Sunday, November 21, 2010

One World Fair

Last weekend I volunteered at the One World Fair and had a blast!

The fair was set up like a trade show and had over 50 different stalls promoting fair trade, human rights and environmental groups.

I've worked many a trade show in my Cotton Board and American Cancer Society days, but I've never had the opportunity to work in a building like this! The fair was held at the Oxford Town Hall which, like most buildings in Oxford, is stunning! I'm not a photographer by any means (plus most people take pictures with their camera, not their phone), but take a look at that ceiling! Isn't is gorgeous? I don't think I will ever become immune to the beauty of the buildings here...they are amazing!

Indigo's super colorful booth

The booth I worked in was actually set up by a really great shop on our road, Indigo. They carry many fair trade items including clothing, toys, purses, jewelry, candles, soap and stationary. Basically anything you would find in a cutesy shop state-side, but most of the items are "fair trade." What is fair trade, you ask? Well, I'm learning myself but I'll try to give you my best explanation with the help of the Fairtade Foundation website:

"Fairtrade is about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world. By requiring companies to pay sustainable prices (which must never fall lower than the market price), Fairtrade addresses the injustices of conventional trade, which traditionally discriminates against the poorest, weakest producers. It enables them to improve their position and have more control over their lives."

Because Oxford is such a progressive community, many stores and restaurants carry fair trade items including coffee, tea, cocoa, bananas and some cotton.  (But don't worry Dad, I still promoted West Texas cotton as the best in the world!) Fair trade items can easily be identified by the Fairtrade Foundation logo on the products (similar to a Del Monte sticker on a banana).

I really enjoyed interacting with the customers and learning about all the products. My biggest fear during the day was handling the money. You see, in the USA we rely on four coins to make day-to-day transactions, but in England there are eight coins! I'm so glad we didn't have to teach eight coins to our kindergartners, that would make for one long money song!

From left to right: two pounds; one pound; fifty pence; twenty pence; ten pence; five pence; two pence; and one penny

I worked the booth with my new friend, Henriette. Henriette is from Germany but has been in Oxford for three years so she is a pro at the money game. At one point, she took a break and left me alone with the money bag. I was secretly praying that we would not  have any sales during her break, but of course we did. A lady selected several items and the total came to two pounds and sixty-five pence. Of course she pulled out a twenty-pound note so my money knowledge was put to the test. I was good with the five-pound and the ten-pound note, but then all the coins began laughing at me from the money bag....I promise they did! As I was searching for the correct change my customer got a bit agitated with me and told me in a condescending British accent, "If you would count up from the price of the item, you could make my change." Yep, I was mortified. I explained that I did know how to make change but I was still learning the money so I couldn't seem to find the right coins. Of course she wanted to know where I was from so that gained me a little time as I painstakingly tried to read the print on every coin. FINALLY I was able to complete the transaction and was so so thankful when Henriette came back from her break.  I informed her that from now on she was in charge of the money! This week, I have made it a point to learn all the coins....I will not be embarrassed again...or at least I will make a valiant effort!

Being a small town girl, my eyes continue to be opened to the great needs of our world and I hope that I can do more to help...even if it means just volunteering to work a booth on a Saturday.

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