A Fair Trade Pilgrimage

In July, Amy Kay Pavlovich represented Week of Compassion as part of an Equal Exchange delegation to Los Colinas Coffee Cooperative and other important partners in El Salvador.  Equal Exchange is a Fair-Trade partner of Week of Compassion through the Disciples Coffee Project. Following a devastating storm that dumped a year’s worth of rain on Central America in eleven days in October 2011, the co-op lost about 15% of their coffee crop and all of their corn and beans. The road they used to ship their coffee out was also washed out by the storm.  Along with other interfaith partners, Week of Compassion provided a grant to provide emergency food aid, and help the co-op rebuild the road. 

Amy Kay is an ordained Disciples Minister who owns Just Good Trade, a Fair Trade store in Jacksonville, IL.  She also serves as Chaplain at MacMurray College. Amy Kay grew up in a Kansas farm family and served two churches in Missouri for 11 years before moving to Illinois.  She and her husband Dane have been married 16 years and love their two boys: Sebastian (7) and Atticus (4).   

Amy reflects on her trip in this week’s update:

Dearest Disciples Friends –

It is my pleasure to return greetings to you from the people of El Salvador! 

Last month, I represented Week of Compassion as part of a delegation of 13 people made up of Equal Exchange staff and representatives from other partner denominations.  We not only learned about the history of the country and its current political situation, we were graciously invited to live with farmers in the Las Colinas cooperative for three and a half days.  As a Disciples minister and Fair Trade store owner, I am so proud to have participated in this journey.  My time in El Salvador has given me hope for developing deeper partnerships as we stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters around the world. 

We heard first-hand about the difficulties endured by the Los Colinas Coffee Cooperative over years of oppression and forced coffee labor.  We heard of their lives through 1980-1992 when the country was broken by a terrible Civil War.  We heard of their appreciation for Week of Compassion, Catholic Relief Services, and a Fair Trade market built in partnership with Equal Exchange.  They were able to accomplish so much with their recent WoC grant! Roads were rebuilt (an extremely difficult process), water ways made better and a wall was improved.  For more details about Los Colinas’ recovery effort, funded by the grant from Week of Compassion and other members of the Equal Exchange Interfaith Coffee Project, please visit my blog.

Thanks to some well-placed aid and all of the cooperative’s hard work and perseverance, they now have high hopes and dreams for their future.   Members want their children to go to high school and maybe even college someday.  They want better care for their water sources so that there is always good water for their homes and coffee harvesting.  They want to grow their relationships with coffee buyers so future generations will have access to fair markets.  Their dreams moved each of us in the delegation.

After full days with the delegation, “Christians for Peace in El Salvador” (CRISPAZ), the organization that accompanied our group, hosted the Unitarian Universalist representative and me for two days of extended learning about artist cooperatives.  We visited fortunate, prosperous groups that thrived even through the country’s Civil War, as well as other groups who needed to seek safety as refugees during those years.  When those displaced by the fighting returned, no homes or churches remained.  Everything had been leveled from extensive bombing.  Even now, as their communities have slowly rebuilt, these groups of talented and motivated artists are without resources or market access.  In one instance, nine women share one embroidery hoop because that is all they can afford.  They have one partially working sewing machine.  My heart was just broken as we heard from these groups without so much but with great skill and desire.  They brought to life what Amy has reminded me many times:  despite the difficulties we encounter, we carry on.  We must.     

As a movement of Disciples, we will stand with all of God’s people and work toward wholeness together.  We will reach out to those who have been told and shown that they are expendable through war and economic oppression.  We will respect one another and live on in such a way that God’s peace can be known on earth as it is in heaven.

May it be so!

Amy Kay Pavlovich 

For more information about the Disciples Coffee Project, follow this link:http://www.equalexchange.coop/doc/

This Week's Responses

Disaster Relief
Malawi, food crisis
Philippines, Manila-Luzon flood
Missouri, Joplin Community Recovery Effort