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Promoting a fairer world through faith, right here and right now

by Serena Sato


Photo courtesy of SERRV

My journey to a world defined by the ways of fair trade began with my first trip to an economically impoverished nation - the Dominican Republic. As a young teen on a “mission trip” to a sugar cane batay in the countryside, I was devastated to learn how the sugar cane workers lived. My connection to them was through sugar - the plentiful treats I enjoyed back home thanks to the cheap sugar on the shelves at our neighborhood Kroger, and their extreme poverty thanks to the same.

The people we worked and worshiped with were, in actuality, slaves to the economic system. They were Haitians who crossed the border in hopes of earning a living. Their meager earnings ensured that they could not leave their village, and their pay in ‘corporate dollars’ that were only usable at the company-owned store dug them deeper into poverty.

I also learned that the people I spent time with were full of life and love. They could express joy through song and dance that sent me spinning. The children that I played with tried to teach me some Spanish and brought me food from home that I struggled to swallow with a smile.  They laughed and joked while teaching me how to share and to more broadly understand the concept of loving my neighbor.

I have worked in the field of fair trade for more than a dozen years - both with People Tree in Japan and with SERRV ( My faith as a member of the Community of Christ builds on my desire to promote a fairer world right here, right now. We believe in God’s ongoing guidance and in the call to develop right relationships through community and care for our neighbors - all of the children of God.

Last weekend I sat in our central worship temple (a place dedicated to the pursuit of peace) during the annual Peace Colloquy. I listened as a speaker from Darfur shared a painful update on the situation in Sudan. I attended workshops on sustainability as part of Christian Feminism, and learned more about the absurd discrepancy of wages by gender here in the US. While I sat in silence, I thought about ways that fair trade relationships build peace. I remembered countless stories of how the opportunity to be treated more fairly helped improve relationships within families and communities, kept families together, led to investments that benefit whole communities, and gave women the strength to speak up. I thought about my own connections with artisans, farmers and their advocates around the world. Connections with those farmers in the Dominican Republic, with artisans I’ve worked with in rural Bangladesh, with weavers I’ve met in Ecuador. Connections with many other faiths I am able to interact with through my work at SERRV. And I thought about how right it is in my world and my faith that I can chose the way of fair trade.


  1. Matt

    Serena rocks!

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