St. Norbert College students bring fair trade products to community

By Jeff Kurowski | The Compass | November 28, 2012

 

“It has to be fair trade,” he said. “We have basic products that we know people want to purchase, like the pashmina scarves (Indonesia) that are very popular and the Divine Chocolates. Everyone likes chocolate. We also make sure that we buy more unique products that you can’t get elsewhere such as little trinkets from different countries.”

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Zbigniew “Ziggy” Malek, a junior from Poland at St. Norbert College, volunteers at the student-run Discoveries International at St. Norbert College. (Sam Lucero | The Compass)

Letter codes on price tags indicate where the item originated. The staff is working to create cards featuring the backstory of each product. Items are purchased from fair trade websites including www.serrv.org. Fair trade is a movement to provide better trading conditions for producers in developing countries and to help promote sustainability.

“Every year we try to find different websites,” said Engesser. “We want to try to diversify our products. We call each site to make sure they are fair trade certified.”

The staff consists of primarily international business students and business students with a global emphasis, but any St. Norbert student can participate.

“My goal is to work in a different country,” said Engesser. “I love other cultures. I’ve been to Zurich, Switzerland, and traveled Europe, but a lot of these countries represented, I’ve never seen these products, so it’s opened my eyes. I want to experience what I’ve seen here.”

Senior Brian Campbell, who spent last year abroad in Japan, is a part of the sales team. He said that one of the goals is to extend sales opportunities beyond the campus store.

“We work on getting outside sales events to sell our products,” said Campbell. “During International Week (Nov. 12-16), the college held international lunches, so we would set up outside the cafeteria. We sell at craft shows and hockey games. We try to get all different kinds of people interested.”

“We are open to any events,” said Engesser. “If anyone would like to see a Discoveries International table at their event, we encourage them to contact us.”

Customers include students, faculty, college staff and people from the community. A local woman recently donated items from Asia, including a Japanese kimono.

“She was moving to a retirement home and just decided to donate them all,” said Campbell. “She worked with the military. She trained people and lived in Japan for a long time. Some of the items are quite expensive.”

A Japanese professor valued the kimono at $400.

See Joy “Joyce” Yeung, a senior from Hong Kong, works in the marketing department. She said social media marketing has increased in the past year.

“We are on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest,” said Joyce. “We are working on a lot of things to promote the store. We want people to know that it’s open to the public.”

Promotions include a sale of the day, 30 products in 30 days, and a punch card to receive a free chocolate bar. The goal is to top last year’s sales, said Engesser. So far this semester, sales are at nearly $5,000, well ahead of last year.

Money raised this year will support two charities. Each year, the students vote on causes that reinvest in developing nations.

The Children’s Education Fund (CEF) works to improve the education system and helps poor children in rural regions of the Guangxi province in China. CEF, founded in 2001, has raised $3.2 million and has built 25 schools and dorms.

The other charity is based in Green Bay. The Seven Loaves Project was founded when J.R. Schoenfeld, owner of Chives Restaurant, traveled to Rwanda. Schoenfeld and his team returned to the country to install ovens and provide training so the villagers could bake bread as a sustainable lifestyle.

Discoveries International, located next to the St. Norbert College Bookstore, is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Its last day of operation before the semester break will be Dec. 14. For more information, call (920) 403-3180 or email [email protected]

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