At the end of a strip of street shops in suburban Ringwood East in Melbourne, you’ll discover a treasure chest filled with Fair Trade products that are unique, beautiful and empowering. Started by two global citizens who embrace the concept that small changes can make a huge difference, The Fair Trader is a heartfelt shopping experience you don’t want to miss.
One small chance is all it takes to transform a life
Founders of The Fair Trader, John and Bronwyn, were both raised in families that were very much aware of global issues. John was born in Jiagung, a small town near Calcutta, India, and Bronwyn’s parents moved to South Korea soon after the Korean Civil War while she was still very young. They never had the luxury of being blind to poverty and economic injustice. And because of this, they both wanted to be involved in giving opportunities to people from challenged communities like the ones they saw as children.
Before founding The Fair Trader their daughter, Ashleigh, was involved with organisation Urban Neighbours of Hope, which helps neighbourhoods struggling with urban poverty. Through the work she was doing in Bangkok, John and Bronwyn witnessed the amazing transformation of entire communities. In one particular instance, they witnessed the organisation lend a helping hand to a young Thai mother struggling as a street vendor by supporting the publication of her cookbook. Her book was so successful, that she was able to open her own cooking school. She now employs 70 people from the community, has a 5-star rating on Trip Advisor and is able to sponsor other business ventures in her area. Such transformative change, and with giving so little! John and Bronwyn wanted to be involved in providing opportunities like this, and so The Fair Trader opened its doors.
Drop earrings, not bombs
The Fair Trader sells a wide range of products made by people, in Australia and overseas, who live in communities that struggle with economic disadvantage. Each product is carefully chosen by The Fair Trader team. They source beautiful and unique products of high-quality whose production has provided ethical work for people that need it most. Even their shopping bags are ethically made by Bengali artisans!
The people from these communities are just like us! They just need a break. The Fair Trader is an amazing team of people who have come together to make this possible.Bronwyn
Take their latest find as an example, a beautiful jewellery range made by Small Projects Istanbul. The earrings are made by a group of women from Syria who have fled to Turkey to seek refuge. The project was set up to give the gift of income and inclusion, and together the team have designed the most amazing earrings called “Drop Earrings, Not Bombs”. You can find out more about the range here.
The Fair Trader give their customers the opportunity to purchase gorgeous one-of-a-kind products from all over the world, that bring positive change to poor communities. “We are so proud of the products in our store. We have worked hard seeking products that not only help communities work to build a future for themselves, but are beautiful and functional and suitable for the Melbourne market.”
Ethical at every turn
Everything they do at The Fair Trader they do with mindful attention to its greater impact. The team ensure that there are transparent and positive ethics for every product they stock in store. In most cases, as products are made by poor communities, the products are made with natural components that the community has on hand and can afford, such as jewellery made from recycled machine gun shells, carry bags made from recycled newspapers, toys made from cotton or wool that the community has grown themselves.
If you take the time to visit The Fair Trader you can be assured that the item you are purchasing is respectful and empowering to the people who produced it. “We are so proud of each product and the amazing people who produced them. We have so much fun. We have friends all over the world. If we find a new product for our shop we are filled with joy. We love this work and The Fair Trader,” says Bronwyn.
Moving forward, The Fair Trader team are working hard to build their business into something that is sustainable over the long-term. “It is not positive for the poor communities whom we purchase our products if we cannot continue to support them long term”, explains Bronwyn. They want to support each producer so that they can each generate enough income to empower their communities and help core community development.
The next step is to build a website that allows them to spread their vision wider, helping more and more people discover these beautiful products from around the world. If you too want to help empower communities with your purchases, take a trip to The Fair Trader at 18 Railway Avenue, Ringwood East in Melbourne and get lost in their stories as told through beautiful, hand-made products.