National Volunteer Week (18-24 June 2023) honours the collective energies and mana of all volunteers in Aotearoa. We want to say thank you and celebrate that your mahi matters.
Volunteers Vi Cottrell, Richard Cottrell, Lyn Jackon and others attending a Trade Aid board meeting.
Fifty years ago, Trade Aid started as, and continues to be, a grass roots volunteer movement. Our movement began in the spirit of activism, with passionate people who wanted to respond to world events, global political turmoil and tackle issues of poverty by using trade justice to make positive change in the world. The goal was equity in international trade.
Tuaiwa Rickard (Eva Rickard) launched an educational campaign focusing on the need to support Nicaragua in its efforts to remain independent and democratic.
“At that time, one would say we were quite a political organisation. All through we were. A lot of our volunteers were. The general sort of thought was that they were middle aged women who played golf. They weren’t all like that at all. There were a lot of real activists in our ranks, of all ages,” says Vi Cottrell, Trade Aid’s co-founder.
We responded to every political movement of the day, including “nuclear free” and stopping apartheid. We lobbied governments and helped to break down craft product licensing restrictions for Pacific companies who wanted the opportunity to sell their products in our market. We tried to raise awareness on trade injustices and imbalances of power in the conventional trade structures, and to advocate changes in policies to favour equitable trade. Without these early years of voluntary work, Trade Aid would never have survived and grown as it has.
Trade Aid has since grown to the point where we no longer solely rely on the mahi of volunteers. However, we continue to have volunteers at the heart of our organisation who play a key role in the diverse fabric of the Trade Aid Movement. Currently, we have 354 volunteers across our organisation who are involved with education and community development through our stores nationwide.
The contribution from volunteers allows us to operate differently to normal retailers. “We could operate as a business without volunteers – other fair trade organisations do. But we’re also a development and an education organisation, and volunteers allow us to realise these aims,” says Geoff White, CEO of Trade Aid. “It’s not just about running a business but adopting a pro-poor bias and creating change where we couldn’t otherwise and bringing kiwis along with us in that education. Volunteers allow us to do that.”
Volunteers have become part of our incredible whānau and play a key role in connecting our work out to the diverse Aotearoa communities we are a part of, where communities get to share in the power of collective action.
- High school students learning skills through the Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards.
- Ethically minded university students learning about trade justice for curriculum requirements.
- Professionals offering their knowledge on our Charitable Trust Boards to help make a better world.
- People who are inspired by change-making projects, raising their voices on crucial issues to make change in their local communities and beyond, like collecting signatures for our Modern Slavery Act petition.
- Retired people from all communities who understand the positive impact fair trade has for our producers, who are educating kiwis about the values of fair trade and ethical consumerism.
And so many more!
Recent Trade Aid volunteers Inez Pearce, Stuart McCallister and Honour Mitchell.
The immense passion and hard work of volunteers has made a lasting impact on the lives of artisans and producers across the world, creating sustainable livelihoods and empowering communities.
Their contribution over many years has strengthened Trade Aid beyond the dreams our founders had for the organisation when they started the fledgling business back in 1973. The strength of Trade Aid has meant our trading relationships have supported producers to make changes they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to consider. Changes such as sending their children to school, investing in their farms and businesses, building a house, and sometimes just putting food on the table. We know that fair trade makes a difference because for over fifty years we’ve seen it build regional stability, transform entire communities and enable more choices in their lives.
We have a priority of working with women’s groups and can be justifiably proud of the changing dynamic for how women who earn money through their fair trade work, are respected and valued for their contribution and become active participants in their families and communities.
“When I visit and meet with our producers they are always surprised and so thankful that there are people on the other side of the world who care about them enough to work voluntarily on their behalf. That in itself is powerful,” says Geoff White.
“The Trade Aid Movement would not be, nor have been, the force it is in building a better world without the contribution of you and others like you. I am always encouraged and enthused in seeing such commitment and dedication and it does give me a great sense of purpose.
Your efforts inspire and demonstrate the power of collective action. The dedication of volunteers has shaped Trade Aid into what it is today – a force for change. Your time, skills, and passion are immeasurable gifts that have touched the lives of countless individuals.
Simply put, your mahi has made a significant difference and we thank you,” he says.