Fair TradeIt seems to me that we often place the blame for poverty on those who are  poor. The rhetoric is that people in poverty are lazy, un-motivated, and sucking the government dry of all it’s resources. Many of us respond by either rejecting, or worse ignoreing, the rights of those in poverty or we feel the need to swoop in and save the poor degenerates from themselves. But what if those with power, money, influence, privilege, stopped focusing so much on how to fix people in poverty, and instead focused on fixing broken systems which perpetuate the cycle of poverty.

Instead of investing billions in capital in the private prison system, why not provide real investment in our broken education system. Instead of systematically pushing low income communities to the margins, making it more difficult for them to access the resources they need, jobs they need, and support they’ve developed in neighborhoods formerly left behind. Why not invest in communities to help them thrive with affordable housing and good public transportation for all. Why not invest in business which value the people who produce their products and enrich our shared planet, instead of polluting and degrading human life.

There are organizations, companies, communities that do these things, but they don’t often have billion dollar backers and rarely make headlines. But, they quietly challenge the status quo and invest (time, money, education, blood, sweat, and tears) in those who have often been the victims of the degenerating global marketplace or targets of poverty fixing. They come in many forms such as fair-trade organizations, micro-finance lending institutions, co-ops, businesses with triple bottom lines (people, planet, and profit), sustainable agri-farms, the list goes on.

What if we tried to find ways to spread what is working instead of trying to correct those in poverty. We may be able to create solutions instead of putting more band aids on the “problem”.

Word Key

Fair Trade Organization: Check out the World Fair Trade Organization, Greenheart Shop, or Freeset (Great for student clubs and organizations looking for ethically produced T’s and student giveaways!).

Micro-Finance: Check out Kiva or the Grameen Foundation

Co-Op: Checkout the Cincinnati Union Co-Op Initiative

DBDominique Brown is the Service & Justice Coordinator in the CFJ, if you haven’t met her then you might not know she’s a big nerd who can’t get enough PBS. Yes she did watch the most recent Riverdance special! She would like to remind everyone to give to their local PBS station so they can stop these incessant fund drives.