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Fairtrade and Chocolate at Cottingham Road Baptist Church – April 2023

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Cottingham Road Baptist Church, Hull

We were invited by our friends, Chris and Peter, to go along to the Cottingham Road Baptist Church in Hull on Sunday, 30th April, 2023, where Chris had volunteered to do a presentation about Fairtrade and Chocolate.

Chris and Peter have been involved in fair trade for many, many years, after being introduced to the movement via a gift for their son’s first Christmas. The gift sparked a conversation and before they knew it, Chris was setting up Hull’s very first fair trade shop – the One World Shop. Near & Fair has been greatly inspired by Chris’s work and many of our customers still reminisce about “the little shop down Waltham Street”. They certainly touched a lot of hearts.

The Service

Sunday came, and off we went to the “Cott. Road Baptists”. We had never visited this church before, and on arrival we were greeted warmly by many happy, smiling people. The Sanctuary, where the Morning Worship was to be held, was light and airy and a comfortable temperature. We humbly chose a couple of seats near the back – and were immediately offered a tambourine! A wonderful, fun gesture from a jolly lady who had no way of knowing about my inability to maintain a rhythm. We politely declined her offer.

A number of people spoke during this regular Sunday gathering. A woman, self-declared as very nervous, bravely stood in front of the congregation and told of the difficulties she had faced in her life, and how, through His messages, she had found God and He had helped her through her hard times. A man read passages from the Bible that he felt a particular connection to, and another lady told us the story of Moses and talked about The Ten Commandments. Between these inspiring addresses there were prayers and much singing – accompanied, of course, with the jaunty sound of tambourines.

Chris’s Fairtrade and Chocolate Presentation

But I must tell you about Chris’s presentation about Fairtrade and Chocolate! As always, Chris spoke eloquently and with infectious enthusiasm. Chris is a retired primary school teacher, so really knows how to get a point across in a fun and interesting way, and on Sunday she didn’t disappoint.

Chris, giving a presentation about Fairtrade and Chocolate
Chris, giving her presentation about Fairtrade and Chocolate (image courtesy of Peter Church)

Standing ahead of a large screen that sported a picture of cocoa pods growing on a tree, Chris told us about how cocoa is grown, harvested, fermented, and dried before being sacked up and weighed ready for export. It’s not as easy as it sounds and a great deal of skill and knowledge is required to avoid pitfalls.

I hadn’t known that, before I knew them, Chris and Peter had visited a village in Ghana where they met some of the cocoa farming families who are part of the Kuapa Kokoo Co-operative, and are therefore Fairtrade farms. I particularly loved Chris’s account of a young boy in a school uniform running up to her and shouting excitedly, “I GO TO SCHOOL!”

The Fairtrade Mark

Chris talked about the Fairtrade mark, explaining to a room filled with attentive ears that the blue represents the sky, and the green is for lush fields of healthy crops. The silhouette in front of this landscape is of a farmer with one hand raised, joyously celebrating Fairtrade. This is the mark to look for, not just on chocolate, but also on items such as tea, coffee, sugar, bananas, dried fruits, preserves, and even flowers, and more. Why? Because it means the farmers and workers are paid a wage that they can live on. They are guaranteed a minimum price for their goods, even if the market value drops below this price. If the market value is higher, the farmers are paid the higher rate. This is a massive improvement on the pay farmers receive from non-Fairtrade buyers, and it means they can afford to send their children to school, a privilege the vast majority of the farmers and workers were denied when they were children and hence the enthusiasm of the little boy Chris had met on her visit.

The Fairtrade Premium

A Football School in Colombia, set up using funds from the Fairtrade Premium (image courtesy of the Fairtrade Foundation)

The Fairtrade mark also ensures the farmers’ local community receives a Fairtrade premium which they decide democratically how to use. For remote villages, often without access to the basic amenities we in the UK take for granted, this premium is spent very wisely in a manner that benefits the whole community. Some examples of how the Fairtrade premium has been used include building warehouses for the safe storage of produce, digging wells to bring clean water to the village, and providing safe after-school activities for children such as a football school, athletics club, and a band. More information about the Fairtrade premium can be found on the Fairtrade Foundation’s website.

Fairtrade Drinks and Homemade Cakes

After the Morning Worship we went through to the Beverley Hall tea room where we were offered a cup of Fairtrade tea or coffee and irresistible home made cakes and biscuits. We sat with Chris and Peter who told us further inspirational stories about the children they had met in Ghana, and we discussed our new Sale or Return service and its potential. While we were queuing for our drinks and then sitting talking, even more people came over to say hello and find out more about us. They were delighted to hear that we run a fair trade shop and we were equally thrilled to learn that the church council had recently re-affirmed its commitment to supporting Fairtrade.

It was a wonderful morning and our thanks must go to the Cott. Road Baptists for their warm welcome and enthusiasm. Of course, Chris and Peter also have our sincere gratitude for so generously sharing their knowledge and experience with us.

Until next time, take care, and remember to look out for the Fairtrade mark.