Fair Trade Holiday Market Comes to Fairfield Campus

Fair Trade Holiday Market Comes to Fairfield Campus

Artisan Jose Barbas and his mother sell their hand-woven baskets at a market in Peru.

Throughout December, students in Dr. Helena Keefe’s service-learning course are selling handcrafted bags and other imported goods, to benefit Peruvian artisans.

At only 20 years old, I am able to say that I have made an impact in the world of fair trade... and that’s an incredible feeling.

— Nina Panto '22, international business major

Fairfield students in Dr. Helena Keefe’s Economics 237 “Fair Trade and Microfinance” service-learning course have partnered with students at Universidad Antonio Ruiz de Montoya in Lima, Peru to promote fair trade for Peruvian artisans during the holiday shopping season. On Mondays and Thursdays from now until the end of the semester, the students will be selling handcrafted bags and other imported South American goods from 12 to 2 p.m. and from 4 until 8 p.m. in the Barone Campus Center. Proceeds will benefit the Ichimay Wari artisans. 

The goal of this service-learning project is to fight economic inequality and promote cross-cultural connections by helping Peruvian artisans gain access to Connecticut markets so they can expand their businesses and ultimately improve their living standards. Fairfield students also hope to raise awareness about fair trade initiatives and the unique challenges associated with production, manufacturing, and market access in developing countries like Peru.

“We are importing and selling goods from these artisans to help them gain access to markets and consumers that would otherwise not be available to them,” Dr. Keefe explained. “In doing so, we offer a means for continued growth in their businesses. One of our goals is to help them connect with local retailers to establish a long-term, sustained sales channel. We are currently working with Ten Thousand Villages in New Haven, Le Bonton in Northampton, Massachusetts, and retailers in Beacon, New York, to get these artisan products on the shelves for the long term."

According to Dr. Keefe, fair trade is an important initiative because it promotes a more equitable exchange for small-scale artisans and producers, thereby contributing to social and economic development in their communities. It also allows consumers to choose products that are ethically sourced.

For her course's service-learning project, Dr. Keefe’s students will be selling handmade products created by Jose Almicar Barbas, a Peruvian craftsman who runs a small weaving shop with his mother in the Artisan Market in Lima. Barbas has been weaving beautiful baskets and bags for more than 30 years, and all his products are naturally sourced, using hand-dyed straw from the local area.

“The best part about working with Universidad Antonio Ruiz de Montoya and Señor Barbas is the close connection we made,” said business student Nina Panto ’22. “Barbas’ talent is absolutely amazing, and I learned so much about his culture and the ways they conduct business abroad. As an international business major, this interaction was invaluable.”

Dr. Keefe’s students hope their Fair Trade Holiday Market will prove mutually beneficial by helping the artisans sell their products while the students themselves gain real world experience in running a nonprofit business. 

“At only 20 years old, I am able to say that I have made an impact in the world of Fair Trade,” Panto commented. “And that’s an incredible feeling.”

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