These days most teenagers are consumed with grades, social status, the future, and preparing for college. We often don’t find time to stop and reflect – “smell the roses”- along the way. It is an inspiring moment when you can see the spark in your peers’ eyes when they find what they are passionate about. Whether it is a form of art or a social justice matter, once someone finds a calling they often gain a greater sense of self-worth. I have seen that spark ignite in my friends and classmates who have gotten involved with our Fair Trade club. And it’s not just because we sell coffee.
We often hear about “peer pressure” and how it relates to teenagers today. Usually, the term has a negative connotation, but that is not always the case. Once a month at Walsh Jesuit we have fair trade refreshments for sale, to raise awareness about opportunities to make a fair trade choice. In this way we “pressure” our peers to think about where their food and clothing comes from and who makes it.
Too often we see the product instead of what happened for the thing to be in front of us. According to dosomething.org, “In developing countries, an estimated 168 million children ages 5-14 are forced to work.” That is 168 million 1 st -9 th graders working in poor conditions for an unfair wage. We are all human and the color of our skin or where we are from should not determine our paycheck or working conditions. Some believe that buying these products is acceptable, justifying their actions by thinking that they are giving these workers some sort of income. Any time we exploit people’s poverty, we are feeding an unstable system. Fredrick Douglas describes this well when he said “Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.”
Encourage your peers to make conscious decisions and go fair trade! Whether it be with the clothes they wear, the coffee they buy, or the food they purchase, the gratification that is felt knowing they have made a difference no matter how small is addictive.
Chloe Gunther is a student a Walsh Jesuit High School in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. Chloe, thanks for continuing to “peer pressure” folks to spread more love and justice! Meet Walsh Jesuit students at the Ohio Fair Trade Teach-In and EXPO.