Sunday, August 03, 2008

Pilgrimage to Fair Trade Town

Last week I went on my annual retreat to Pendle Hill, a Quaker center for spiritual growth, study and service outside of Philadelphia. By spending a few days away in the company of like-minded folks and nurtured by the hospitality and good food of the center, I always find myself restored and ready for next steps in my professional and personal life. But I got an extra boost this year.

While mapping a Saturday morning training run, I discovered I was just a few miles from Media, PA, the first Fair Trade Town in the United States. It was a great treat to be able to spend a few hours in this charming and inviting community. First, it is pretty darn cool to see "Welcome to Media" signs that include its heritage designations such as being a Preserve America town, also touting being the first Fair Trade Town in North America. Then it is a real kick to see the diversity of the Fair Trade movement on display on one main street (actually it is State Street in Media). I had a bit of Quaker pride (is that an oxymoron?) to learn from the local newspaper that Media-Providence Friends School had won an award for integrating Fair Trade education into its curriculum. I was able to step into a venerable Ten Thousand Villages store, a Fair Trade pioneer that has more than a 160 stores in North America. On the same block, with a slightly more funky vibe, was the Selene Coop, a place to get locally grown food, not to mention flyers on the latest in holistic medicine. I love to eat at diners, but it is rare you can find Fair Trade coffee served up. Not a problem at Koffee Korner, an independent restaurant where I stopped for breakfast. I finished up my time gathering some groceries for the roadtrip home at Trader Joe's.

Besides having so many Fair Trade shopping options in one place, the Media, PA FT town fulfills another critical role in the U.S. movement. It is a leader demonstrating that citizens like you and me can transform our communities and set an example for others. Watch this video from YouTube to learn more about how they did it and what the impacts are. Right now there are another half-dozen declared Fair Trade towns, and that many more coalitions striving to reach the designation.

My town of Washington, DC has its own community of activists rallying for Fair Trade and one way that is done is through public events. Media itself has a Fair Trade concert coming up, September 14. In case you don't want to stumble on Media like I did, consider your own pilgrimage.

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