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Goods that do good

The Enquirer - Cincinnati

The baskets came from Bangladesh. The chocolate bars were made in Ghana. A matching necklace and earrings were handcrafted in Peru.

McNicholas High School’s social justice group, Change!, hosted its first Fair Trade Sale on Monday at the Mount Washington school. Students sold crafts and other products made in 18 countries, mostly from Asia and Latin America, along with a few African countries.

Shoppers snapped up 20 bags of coffee from various countries.

Joey Sandmann, an 18-year-old McNicholas senior, bought a bag of coffee from Costa Rica.

“I’m in a dilemma because I want to make this coffee, but it’s also a great Christmas present,” he told his friends.

The sale was held in cooperation with Catholic Relief Services and Work of Human Hands, a partnership of the Catholic agency and A Greater Gift, which brings handicrafts from disadvantaged producers all over the world.

Purchases help small-scale artisans and farmers earn a fair price for the items they create, organizers say. All items were less than $25.

“It’s really not a fundraising opportunity so much as an opportunity to raise awareness within the school around a way to participate in the global economy,” said Jeff Hutchinson, a religion teacher who works with the Change! group. “It ensures a living wage for the people producing it … It’s a very concrete way for students to see how they can address poverty.”

Students are concerned about the issue of child labor, he said. A Fair Trade certification requires protection of children.

“Education is the primary place and learning environment for children,” Hutchinson said. “Part of what happens, too, is by paying more significant wages to the adults producing these handcrafts or the chocolate or coffee, it allows them to ensure that their children are in school instead of in the fields with them or producing with them.”

Mary Ellen Fellinger, mother of a McNicholas senior, was shopping for gifts for co-workers. She held a box of candlesticks from Pakistan.

“I think this is so much better than just going to a regular store and just buying things that everybody else buys,” the Stonelick Township woman said. “Everything here is just so unique.”

Lizzie Glaser, 18, a senior member of Change!, helped at the sale.

“Everything is flying off of the tables,” she said. “I didn’t really expect that … It’s so great that if you’re socially conscious you can do stuff like this, and you can help people have a better life just by being aware of the products that you purchase.”

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