Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Parishes support global Fair Trade practices through Work of Human Hands program

the Inland Register

(From the Oct. 20, 2005 edition of the Inland Register)

In 1995, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), the U.S. Bishops’ overseas emergency relief and development agency, formed a partnership with SERRV International, a non-profit Fair Trade marketing organization, to assist Third World artisans.

For many years, SERRV has been assisting artisan groups in developing countries to sell their products at church bazaars and in Fair Trade shops in the United States. Through the partnership with SERRV, CRS saw the opportunity to support impoverished craftspeople living in areas where CRS works and to connect Catholics in this country with the growing Fair Trade movement.

The Work of Human Hands project allows parishes to order handicrafts on consignment. These items are shipped free of charge to the parish and sold at a special sale or other parish event. Any items that do not sell are returned to SERRV. The parish keeps 10 percent of the sale proceeds to cover any expenses.

Work of Human Hands has become a popular event in parishes around the country. Catholics embrace the concept of Fair Trade, which emphasizes a decent wage, work with dignity, no child labor, environmental stewardship and worker owned and managed cooperatives. The Spokane Diocese has received recognition from CRS headquarters in Baltimore for its 10 years of strong support of the Work of Human Hands project.

Several years ago, CRS decided to launch a Fair Trade coffee program, this time to support small coffee farmers struggling to keep their farms during a period of falling coffee prices and rising agribusiness. Parishes here in the United States are encouraged to choose Fair Trade coffee for all their occasions. Many parishes around the Spokane Diocese are now serving fair trade coffee after Masses. Parishioners are also asking for Fair Trade coffee at their favorite coffee shops, or seeking it out at the grocery store, buying on-line, or through a Work of Human Hands sale.

Just last month, CRS launched its Fair Trade chocolate program. Fair trade chocolate is certified as made from cocoa beans, harvested sustainably and without the use of child labor. Cocoa farmers are paid a fair price for their beans and can offer their adult workers a living wage.

Chocolate is an indulgence that many do not realize comes at a terrible price for the youngest and most vulnerable who work in the cocoa industry. Over 250,000 children under the age of 14 work on the cocoa farms in West Africa. These children use dangerous machetes to harvest the cacao pods high in the trees. They work long hours and are unable to go to school.

It is estimated that a small but significant number of these children are slaves, sold by their destitute parents to traffickers who convince the parents that their children will make lots of money on the cocoa farms. Fair trade chocolate is the delicious alternative to a sweet habit that can have bitter consequences.

CRS is encouraging Catholic schools around the country to support the Fair Trade chocolate program. By choosing fair trade chocolate for fund-raisers and educating students about the conditions for child laborers in the cocoa industry, Catholic schools can emphasize the connection between faith and action and help young Catholics respond to the Church’s call to global solidarity.

(For more information about Work of Human Hands, Fair Trade coffee or chocolate, or other features of the CRS Fair Trade Program, contact Scott Cooper, Parish Social Ministry Coordinator, at 509-358-4273 (1-800-831-1209) or Pam Vail, CRS Diocesan Director, at 509-684-5742 (Colville). Information also is available online at:

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