Fair trade artisan group credits Presbyterians with helping it reach milestone
Artisans from Peru, Cambodia, and other countries who have struggled with poverty most of their lives are celebrating a milestone. Partners for Just Trade (PJT), a nonprofit that connects artisans from impoverished areas with North American consumers, is commemorating its 10th anniversary this year.
PJT began as an initiative of Giddings-Lovejoy Presbytery and the Presbyterian Hunger Program when visiting Presbyterians began bringing handicrafts back to the United States for sale in churches. With strong support from PHP’s Joining Hands network in Peru, a dedicated group of volunteers, and Giddings-Lovejoy, the nonprofit has taken off, providing invaluable support for artisans seeking better wages and a better life.
“A small partnership created by a handful of Presbyterians visiting Peru blossomed into the growing nonprofit organization PJT is today,” said Cheryl Musch, PJT executive director. “National sales of our fair trade products are not just from Peru, but from in-need artisans in Cambodia, Haiti, and Egypt as well.”
Now, more than 15 artisan groups with over 200 artisans work with PJT through the Peruvian trade partner Bridge of Hope.
Presbyterian Hunger Program coordinator Ruth Farrell, who served as a mission co-worker in Peru, describes the
Bridge of Hope fair trade corridor as one of the biggest blessings of her life.
“I remember visiting a knitting cooperative, and the women were planning their campaign to get city water into their hillside. Prior to the cooperative, the group wanted to remain invisible, having moved to the hillside to escape years of political violence in Peru’s mountains,” she said. “Now, through their cooperative, the group proudly pointed out that they were paying municipal taxes and felt they deserved the water. As taxpaying citizens, they now had no need to be invisible and carried themselves differently.”
Farrell says the women working in the cooperative not only learned to organize their business, but were organizing the community as well.
“My initial reaction was to see all the reasons a fair traded corridor couldn’t work, but I learned to step out in faith and trust sisters and brothers in the communities of Peru and in Giddings-Lovejoy Presbytery who knew a better life for all was possible,” said Farrell. “Our Giddings-Lovejoy volunteers realized that to really make livelihoods sustainable for the artisans, they needed the stability of a non profit organization with paid staff.”
Started by a $7,000 One Great Hour of Sharing grant, PJT helps secure fair wages for the artisans, enabling them to provide food, shelter, and medicine for their families, educate their children, and reclaim dignity, according to Musch.
“Without the support of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), particularly the Presbyterian Hunger Program, there would be no PJT,” she said. “PHP has provided ongoing support for our organization and our Joining Hands network partner in Peru. PJT grew out of PC(USA) initiatives and is really a daughter of the church.”
Rick Jones, Mission Communications Strategist, Presbyterian Mission Agency
Let us join in prayer for:
Rev. Dr. Anita Hendrix, Presbytery Leader
Rev. Terry Epling, Stated Clerk
Meg Krejci, Finance Manager and Information Technology Administrator
Jifeng Che, Bookkeeper
Christy Foster, Director of Camp and Retreat Ministries
Judy Pickett, Administrative Assistant for Constitutional Services and Office Manager
Cindy Corley, Administrative Assistant for Ministry Support and Resource Director
PC(USA) Agencies’ Staff
Let us pray
Lord, thank you for opportunities to help others, wherever they are. Let us not turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to needs around us but simply do acts of kindness and compassion in your name. Amen.