Article: Good Works: United Students for Fair Trade

Written by Cafe Campesino on May 1, 2003 in Article, NEWSLETTER |
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When college students Lina Musayev and Stephanie Faith Green attended an Oxfam Change Initiative program in Boston last summer, they didn’t intend to start a nationwide student movement as a result. But that’s exactly what happened. During the Oxfam program, which brings college students together to learn about “the root causes of poverty and the power we all possess to overcome them,” Musayev and Green first learned about the coffee crisis. They also discovered the benefits of Fair Trade.

“I was convinced on the spot that Fair Trade works and has a great potential to reduce the symptoms of economic, political and social instability in the world,” Musayev relates. Because there was no nationally organized student movement for Fair Trade, Musayev and Green, students at George Washington University and Georgetown University respectively, decided to start an organization that would connect all the Fair Trade student groups on campuses around the country. With Lina and Stephanie’s elbow grease, help from other student groups and guidance from ally organizations like Oxfam, Global Exchange and Transfair, United Students for Fair Trade was born.

An umbrella organization uniting student Fair Trade campaigns across the United States and Canada, USFT hopes to bring Fair Trade CertifiedTM products to as many college campuses and communities as possible. As Musayev puts it, “As students we are working to bring together our values for social justice with our consumption habits and buying power. Fair Trade coffee enables us to put our principles into action every time we buy a cup of coffee. In the hectic life of a student, it’s an easy way to make a positive difference in people’s lives.”

In less than a year’s time, the young organization has gained a lot of momentum. In February, Georgetown University’s student government passed a resolution that calls for all on-campus vending outlets to serve 100% Fair Trade coffee. Similar measures have passed at UCLA and UC Davis and are in the works on many other campuses. In March, 2003, USFT held a highly successful kickoff event at the University of Washington in Seattle. The organization also helped raise their profile with a booth at the Specialty Coffee Association of America meeting in Boston last month. More events are being planned every day and information is being disseminated through the group’s website – www.usft.org – and list serve. A constantly growing network, USFT currently represents more than 100 student-led Fair Trade initiatives. “From small liberal arts colleges to gigantic Med. Schools, from our local grocery stores to our parents’ offices, USFT is expanding awareness of Fair Trade,” Musayev says.

By generating demand for Fair Trade coffee, USFT also hopes to increase the availability of other Fair Trade CertifiedTM products, such as tea, cocoa and bananas. But for now Musayev says that because of the current coffee crisis, the place coffee holds in our social lives, and its growing availability, Fair Trade coffee is the organization’s main focus. And she adds, “College students have a powerful voice, and I believe we can make a difference.”

For more information about United Students for Fair Trade, visit their website at www.usft.org. You can also help the organization by buying one of their Fair Trade t-shirts at www.NoSweatShop.net. All proceeds go to USFT’s campaign to make fairly traded coffee, tea and chocolate widely available on all college campuses.

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Lynn Nichols is editor of Fair Grounds and a die-hard Fair Trade coffee drinker. She and her husband, Don Krüger (who also works on Fair Grounds) started a Fair Trade coffee fundraising campaign at their local church. Every Sunday morning they raise awareness for Fair Trade coffee and raise money for the church at the same time!

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