A fair go for the world's poor

A group of Wollongong women has been making a big difference through fair trade and ethical markets to support disadvantaged people in Australia and around the globe.

Since 2009 a growing number of people have seen shopping at fair trade certified stalls as a great way to help break the cycle of poverty.

Worldchangers Fair Trade and Ethical Markets have been held in MacCabe Park during Viva La Gong and at Wollongong Church of Christ where they began.

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Volunteer organisers Bethany Romaniszyn, Karen Clifford and Juliette Poulter love how people have responded and are motivated by stories they hear about the positive impacts the markets have had.

Co-ordinator Anne Simpson previously organised markets in Queensland but said she had never experienced anything like the response in Wollongong or the commitment from the three women who spend months planning each event.

The first Christmas market will be held at the Church of Christ, Figtree, on December 7, where every present bought will help a community somewhere in the world.

More than 35 local traders, community groups and schools have already agreed to set up fair trade stalls with handcrafted gifts produced by ethical practices, which include better wages and decent working conditions.

"It gives us the chance to make our Christmas shopping a meaningful way we can make a real difference in the lives of those who actually make the things we buy," Mrs Simpson said.

"With a lot of the products that are sold here on the night the stallholder can tell you the name of the person who made it. It is very personal."

Mrs Simpson said the markets would not be such a success without the commitment of the three volunteers she worked with for months leading up to each event and another 60 volunteers on the day.

"Karen Clifford [Cedars Christian College] and Juliette Poulter [Illawarra Christian School] are both teachers who have been including issues of fair trade and ethical consumerism into their teaching curriculum," she said.

"Karen has also launched her own blog to encourage other teachers. 

Bethany Romaniszyn is a professional singer [Tatum Co Trio] who has become a local advocate for anti human trafficking organisation She Rescue."

Mrs Romaniszyn sells products at each market made by children in a Cambodian orphanage.

"It is supporting little girls who have been rescued from the sex slave trade," she said.

"What I sell from them basically all goes back to fund the orphanage. Some of the products they make and the rest are ethically sourced. Whenever I hear about these kinds of social issues my heart says it is just not okay."

Mrs Romaniszyn enjoys interacting with refugee stallholders from SCARF at each market.

"It is great to bless them but they bless us more because they bring something that we can't manufacture ... it is really authentic and it just brings a lot of joy and a sense of hope," she said.

"This is about meeting some really basic needs in a way we can," she said.

"It is not hard and it makes such a massive difference. I think I now appreciate what I have so much more than I ever did."

Mrs Poulter said fair trade and consumerism can be taken into daily lives.

"I can be living out that philosophy when I am shopping for my family in the decisions I make and how discerning I am as a consumer. And all I have learnt working with Anne and the other girls I've taken into my classroom ... and taught my students to think about ... what happens to a product before it gets to them, who made it and were they treated fairly?"

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