade lessons and purchasing Fair Trade tea and coffee for the staff room. Local organizations such as The Peanut Mill and Ten Thousand Villages, as well as Equifruit, assisted in the provision of fair trade food items and goods to be sold to the students at school. The school as a whole agreed to encourage Fair Trade awareness throughout the community via assemblies, bulletin boards, promotional material, and newsletter updates. To help navigate through the designation process, a steering committee was developed, consisting of teachers, students and administrators.

“In working toward the goal of becoming a Fair Trade School, the committee applied for a grant through the Chair Legacy Fund on the www.myclassneeds.ca website to purchase Fair Trade sports equipment from the socially conscious sports organization, VOLO Athletics. We successfully reached our target and are looking forward to a shipment of volleyballs and soccer balls that were made in a socially responsible manner”, said Christie.

Fair Trade has been a big buzz word around the school lately, and walking through the halls of McKay solidifies this; you could stop any student in the hall, at any age, to ask about Fair Trade and they would have something to say. Vanderlaan states that “they are starting to understand the importance of knowing where products come from and how they are made. They are aware of the poor working conditions that exist, and the denial of children in some third world countries to access education in order to work and provide for their families. They want to do something to help.” Grade 7 French Immersion student, Hannah Smith, reiterates, “We are just one Fair Trade school and although we can’t save every person in every Third World country, it’s a start. If we spread awareness we can get more people involved and we can begin to solve this global problem.”

“In order to foster passion and facilitate change on a global scale, it is important to teach children about what happens beyond the four walls of their classroom and the community in which they live”, says Christie. Students understand that a little goes a long way; a small purchase for them means a significant and positive change in the lives of the people making the Fair Trade products. The Fair Trade cooperatives ensure that workers are paid a fair price for their hard work, meaning that they can provide for their families and ensure that their children receive an education. Another advantage of the Fair Trade co-ops is that a portion of the proceeds goes towards promoting an environmentally stable work environment. Third World Countries are reliant upon First World Nations to end their cycle of poverty.

“It is with great privilege that I get to congratulate McKay Public School on becoming Ontario’s first and Canada’s 9th Fair Trade Designated School. They have run a spirited campaign, working to embed Fair Trade into the culture of the school; which is incredibly exciting to see” – Sean McHugh, Executive Director, Canadian Fair Trade Network.

“It’s a pleasure to congratulate McKay Public School for achieving the Fair Trade School designation. Their meaningful contribution to social sustainability and trade justice will support farmers and workers from around the world. Keep up the great work! Go Lions go!” – Mélissa Dubé, Outreach Manager, Fairtrade Canada.