‘Every product has a story:’ St. Kateri hosting annual Fair Trade Market

Photo Kristin Schultz
A sample of the items that will be available at St. Kateri's Fair Trade Market.Photo Kristin Schultz A sample of the items that will be available at St. Kateri's Fair Trade Market.

By Kristin Schultz

Gazette Reporter

Fuzzy socks are fine, but if you’re looking to spread holiday cheer with something unique, St. Kateri’s Fair Trade Market is what you’re looking for.

On Saturday, Dec. 9, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the gymnasium at St. Kateri’s Union Street Parish (1801 Union St.) will be filled with vendors and organizations offering unique ways to give gifts and help support artisans who themselves are making a difference in their communities.

St. Kateri’s Social Justice Ministry has been hosting the event for more than 10 years. This year, the fair will feature 11 vendors, an increase over last year. In addition to more vendors, this year’s market will be held on the parish’s Union Street campus for the first time.

The vendors will represent a global variety of goods from Cambodia and Vietnam and various African nations.

Mayan Hands, a group of Guatemalan women crafters, will have their bags, woven fabrics, decorative notions and more to offer.

From the other side of the globe, Sak Saum, a Cambodia-based outfit that battles human trafficking, features clothing and handbags and other goods created by men and women rescued from exploitation.

Serrv is an agency that works with farmers and artisans in 25 countries, buying goods and selling goods with the aim of empowering the impoverished through sustained, meaningful craft so that they might provide a safe environment and education for their children.

Serrv’s artisans make holiday decorations, apparel, accessories and home goods.

Heartsounds Uganda works to end the stigma associated with mental illness. Its artisans and crafters are current and former patients seeking to improve their lives.

More than just selling products produced by people in developing countries, the agencies through which the products are purchased and distributed seek to improve the lives of those in developing countries and help them adapt to changing business demands.

“Every product has a story,” said market coordinator Diane Yoder. “The agencies work with women to develop products that will sell well in the U.S.”

One of those products is a pine needle basket from South America. Yoder said that as demand for the baskets increased, the supply of the right kind of pine needles was becoming depleted. As a result, business women started planting pine trees to supply the needles they needed to provide for their continued success.

In addition to buying physical products, St. Kateri Fair Trade Market-goers will be able to make donations in someone’s name. There will be a couple of organizations on hand so shoppers can donate money and receive a certificate or note to give to a loved one that states money was given in their name.

“It’s not the mall,” Yoder said. “It’s a way to offer unique gifts and do conscientious shopping.”

Social Justice Ministry head Elaine Bair echoed the benefit of buying fair trade items.

“It’s about a deeper, ongoing relationship with the producer for the betterment of the community,” Bair said.

In addition to fair trade products and charitable opportunities, St. Kateri Fair Trade Market will offer fair trade coffee and chocolate from Schenectady-based purveyors.

St. Kateri’s Social Justice Ministry hosts several events throughout the year, including workshops, an Earth Day celebration and letter-writing campaigns.