Congratulations to all of the groups who ran a successful fundraiser this fall! We are excited to share some customer photos from this fundraising season. Thank you to all those who participated and supported small farmers and authentic Fair Trade through your efforts!
Photos submitted by Jessica Swan, the fundraising organizer at Cien Aguas International School.
Photos taken by Pam Barclay and Anne Pacheco from St. Martin of Tours Academy.
We hope this holiday season is filled with warmth and joy for you and your community. In honor of the tradition of sharing food and celebrating with friends and family, we’re sharing a few of our own tried-and-true holiday recipes, submitted by Equal Exchangers around the country. From old family traditions to inventive new favorites, we hope you enjoy this collection of our personal holiday dishes!
Prepare pie dough either from scratch using your favorite recipe or use a store bought, ready-to-bake pie dough.
Adapted from Simply Scratch.
Now that the fundraising is over and your kitchen is stocked with fairly traded ingredients, it’s time to get cooking! Here are six recipes that will impress your holiday guests or shine at the party potluck!
In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla until light. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Stir the dry ingredients into the butter mixture and form into a thick dough. If the dough is soft, wrap it in plastic and chill for 1/2 hour. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and butter a baking sheet. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to about a 1/4 inch thickness and cut into shapes. Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheet, sprinkle with confectioners sugar, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until the centers of the cookies are firm. With a spatula, transfer the cookies to a cooling rack.
These crisp chocolate wafers may be rolled out and cut into shapes suitable for any festivity. Store the cookies in a tin with a tight-fitting lid to keep them fresh. (Yields 18)
From the Moosewood Restaurant Low Fat Favorites, published by Clarkson N. Potter, Inc. 1996.
Fill your mug with your milk of choice – pour milk into a pot. Add 1 heaping Tbsp. of both high-quality sugar and Equal Exchange Organic Baking Cocoa (or to taste). Whisk together.
Place on stove on low heat, constantly stirring with whisk. Do not let boil or stick the bottom of pot. When it’s hot enough for your taste and all has been dissolved, pour into mug and enjoy!
Lilla Woodham, Equal Exchange Customer Service Representative and a professional baker, shares this traditional recipe
Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 9-inch baking pan.
Melt butter and the 1 large chocolate bar in a heavy saucepan over low heat. Stir constantly until smooth. Add olive oil. Remove from heat, cool to lukewarm. Stir in brown sugar and vanilla. Add eggs, beat well, until mixture is thoroughly mixed and glossy.
Stir remaining ingredients into the chocolaty mix.
Pour batter in pan and even out. Insert the minis into the batter at an angle in a spoke or other even pattern. Cover with a thin layer of batter. Bake for about 30 minutes, until a fork/knife/toothpick comes out with just a few crumbs.
Yields 9 generous servings.
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and cinnamon in a large bowl. Mix milk, banana, egg and vanilla until well combined. Stir into the bowl of dry ingredients. Add in ¼ cup of the chocolate chips.
Spray your griddle with cooking oil and place over medium heat. Pour batter onto the griddle into the pancake size you desire.
Cook for about 2 minute, or until the tops begin to bubble. Then, flip the pancake and cook for another minute or until golden. Work your way through the batter, reapplying cooking spray as needed.
Top your pancakes with more chocolate chips and serve.
Adapted from Food.com
Use your regular recipe for the chili base. As you near the end of cooking your chili, add any of the products with either the suggested serving sizes, or be creative and adapt to how much chili you are making and what you like.
Amount to add:
10 – 12 people = about 1 to 2 heaping tablespoons
15 – 20 people = about 3 to 4 heaping tablespoons
25 – 30 people = about 5 or so heaping tablespoons, depending on your taste
Shared by Phil Berry, Equal Exchange Customer Service Representative.
For the batter:
For the filling:
For the frosting:
For Batter: Mix dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cocoa, salt, baking soda) and then add water, oil, vinegar and vanilla. Mix well. Put cupcake papers in a muffin tin and fill 1/2 full with the batter.
For Filling: Cream together cream cheese, egg, sugar, and salt, and stir in chocolate. Put a spoonful of filling into center of each cup of batter.
Bake at 350F / 180C for about 25 minutes.
While cupcakes are baking, whip up the frosting. In a medium bowl, cream together the cream cheese and butter until creamy.Mix in the vanilla, then gradually stir in the confectioners’ sugar. Frost the cupcakes after they’ve had time to fully cool.
Makes about 32 cupcakes. Contributed by Katie Hanson, Davenport, IA from a 1960s church cookbook in North Dakota.
Products in red are Equal Exchange products.
Adapted from equalexchange.coop/recipes.
Last month, we traveled to the West Bank to visit our Palestinian suppliers of organic extra virgin olive oil. At Equal Exchange, we are more than familiar with the daunting challenges and obstacles confronting cooperatives of small farmers growing coffee, cacao, and many other products. To those, we need to add all the constraints of physical movement and access to water that are everyday realities for Palestinian farmers given the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. As we met with farmers, technicians, leaders and students, and toured facilities over the several days of our visit, we were thoroughly impressed by the scope of initiatives managed by our counterpart, the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee (PARC).
What follows is a sharing of what we learned during our October visit, first some observations on the general climate in which Palestinians (especially farmers) live, then a bit more on PARC and the compelling projects they are carrying out.
The odds are stacked against Palestinian farmers. They work land that is dry as a bone and is getting more arid due to climate change. Sixty five percent of Palestinians in the West Bank live in rural areas. Many families in those areas own olive trees but the groves are relatively small and generally contribute to only a portion of a family’s income. Though trees are able to produce olives with very little water, other crops such as wheat, almonds, and dates are limited due the severe water shortage limits imposed by the climate and by the Israeli government.
The water supply for the West Bank is only available through water mains a few times a week on an unpredictable schedule. There are restrictions enforced by the Israelis on how much rainfall can be collected. Reusing and treating waste water is restricted, as is digging wells. There is also a discrepancy in the amount of daily water usage depending upon who you are. There are currently about 2.6 million Palestinians living in the West Bank and about 700,000 Jewish settlers living there. If you are Palestinian, your allotment of water is 75 liters per person per day; if you are an Israeli Jew, living in a settlement, your allotment is 300-350 liters of water per day (over four times as much). Settlers are allowed to consume more water and pay less money for it. Without water and land you can’t talk about development in the West Bank. If agricultural projects could expand with increased water, PARC estimates that it could help provide 200,000 more jobs for Palestinians.
The construction of the barrier wall separating the West Bank and Israel which began in 2003 has created countless obstacles for olive farmers. Not only did the wall itself annex large swaths of the West Bank, it also separated many farmers from their groves. Limited access times at the wall, compounded by the numerous checkpoints throughout the West Bank, prevents farmers from being able to employ the kind of agricultural practices that would maximize yields—and incomes. In addition, every year there are attacks by settlers on farmers during the harvest.
Finally, it’s impossible for Palestinian trucks to gain direct access to seaports or airports. So they must unload their trucks to be loaded by Israeli trucks at the checkpoints on the other side of the barrier. This business has become so expensive and cumbersome that the number of Palestinian trucks carrying produce and other goods destined for export has dropped from 25,000 to 10,000. There are also very few refrigerated trucks and storage facilities for perishable crops. Very concretely for Equal Exchange, these increased costs make Palestinian olive oil far less competitively priced than we would like, meaning we can’t sell as much of their oil as we would very much like to do.
PARC’s primary mission is to provide hope for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza: economic sustainability and independence for people who are displaced and severely restricted. The NGO has been dedicated to working with Palestinian farmers since the 1980s and predates the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Agriculture, which was established after the Oslo Accords in 1993. PARC works with 40 agricultural cooperatives made of 20-80 members. Building on relationships we established in our first trip in 2011, we came back from this recent visit with even more respect for PARC’s vision and its tangible approaches to creating economic opportunities for so many. Here are PARC projects that we visited in the West Bank.
We visited a modern olive oil press at the Mazare’ Al Noubani cooperative near Salfeet. There are 86 members of the co-op who use the press, plus four other groups that pay a fee for its use during harvest season, which lasts 6-8 weeks. During this period the press is open 24 hours a day to receive sacks of olives from farmers’ trucks.
PARC was able to secure a bank loan to purchase the Italian machinery used at the press on terms. It will gradually pay off the loans when it receives fees from farmers after the harvest; then it will finish constructing the building. Funds for the press building came from Oxfam, the Palestinian Farmers Union, the French Palestinian Solidarity Association, and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.
We viewed the process from beginning to end. Olives are ideally pressed for oil within an hour of being harvested. The olives get a quick wash and branches and leaves are removed. Heated water is added to make the olive mash easier to crush, but the press temperature can’t be higher than 81 degrees Fahrenheit. Then the oil, water and pits must be separated out. A good olive tree produces about 16-20 liters of oil.
It’s an energy efficient system as well. The pumice (from the olive pits) is used to fuel the boiler and to heat the water. The olive oil is pumped into stainless steel holding tanks at the press. Finally, it is labeled and sent to PARC’s bottling station at its headquarters in Ramallah. Equal Exchange purchases about 25,000 bottles of extra virgin olive oil each season from PARC.
We learned about the “We Are With You” campaign, in which volunteers serve as witnesses to offer Palestinian farmers protection while they harvest their olives near the wall. PARC has helped to organize these volunteers for the past 15 years. They come from a range of countries, such as Australia, France and Canada, and stay in farmers’ houses for 1-2 weeks at their own expense.
We met Nabeel Munmod Abu Ara, the head of the Aqqaba Almond Cooperative in Jenin. The co-op has 87 members, 57 of whom grow almonds, an initiative that began 10 years ago. Three out of the nine members of the Administrative Commission and 19 members of the co-op are women.
Almond trees were introduced by PARC as a part of a pilot land reclamation project. Now there are more than 200 hectares of trees. To prepare the land, the farmers had to remove rocks from the soil, built retaining walls, compost, and added other organic soil supplements. As the farmers started investing in their trees, they saw that it was a feasible business. In Jenin, unemployment is 15 percent below the national average (versus 27 percent overall in the West Bank and 44 percent in Gaza) partly due to the Arab-American University of Jenin, its student body of 12,000 students, and the resulting higher level of education in the area.
There is, however, a serious shortage of rainfall in the area, and farmers need supplemental irrigation for the trees. December through March is the rainy season. However, this past year the last day of rain was February 20. Nabeel experimented with irrigation in March and July and the productivity of the trees more than doubled the output. He had to purchase the additional water, increasing costs considerably.
The Holy Land Cooperative in Zababdeh near Jenin is comprised of 28 men and eight women. PARC supported them on their transition to organic; and once they had initial crops, PARC helped them with marketing. The co-op has constructed a fish farm in a greenhouse; and the pond water is piped through the rest of the greenhouse and used as fertilizer for grapes, strawberries, and pineapples. This achieves four times more growth than plants grown in the ground; no water is wasted.
PARC has helped the cooperative to cultivate varieties of fruits and vegetables, such as cabbage and melons that are high in productivity quality. The cooperative also grows and dries thyme, which is an ingredient of the Middle Eastern spice blend called Za’atar, together with sesame seeds and sumac. They sell their organic produce and spices at the local market for better prices.
The Machtas Couscous Cooperative in Jericho started with a $2,500 loan from Al Reef, PARC’s commercial and export arm. The building was given to them by PARC., and PARC’s staff trained the women to make couscous. It was a way to create jobs and to continue making a staple that is part of the Palestinian heritage. In the beginning there were 15 members, and today there are 30 members, from age 20 to 70. The co-op is structured as an open meeting with all members allowed to contribute to discussions and to help making decisions. Three women are elected to serve as the governance committee.
The women use a special black wheat that is produced in Jenin in two co-ops. Members order the quantity of wheat they need and run the operation. The women mix whole wheat flour and water by hand sitting on the ground in the traditional way, using a series of strainers. The wheat clusters are then steamed in an oven at 100 degrees for 25 minutes; afterwards they are dried. The process is like semi-cooking and gives the grain a shelf life of two years.
The co-op negotiates costs, prices and quantities. Income is tied to productivity, and members determine their own schedules, which can be very flexible. Most work from 7 a.m. to 12 noon. Then they return to their homes for family and social life. The work is virtually year round with December through February generally being down time. With Jericho serving as a key center for a lot of PARC / Al Reef production activity, the women are able to earn additional income in several other capacities including making the Za’atar spice mix and fumigating and shelling almonds. In September and October they work at the date-filling station. Co-op members rely upon PARC technicians for quality control, while promotion and markets are handled by Al Reef.
Before the 1993 Oslo Agreement, farmers in the West Bank were not allowed to grow Medjoul dates, due to unwanted competition with Israeli growers. When this law changed many farmers started growing Medjoul dates. This is an important crop for West Bank farmers since date palms can grow with some salination in the water—a phenomenon resulting from Israeli settlement pulling vast amounts of fresh water from the natural springs in Jericho. Palestinians on the West Bank are legally allowed to retrieve partially salinated well water (which is beneath the fresh water in wells). Dates are a crop that can bring in added income with scarce resources. In 1996-97, PARC purchased Medjoul date palms for $100 each and sold them to Palestinians for $20. In 2001, they produced just a few hundred pounds of dates. By 2009, the amount had increased to thousands and they needed a more modern filling station to wash, dry, sort and pack the dates. They have a beautiful new plant with sophisticated and more computerized systems.
Dates are another crop like olives with a short harvest season: mid-September to the end of October. The dates are received and sent to be dried and fumigated for 72 hours. They are sorted by weight and by the quality of their skin. The plant also makes date paste and date molasses. The line sorters are the women from the couscous cooperative who work shifts during the date harvesting season.
PARC has two agronomist training centers for college graduates who spend a year practicum in agriculture (PA), which is completely subsidized by PARC. When the PA began in 1995, PARC wanted to train fresh agronomists after they graduated from four or five-year programs from the university. They created ways to provide hands-on training for them through the centers. The government of Luxemborg supported this effort and built the academy in Jericho three years ago.
Over the last 20 years they have expanded their focus to dates, eggs and dairy products. Every year 40-50 students graduate. Half spend their time in Jericho, the other half are in Zabedi. Students get practice on animal farms, plant farms, and factories for agricultural projects. The agronomists choose a focus among different aspects of farming, such as soil or water. There are lectures in classes and two hours a day working on a site.
The PARC Agricultural Academies have graduated a total of 1,600 students. Eighty percent of the people who work in the PA’s Agricultural Ministry come from these centers. In fact, the current director graduated in 1997 from the center’s first class.
While part of the mission is to promote organic farming, what stood out most powerfully for us was the confidence that these young women and men gain from both the educational and social aspects of their year in training. With an overriding mission to build hope for the future among the Palestinians, PARC is, with good reason, deeply proud of this success.
Read more about small-scale farmers around the world.
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It’s easy to find fair trade holiday gifts for family and friends! Our gift boxes are pre-assembled and packed with delicious products that will fill any home with good cheer.
Explore our gift box selections below! We can help you decide which is the best gift to give the special people on your list.
Enjoy a little of everything with this gift box of customer favorites. It includes some of our bestsellers in each product category and is perfect if you want to give a gift with variety.
Includes: 2 Chocolate Bars, 1 Coffee, 1 Tea, 1 Cocoa
“I ordered this product for my grandparents as a holiday gift and they were absolutely smitten! […] As for the products, they loved the presentation and variety available. This is something I would definitely recommend as an excellent gift for loved ones.”
-Webstore Review of the Crowd Pleaser Gift Box
This one is for all the chocolate lovers in your life! Give them the gift of 9 different organic chocolate bars which range from our Milk Chocolate to our Extreme Dark Chocolate 88% bar. This box includes flavors like Mint and Almond, as well as customer favorites like our Dark and Milk Chocolate Caramel Crunch with Sea Salt bars.
Includes: 7 Dark Chocolate Bars & 2 Milk Chocolate Bars
“I love dark chocolate in the 50-65% cacao range, and this gift box is perfect for that! I bought them for myself as a Christmas gift! Others I have gifted them to in the past have loved them, too!”
-Webstore Review of the Chocolate Bar Collection Box
Want to customize your gift boxes? There’s tons of potential to make the perfect gift for anyone! For inspiration, take a look at some of the baskets we put together.
Equal Exchange’s interfaith program highlights the connections between faith and Fair Trade in social-justice driven congregations around the country. We asked program participants from faith-based groups to share what drives them to support small-scale farmers and describe how their Fair Trade programs impact their own community at the same time. Read on to learn more about these inspiring organizers and communities!
“We at Trinity United Methodist Church have been selling Equal Exchange coffee, tea and chocolate for several years now. Since UMCOR (United Methodist Committee On Relief) is associated with Equal Exchange, it was a natural fit for us.
Profits generated from our sales support our outreach program to assist those in the community who are transitioning from homelessness to under a roof. We have helped two single moms who found themselves homeless, at no fault of their own, and a young woman who had been living in a shelter but wanted to enroll in college. She needed $500 to move into a dorm at the college and we were able to give that to her.
We’re also donating to a local shelter for teens and young adults who have found themselves homeless because of difficult home situations and inability to find employment sufficient to meet their needs. We accumulated over $1,000 over the past several years and are so pleased that we have been able to make a difference for these individuals in our community. Besides, the products are wonderful and our church members appreciate the quality we can offer them through Equal Exchange participation.”
“I have been using Equal Exchange products since 2004, when I went to a church conference and started purchasing them there. In 2008 I went to a conference workshop that was about setting up Equal Exchange sales in your hometown church. At the time, we were planning a mission trip to Africa and so I set up a Mission Store and stocked coffee, tea, dried fruits, and chocolate. I marked up the items a tiny bit and the profits went to our Mission Fund. For several years after the African mission we have supported African children’s education with the profits from the Mission Store and now, for the last 4 years, we have supported Imagine No Malaria with our Fair Trade sale profits.
I especially enjoy using the tea, coffee and chocolate, and so does my congregation. Many use them for special meaningful gifts. I’ve presented in area churches educating others on the mission of Equal Exchange, as fairly traded products help individuals, families and communities develop schools and medical care for entire villages.”
“The Unitarian Universalist Society of Grafton and Upton in Grafton, MA, has been purchasing Equal Exchange Fair Trade coffee for at least the past ten years to serve at our Sunday social hour. Not only is it delicious, buying Fair Trade coffee is a simple way for congregants to practice social justice. Our Unitarian Universalist principles include working toward the goal of peace, liberty, and justice for all.
Seven years ago, our religious education program for children started hosting a Fair Trade sale table at our annual town winter holidays fair. The children learn what “Fair Trade” means, particularly in regards to Fair Trade chocolate. They hear that people can be social justice activists by the way they decide to purchase goods such as chocolate, coffee, tea, and more. Even if children cannot buy these things themselves, they can be aware of what is happening and they can actually teach their parents and family members! As we have kept up this effort, it is gratifying to see older children who have been with us for a while explain Fair Trade to the younger ones and why we are doing what we do.”
Molly, pictured left, worked at Equal Exchange from 2010 to 2014 before moving on to study social enterprise/nonprofit management in an MBA program.
“What would your life be like if you got to work at a job every day that reflected your religion’s deeply held values? I had the opportunity to experience that perfect match while working in Community Sales at Equal Exchange, where the Fair Trade mission offered a way to act upon Jewish values.
The main value I’m referring to comes from one of Judaism’s greatest sages, Maimonedes: the highest level of tzedekah – often translated as “charity” but from the root word “tzedek” (justice) – is to give someone a gift or interest-free loan; enter into a business partnership; or find the person a job, so that they are not dependent upon charity. This teaching from Hebrew School helped guide my career search: although I knew from age 14 that I wanted to work on poverty, there are countless ways to do so, and my religious background taught me to focus on economic empowerment. Through working with congregations that sell and serve fairly traded products, I found a powerful way to pursue that path.
I’m a new member of three lay-led Jewish communities in Brooklyn, NY, and the buying club I’m starting will span multiple Jewish communities. I’m excited to introduce new and old friends to Equal Exchange!”
“Our church has a long-time relationship with the Democratic Republic of Congo and our sister church in Mbandaka, DRC. Our goal is to support New City Church of Mbandaka and their ministries. What a blessing Equal Exchange Congo Coffee has been to our efforts!
Once a month, we serve Congo Coffee at our Fellowship Time. The love offering taken becomes part of the funds sent to our sister church to support micro-credit education for women, school uniform/supply programs, livestock projects and clean water/well construction. The ripple effect of serving Equal Exchange coffee is amazing! Purchasing Organic Congo Coffee benefits Panzi Hospital, Fair Trade farmers, Disciples of Christ: Week of Compassion and New City church of the DRC.
We are proud to say, ‘Our coffee has never been so strong!’”
In Mexico (where many of our coffee producer partners are located) and other parts of the Americas, many people are celebrating Día de los Muertos, also known as Day of the Dead! In honor of this holiday, we talked to former Equal Exchanger Hope Kolly and her mom, Emma Kolly, about how they celebrate. Hope is based in Austin, Texas, and Emma grew up in Cuernavaca, Mexico, giving us a unique take on traditions in both the U.S. and Mexico.
Hope: To me, Día de los Muertos is about remembering friends and loved ones who have died and celebrating those lives and life in general with your friends and family who are still here. Unlike Halloween, it’s not a scary or creepy holiday but an acknowledgement that death is a part of life and when we remember our loved ones, they continue to live in us.
It comes from a blending of indigenous beliefs of people mostly from southern Mexico and Central America with Christian beliefs spread by European colonizers. It comes from a time when many indigenous people buried their families under their houses and decorated with their actual skulls to remember them and keep them close and safe. They believed there was a time (originally in the summer) when spirits could come back to this world to visit so you would help guide them by decorating and lighting candles for them and put out things they liked and things to help them rest from their long journey. That’s why many ofrendas (altars or offerings) have things like water and cloths to wash up, favorite foods and objects.
Emma: It’s about celebrating life and remembering the people we love that went before us and keeping their memory alive. The first of November is the day to celebrate children and youth who have died, and it’s Día de los Santos (Day of the Saints, sometimes known as Day of the Little Angels, which coincides with the Christian All Saints Day) and the second of November is Día de los Muertos , which is for everyone else. It’s the circle of life.
Hope: For me, a lot of the meaning comes in connecting to my Mexican heritage. I think about the generations before me, unknown because my mom was adopted and there is little in the way of information or documentation about them, but maybe known or felt a little bit through this celebration and ritual. I also feel like it expresses a very culturally particular way of looking at death not as something fearful or not talked about as is so often the case in the U.S. but something that is present, respected and part of the natural cycles and rhythms of life.
Emma: We traditionally cook things for people that passed away, their favorite things they liked to eat and drink. You take the food to the cemetery or the altar and offer it to the spirits, to come taste what you made, and afterward you eat the food with your family. You also make calaveritas (little sugar skulls) with the names of the deceased written on the skull for the altar or ceremony. Some people make chascarrillos, which are little sayings, poems or stories about death, making fun, remembering, saying loving words. Sometimes you make them for living people and they’re always fun.
Hope: My favorites are the Sugar Skulls! Usually in Mexico you can buy them at the market and even have them personalize them with the name of a departed loved one but they’re harder to come by in many parts of the U.S. so I started making my own and inviting friends over to decorate them and to share this holiday with folks. I started this when I moved to New England many years ago — I think I was missing home and was sad that no one seemed to celebrate the Day of the Dead. Now that I moved back to Texas and closer to family I still like to make them and get my nephew and niece involved.
I also make an ofrenda or altar every year. I love gathering pictures of my loved ones who have passed, remembering them as I put them out and decorating with papel picado (cut paper flags), flowers, candles, sugar skulls (of course) and treats. I especially love it if someone is visiting and they ask me about someone on the altar so I can share a story.
Emma: My favorite is that you tell stories about the people that are gone. You share experiences and keep the memory of the person alive. For example, my grandkids don’t know some people who have passed, like my sisters — so I tell them stories about them so they know they existed.
Sometimes the whole town gets together for parades or a party. In small towns everybody invites you to eat what they made — tamales, moles, all kinds of things. You have a lot of drinking. Some people take mariachis to the cemetery and take drinks and cervezas and tequilas… sometimes they go till all hours. Some people take candles and flowers. Everybody express their own unique way.
Hope: I’m more used to what goes on in the U.S. but living in Austin, Texas, I’ve seen many non-hispanic folks embrace the holiday and bring their own spin to it. Every year there is a Viva la Vida festival and parade to celebrate the Day of the Dead and there are folks dressed up as traditional Catrinas (skeletal fancy ladies) and then there is an Austin Weird category which can be a bit hipster, a bit western or a bit punk rock. I’ve definitely noticed an uptick in sugar skull imagery in decorations over the years. It’s so great that folks are interested in this holiday, I just hope that they learn about the origin of the celebration and the cultures from which it comes.
Emma: There are some places in Mexico with a tradition of trick-or-treating, too. Little kids go around with a calabacita (little gourd) that they decorate and ask for candy and people sing, “La calavera tengo hambre, no hay un huesito por ahi?” (The skull is hungry, are there no bones for me?) and then they give them a huesito or pan or little treat. It’s not as much as here in the U.S., but some people do it on some streets and kids go and get things.
Hope: I remember when I was about 4 or 5 years old and my family was living in San Antonio, Texas that my parents got us some sugar skulls. They kept telling us that they are supposed to be decorations and that we shouldn’t eat them but I couldn’t help myself and I started licking the back of the skull when no one was looking. The next day I noticed that the ants had found my skull so we had to throw them out. I also learned from the first ofrenda that I did as an adult that you should make sure you remove all the treats and food from the altar overnight if you have a cat. Unless you like half eaten food and knocked over decorations the next day.
Emma: In my adopted house, we were more into praying and making the altar very simple. My parents were a lot more into the spiritual. And when I got to know my birth mother, I remember the first time I saw my mom and sister doing the altar of the dead — I was amazed! — because they got so much food and flowers. It was like a whole room was tamales and two types of mole, bread and salads — I mean it was like a crazy amount of food and candles and drinks. My mom had a lot of people that passed away and so it was like a humongous feast. I had never seen anything so elaborate. It was a different kind of celebration — different than what I was used to when I was little. But it was equally important and spiritual in their own way. It made me appreciate my roots and upbringing.
Emma: I think there is some misunderstanding. I think some people think the holiday venerates death, the kind of dark side, which is not true — it doesn’t come from that. It celebrates life and the ones that are not here and it gives us a better understanding of death. That it’s just a natural thing that’s going to come, it’s something that you can’t get away from and not to be so afraid of it. It’s sad and it’s hard, but it’s also a part of growing, a part of the circle. And people think, “oh, they get drunk in the cemeteries” and they think it’s like a pagan festival and it’s not — it’s really not. It’s more about spiritual, about connecting to the people that are gone in different ways, and looking for that spiritual togetherness that we always know we have with the people that are living.
One of Hope’s homemade sugar skulls.
An Equal Exchange fundraiser was a natural fit for our school because it incorporated many of the same values that are central to Montessori philosophy and our school. We believe in building a global community by reaching out to others who have similar values, and Equal Exchange provided us with a fundraising opportunity that also supported our own mission.
One example of the similarity in values between our two organizations is within our mission statements: Equal Exchange is a co-operative that believes in equality for their workers and free speech. At Durango Montessori, our students created our Student Mission Statement which includes the statement: “we will ‘compliment and encourage ourselves and each other each day.’” Similar to Equal Exchange, our school values students in leadership roles and we are committed to listening to our students’ opinions and ideas on how we can enhance our vibrant community.
Durango Montessori is not profit driven, and we believe that running a non-profit school is for the benefit of all. Similarly, Equal Exchange puts people before profit in business. Our teachers are empowered to help make decisions with the school directors. As one of the directors of our school, I appreciate Equal Exchange looking critically at Fair Trade USA and fighting to assure that small farmers are supported and can remain in existence despite the corporate competition that exists.
Pictured: Students at Durango Montessori watching the Solar Eclipse this August.
Believe it or not, the holiday season is the perfect time for a fundraiser. People are on the lookout for great gifts and will be happy to support your fundraiser while taking care of their holiday shopping. We have 6 ideas for how to make your holiday fundraiser festive, fun and successful!
1. Decorate! If you are having a table to promote your fundraiser and give out samples, use a festive tablecloth, decorate your table with lights, or set up a small basket to highlight our products and get people in the gift-giving mindset.
2. Use our holiday posters. Hang up our holiday-themed posters around your table or in your school hallways. If you would like us to send you a print version of the posters, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
4. Emphasize how well the products work as gifts. Coffee, chocolate, cocoa and tea are universally-appreciated kitchen essentials, and ours are organic, fairly traded and exceptionally delicious! As gifts, these products say that you care about quality, taste and sourcing.
5. Share the mission. Make sure your community knows that your fundraiser benefits both your community and farming communities worldwide. These products support equitable, alternative supply chains, environmental stewardship and democratic co-operatives — and that’s something to get excited about! Our posters and brochures will help you explain Equal Exchange’s mission and trade practices.*
6. Make distributing the products fun! Turn distribution into a fun and festive group activity with just a few craft supplies. Set up a table in your distribution room with construction paper, ribbon, markers, glitter glue or whatever else appeals to you. After the participants collect their products, encourage them to visit the crafts table and decorate! They can wrap their coffee or tea so they are ready to give as gifts, create a card to put inside the gift boxes, or even dress their chocolate bars up like snowmen! Check out more DIY craft ideas here.
7. Send a holiday message. Before your school break, send a holiday message of good cheer and gratitude by email or on Facebook. Thank everyone for participating and wish them a happy holiday and new year! Encourage people to send in photos of them giving their gifts to family and friends. Next year, you can share these with your community and show how much these gifts meant to the people that received them.
If you have not signed up for your fundraiser yet, click here to get started!
*If you plan on including the photos in printed materials, please include “Photo courtesy of Equal Exchange”.
At Kimberton Waldorf School (KWS), education of the Head, Heart and Hands is the foundation for raising students to be creative thinkers, compassionate global citizens, and leading edge innovators both at home and in the world. With over 75 years of holistic teaching, committed teachers and staff have provided endless opportunities for environmental and experiential learning on the 430-acre setting in bucolic Chester County, PA.
Learning academics through the prism of art, working in the organic garden and visiting the biodynamic yogurt farm (Seven Stars Farm) across the street, all set the basis for local and offsite field trips as the children increase in age, confidence and skills. The yearly class trip is an eagerly anticipated vehicle for engaging students in a deeper experience of learning and practicing principles brought forth in the curriculum. Challenging many students in new arenas both personally and as a team, class trips expand a student’s vision of him/herself and of the larger community in which they live.
Last year, Mr. Peter Lehman, a class teacher since 1983, decided that his 7th grade class (who had been with him since 1st grade) would embark upon a wilderness adventure involving hiking, canoeing and sustainability practices. Kroka Expeditions in New Hampshire was the natural choice for this pivotal experience. With the motto “Where Consciousness Meets Wilderness,” Kroka would provide another level of depth and learning for the students, expanding upon the many values of Waldorf Education. We knew this worthwhile cause would require a substantial amount of fundraising and that key opportunities needed to be identified in order to achieve our goal.
As prior classes at KWS have done, our class eagerly chose Equal Exchange (EE) as one of its core fundraisers. Mr. Lehman was key to motivating the students to participate wholeheartedly in this inspirational fundraiser as the values of Fair Trade and helping people create better lives for their families, while demonstrating stewardship of the environment, rang through and true to all. Each EE product carries with it stories of various families and cultural regions — a mother empowering her children by being able to send them to school, a father able to provide good food for his family, and many other heartwarming stories.
One product in particular that spoke to many of the parents who visited our table sales was the ‘Proud Mama’ coffee. With many mothers at our school well-versed in babycarrying using slings, and the daily sacrifices made to send our children to the values-rich Waldorf education, the notion that empowerment via work was making a difference to mothers in other countries as to whether or not their children could attend school struck a deep chord of compassion within many hearts. The benefits of buying an EE gift go far beyond the purchase itself, extending back to its creator and forward to its recipient.
As the time of year chosen for the fundraiser was well before the holidays, it was easy to remind students and families that EE products make delicious gifts while directly making a positive impact in the world. Suddenly, the many tasks of employing catalog sales, table sales, compiling orders, sorting, checking, double-checking and delivering orders, became welcome and energizing tasks. Truly, the students were making a difference locally and globally. The fruits of their labors, beyond the delicious chocolates and beverages, were gleaned when the students finally left school one Sunday morning in May for the long-awaited adventure of a lifetime. Parents eagerly awaited the return of the students and hoped to hear stories of this precious and poignant week, after a busy year of fundraising.
With a commitment to sustainability, empowerment, service and education, KWS students become vibrant young adults and engaged citizens of the world. Equal Exchange is a natural choice for our students and we look forward to seeing this year’s 7th grade class participate in this valuable fundraiser!
(For more info: www.kimberton.org)