Located on a side street off Prospect Avenue in Peoria Heights, Global Village, a not-for-profit organization, is the area’s hub for fair trade.
A wide variety of products pepper the walls, windows and every available nook of space inside the store. Here, you will feel good when you purchase a banana-bark thank-you card made by men in Haiti, knowing that the money you spent will help his family survive. The handmade birthday card you gave your mother will help rescue a woman in Bangladesh from prostitution and human trafficking. The olive oil you purchased to dip your bread into was cold-pressed by Jewish and Arab women…working together.
Coming Together for a Cause
Nancy Long, president of the Global Village Board of Directors, knows the stories—usually emotional or miraculous ones—behind many of the products in the store. The majority are “Fair Trade Certified,” produced by artisans and farmers in small communities in developing countries. The practice of fair trade started in Europe after World War II and eventually spread to Canada and the U.S. in the 1960s. Long defines it simply: “Fair trade means that people who are making or growing our products are getting a fair price.”
Long was first introduced to the idea of fair trade while vacationing, when she and her daughters shopped in fair trade stores in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and Alexandria, Virginia. More than 10 years later, Long and some friends from the National Organization for Women, Peoria Area Peace Network and several churches decided to form Global Village. “It just seemed like it was time to bring [fair trade] to this area,” says Long.
In 2000, with help from Luan Railsback, one-time owner of Alternatives, which was once located in the space now occupied by Global Village, and Crossroads, a nonprofit fair trade retail organization in Bloomington, Illinois, Global Village purchased fair trade products to sell at local fairs and craft shops. The following year, its current location opened up to allow a full international retail experience.
More than 60 countries are represented within the store’s small square footage. Various instruments from around the world are popular gifts. Clothing and accessories, such as skirts and scarves from Indonesia and Nepal, and jewelry from several African countries, are popular with young women. Most are purchased through international fair trade groups that help small-scale artisans in developing countries market their products. SERRV (Sales Exchange for Refugee Rehabilitation and Vocation) International and the Fair Trade Federation (FTF) are two organizations with which Global Village works to build artisan relationships and purchase fair trade products.
If products are not purchased through the Fair Trade Federation, SERRV or a similar organization, Global Village conducts its own investigation, sometimes assisted by Peoria-area residents who have traveled overseas. “We have certain criteria to follow and questions we have to ask,” says Long. “We have to know where the money goes…to really see if the money stays local. If the money is leaving the country—or even the community—it’s not fair trade and not good for the people.”
» SERRV defines fair trade on its website as “the exchange of goods based on principles of economic and social justice.” But that means more than paying a fair wage for the product received. Fair trade seeks to provide equal opportunities for all people, engage in environmentally sustainable practices, build long-term trade relationships, provide safe working conditions, and offer financial and technical assistance to workers when necessary.
Global Village is a member of the Fair Trade Federation, which promotes North American organizations committed to fair trade. Formalized in 1994, the FTF has been around in some form since the 1970s. Its members adhere to the following nine principles:
- Creating opportunities for economically and socially marginalized producers
- Building capacity
- Promoting fair trade
- Ensuring rights of children
- Developing transparent and accountable relationships
- Paying promptly and fairly
- Respecting cultural identity
- Supporting safe and empowering working conditions
- Cultivating environmental stewardship.
While Global Village is a not-for-profit, volunteer-based organization, they do pay sales tax like any other retail business. The organization also accepts donations that it, in turn, passes on to the requested destination. Volunteers range in ages and the hours they work. “People do what they can,” explains Long. “It all seems to work.” She emphasizes that everyone on the board is an active volunteer, whether acting as a buyer, newsletter editor, treasurer or in another capacity.
These volunteers come together at Global Village under the umbrella cause of social justice. “Most of our volunteers just care about people and social justice,” says Long. “This is a little positive thing we can do. There’s so much negative going on that we aren’t happy with, but this is something we can agree is a win-win.”
Volunteer Rebecca Carey, a retired Peorian, agrees. “I firmly believe in the principles of fair trade. A living wage for the person who is producing the product. Democratically operated co-ops, economic sustainability—I think we need to bring those principles home! We could use some fair trade in our own workforce.”
High Quality for Hard Work
Perhaps the most well-known example of a successful fair trade product is coffee. Since Global Village has been in business, the market for coffee has risen and fallen in cycles. When the Vietnamese and several African countries placed their coffee on the market, on the advice of the World Bank, the market didn’t grow—it fell apart. Many long-time coffee growers in Latin America lost their jobs, but those who were involved in fair trade cooperatives and had locked into a fixed price per pound survived. Because the fair trade price for coffee is not held hostage by any single market, growers are not as dependent on the corner coffee shop to stay in business.
Long emphasizes that fair trade brings a higher-quality product, most of which are hand-crafted or organically grown, into the hands of the consumer. “You know [the coffee] is a better product. Fair trade growers aren’t tearing up the rainforests or spraying chemicals. They are caring for little coffee plants all around their farm,” she says. “I had a coffee shop owner in Peoria study a package of whole bean coffee for about five minutes, and said they were perfect beans. That’s the quality [of fair trade].”
Not just a fair-trade retail shop, Global Village is a place where international residents and travelers can congregate, share stories and even purchase products from their home country, or countries they have visited. Volunteers can conduct seminars, sponsor educational forums and prepare in-store presentations on fair trade education.
Global Village brings a small portion of the world to central Illinois that is fair, unexploited and truly handcrafted. The talents of our global citizens shine, and knowing that these artisans and growers are paid well for their hard work is worth a visit and a purchase or two. Long and her fellow board members and volunteers emphasize that fair trade is essentially about people, ensuring that workers are not only paid fairly, but treated well. “[These workers] are taking care of their families,” she adds. “They are working for themselves, just like any small business here.” iBi