February 14, 2017 | Welland, Ontario. To celebrate their LOVE of all things fairly traded, Notre Dame College School of Welland Ontario celebrated its new designation as Canada’s 13th Fair Trade School – 2nd in Ontario after nearby McKay Public school in Port Colborne. Notre Dame’s Fair Trade Club members decided to use Valentine’s Day to mark their new designation. From February 6th-10th, club members promoted and sold fair trade valentines for friends to send one another. On Valentine’s Day, 350 fairtrade flowers and 75 fairtrade chocolate bars were personally delivered to recipients in their last period class.
“It was definitely a great way to show our love of fair trade!” said Grade 12 student Mary Petriw.
Notre Dame’s commitment to fair trade started in March 2006 after a teacher-student social justice excursion to the Dominican Republic. After learning about the direct positive impact of fair trade on the people in the coffee growing region of Los Cacaos, the group returned to Canada determined to increase awareness and availability of fair trade products.
In the 11 years since that eye-opening trip, Notre Dame’s Fair Trade club has actively educated about fair trade within the school and the larger community. In the early years, the club focused on increasing the availability of fair trade products in the community, first by selling products themselves in local churches and markets, then by encouraging local businesses to stock more products on their shelves. Fortunately, with more awareness and education about fair trade, product availability improved, so the club’s focus shifted to more promotion and education in their own school.
There have been many exciting projects over the years, including hosting speakers from various fair trade organizations in student assemblies, incorporating a Fair Trade themed week into the official school calendar, hosting an annual Fair Trade Fair of local vendors who promote sustainability, launching their own ‘I am a conscious consumer’ ad campaign, creating a local map indicating businesses that promote fair trade, and supporting initiatives like Fair Trade Halloween, Easter bunny sales, Christmas gift basket sales, International Fair Trade day and of course, Fair Trade Valentine’s Day!
Club moderator and Religion teacher Carol Berkhout says, “the club has been operating all these years as a natural extension of the many social justice initiatives in our school. As a Catholic school, we want to show our commitment to gospel values like solidarity and the dignity of the human person. Promoting fair trade is a great way to do this.”
Grade 12 student Dena Atallah adds, “we want students to think more about the person behind the products they buy – to understand that the little bit more we may have to pay here for a product is a small sacrifice if it means that producers can have a living wage and a life with more dignity.”
Notre Dame’s Fair Trade club recognizes that their work is ongoing. They are planning their next ‘ad’ campaign featuring posters of fairly traded apparel and they are making plans for their next Fair Trade Fair in May. In addition, they want to continue to increase the availability of fair trade certified products in the school on a regular basis, rather than just on their weekly cart.
In the words of Grade 12 student Ehrin Turkovich, “We can’t be complacent about the lives of people who are suffering. With so much evidence that fair trade makes a positive difference in the lives of producers in developing countries, we have to continually work at being the difference ourselves.”
Berkhout says, “The motivation for this club certainly was not a fair trade school designation, but it is inspirational to receive the recognition nonetheless. It inspires us to work even harder and hopefully it inspires other schools to do the same.”
“It is with great pleasure that I get to congratulate Notre Dame College School on becoming Canada’s 13th Fair Trade School. It has been inspiring to see the commitment and hard work that went into making this designation happen” – Sean McHugh, Executive Director, The Canadian Fair Trade Network.
“Notre Dame College School is a social justice issues leader and joins the fair trade movement as Canada’s latest Fair Trade School, congratulations! They have shown commitment and passion towards human rights and making trade fair. We look forward to seeing what they will do next! “Mélissa Dubé, Outreach Manager, Fairtrade Canada