I first heard about fair trade in the early ’80 when, as a teenager, I attended Greenbelt Festival. Christian Aid and Traidcraft talked about injustice in world trade and the idea of a different way of trading without exploitation. I started buying Traidcraft tea, I introduced it to my ward at Leicester Royal Infirmary – it became known as ‘Sarah’s Save The World Teabags’. I don’t think it was meant as a compliment. The quality wasn’t always great in those days! (I considered the coffee too revolting even for me!!)
Fast forward to early 1990 and I travel to Tanzania with my husband David to a small rural mission hospital (we were a classic doctor/ nurse combo!) Whilst living and working there I think I glimpsed poverty and how it takes away individual control, choices and power. When you are completely dependent on factors out of your control for your basic needs. If the rain falls at the right time your crops grow and you feed your family. When returning to the UK I didn’t want to forget the friends I’d made in Tanzania. For me, getting involved in fair trade is my way of remembering them. I realised what a difference fair trade can make to individual families and whole communities.
So back in Leicester I began selling fair trade products from Traidcraft at parties in my home and organising a series of fair trade fashion shows.
This grew until in 1996 I talked a group of friends into opening a pop up shop in the city centre for the 6 weeks leading up to Christmas. The shop was a huge success, both in the amount it sold and in attracting the attention of the local media. We had extensive print, radio and television coverage.
Back then the availability of fair trade products was very limited. This first shop proved that there was a clear and enthusiastic market for all things fair trade. After a further three Christmas shops and summer fashion shows, we formalised. Just Fair Trade Ltd, a workers’ co-operative social enterprise was born. Our ‘proper shop’ opened on 28 October 2000 at 10 Bishop Street, in the city centre.
And now all these years later I’m still doing it. I’m still passionate about fair trade, sustainable and ethical living. It makes sense to me, to my experiences and my faith.