Thursday, December 1, 2011

Meet the AWAZ Team

I’ve been extremely fortunate over the years to be surrounded by great people who’ve helped me support the work of AWAZ. Making AWAZ a community driven effort has always been my dream – the more people involved, the more awareness and impact we can bring. The model is grassroots and I am thankful for all the people who have helped along the way: AWAZ interns and volunteers, fair trade colleagues, community leaders, business owners, textile designers, professors, family and friends.

From designing flyers to designing websites, they’ve offered their time and commitment to a vision of trade justice by helping to represent the voices of our partners in India : without them we would not have come so far.

I’d like to introduce the beautiful people who are working with us today and who’ve been a part of this journey to take the time to thank them. We’ve seen you grow and we thank you for growing with us!

AWAZ Interns and Volunteers - Portland, Oregon


Sarah Snyder, Social Media and Communications

Salem native, Sarah Snyder, joined us this fall with a background in fair trade and an enthusiasm to learn more. She has been a godsend of newfound energy that is reminiscent of my college days as a campus organizer and I’m thankful to have her at my side to support key functions. Her positive attitude keeps me inspired and AWAZ filled with great new ideas.

Sarah first learned about fair trade after becoming a volunteer for Salem's fair trade store, One Fair World. She has a degree in Sociology where she wrote her Senior Thesis on the Social Impact of Fair Trade which highlighted the success story of 10,000 Villages, the founder of the fair trade movement. After college, she spent a year of Ameri-Corps service as a Farmer's Market Manager in WA and now gives her time to AWAZ by helping with community sales and outreach events, NWFTC and managing our blog, social media and newsletter.

She is doing an amazing job researching the latest news about the fair trade movement, sharing stories about our artisan partners, AWAZ events and keeping us all informed through regular facebook posts, tweets and writing blog articles. She shares loads of great resources – so LIKE US on facebook and follow OUR BLOG to stay connected to local and global action!

Read her latest post that shares more about her journey to fair trade.

Amy Price, Community Outreach

After 15 years of experience in the corporate and non profit sector, Amy stepped back from her full time job to pursue her long-time passion and interest in international social justice. She joined AWAZ in the fall to get some experience working for a local organization with an international mission while preparing to go back to school for a Masters in Sociology. I’m a firm believer that we all must be doing what we love or we wouldn’t be fulfilling our purpose in life – it takes guts and courage and I love that she, and many people alike, are beginning to walk that path.

She has been a great addition to the team, using her background and great interpersonal skills to help promote AWAZ and the ideas behind global economic justice to new demographics and communities. She is a voice for fair trade at many of our events in the community and by organizing her own – she recently hosted an AWAZ Fair Trade Home Party to help her friends, vote with their dollars and implement the ideas they value in their everyday life.

Her belief of fair trade as a tool for sustainable international development inspired her to join the NWFTC, the local fair trade grassroots organization that serves as an educational resource for fair trade in Portland and surrounding areas. (learn more about the NWFTC monthly film series and annual events around Portland and how you can get involved)

She is gearing up for a 3 month trip to Colombia next year to volunteer and understand grassroots community development overseas. And while she may not always be an intern with AWAZ, she forever will serve as a goodwill ambassador for fair trade and that in itself, is our main aim – learn about it, practice it and promote it.

Chris Elliott, Web Developer

Chris is the amazingly, skilled IT guy behind the screen who keeps our website alive, functioning and forever improving. Often unnoticed and not praised enough (like most people in IT these days), he spends hours at end reading, coding and making all the changes to the website to appease my expectations. I am truly thankful for his time and energy he gives to AWAZ every time I look at our website!!

With a degree in Anthropology, he combines his interest in global cultures with a newfound passion for information technology to AWAZ. Over the years, he’s learned various coding languages and skills through professional upgrades and various work experiences which has helped him, with ease, maintain our website. He was instrumental in the planning and implementing of the new facelift of our website - from enhancing the functions to our shopping cart, to creating rotating banners and event calendars, he is continuously helping us convey our mission by making our website user-friendly and search engine optimized.

Congratulations to him and his wife for becoming new parents to a baby son, Orin, this year!


We've had some amazing interns and volunteers over the last few years. We recognize you for your valuable contributions to AWAZ!

Megan Gex, Graphic Designer

Trina Jones, Social Media and Communications

Annie Quimet, Graphic Designer

Stuart Wood, Social Media and Development

Kim Elliot – Expressions of Eden Photography

Monday, November 28, 2011

Intern Profile: "Trade, not Aid", My fair trade journey

After watching last week's Third Thursday's film "Black Gold", I was struck with how much the film spoke to my personal journey with fair trade. The film followed a coffee cooperative in Ethiopia and through their trials and tribulations spelled out why fair trade is so important to these farmers. These are the same reasons I support the movement, and I try to follow it everyday. Fair Trade promotes the idea that it is better if people in underdeveloped nations, such as Ethiopia, can get a job that offers a living wage (not just cents a day), benefits, and a social premium the workers can spend on education facilities, health clinics, proper clothes, etc. As stated in the movie, "We need trade, not aid". Like people in the US, the people in poorer nations would like to do an honest day's work for their money; no one likes to feel like they are receiving patronizing charity. Fair Trade institutions allow the farmers in Ethiopia and many others like them build their own infrastructures and build a community they can be proud of.

After the initial screening of the movie, Mr. Tadesse's coffee cooperative was able to get increase the price per pound of their coffee from $1.45 to $2.30

My discovery of fair trade began in high school, around 2004. I was wandering around downtown Salem as I was wont to do, and saw a store that caught my eye. I walked into a Ten Thousand Villages retail store and was hooked. I had heard the term "fair trade" before, but now it became a reality; I was glad there was a form of consumerism that supported the worker and wasn't solely focused on profits. I shopped their whenever I had the money, and when I moved to Colorado for school, was lucky enough to find another shop down the street from my dorm. A couple of years later I moved back to Oregon, and started a degree at Western. As part of my degree, I was required to write a thesis, and wound up wanting to write about Fair Trade. I focused my research into local shops and how they work--and related that to the global movement--and started volunteering at my local Ten Thousand Villages shop in Salem. During my research they became an independent business and changed their name to One Fair World.

Located in beautiful historic downtown Salem, OR

After my research was complete, I was unable to devote much time to volunteering with them, but I tried to promoted fair trade as much as I could. Recently, as I was roaming around job sites, I happened upon a local fair trade retailer who was looking for an intern. After talking with Sarah, it felt serendipitous; I was so happy to be back working around fair trade ambassadors and lucky to work with an independent enterprise.

I've only been an intern with AWAZ for three months, but I have met such amazing, passionate Linkpeople that continue to be an inspiration to me. Sarah Mitts, the wonderful AWAZ founder and entrepreneurial go-getter, shows me that you don't have to be a millionaire to make a difference in other people's lives. She lives and breathes fair trade, and inspires others to do the same. Without her hard work and dedication neither AWAZ nor the Northwest Fair Trade Coalition would be around.
Amy, AWAZ's other intern, inspires me with her courage to leave her job in order to join us, travel the world, and continue her education.
Rafael of Portland's Equal Exchange continues to amaze me with his breadth of knowledge about fair trade other social justice issues, as evidenced by his GREAT talk about fair vs. direct trade after the film the other day!

I hope someday I can be as cool as these people :)
These past three months have been a great reminder to myself about why I am involved in promoting fair trade and why I will continue to support it for the rest of my life.

And just in case the above isn't enough to get you to pledge your support to buy fair trade, let me break it down for you:

Why I support Fair Trade:
  • It is a economically viable alternative to free trade agreements
  • It encourages individual farmers to form democratic coops, which give them the strength, power, and confidence to negotiate better prices for themselves
  • Within the coops, farmers/artisans are encouraged to find their own voice and contribute to the entire process.
  • A large portion of the fair trade movement is devoted to education, and not just for the children of the workers. As seen in "Black Gold", the coffee farmers didn't know how much a kilo of their coffee would be sold for in the US. Without that knowledge, farmers/artisans cannot even begin to compete in the global marketplace. Fair trade institutions address that need directly.
  • Fair trade organizations FTOs) pay a social premium on top of the minimum standard wage. FTOs like Equal Exchange, for example, set a base wage that will be paid to farmers/artisans no matter what the market price is that is always above the minimum wage standard in that country. If the market price goes down, the farmer is still paid that higher price; if the market goes up, the wage paid the farmer goes up with it.
  • Emphasis is put on sustainability, not profits. Sustainability in this case means cultural sustainability, economical sustainability, and environmental sustainability.
  • FTOs empower traditionally disempowered groups, such as women, the disabled, and indigenous populations. It also disallows child labor and any kind of exploitative treatment.
  • FTOs create long-term relationships with their coops/farmers/artisans so that those groups can be confident in a stable, consistent income.

Fair Trade for Life!