Friday, 30 July 2010

Lighting Candles in K.V.Kuppam

As many of you will know, Bishopston Trading Company grew out of a twinning link that was established in 1978 between the area of Bishopston in Bristol and the South Indian village of K.V.Kuppam. The twinning link is still going strong, and two of its most active members are Sally Whittingham and Pam Morris. Here is something Pam recently wrote for us about one of the projects she runs.

The One Candle Project

“In our village so many poor people are not able to study. Parents have so many dreams about their children’s future. They can only able to dream because they are very poor, but now because of you they are fulfilling their dreams........ Not only you’re fulfilling their dreams, actually you’re fulfilling their golden dreams because you are giving a very good education in English Medium........You people have a place in our heart.”

(Extract from a letter from Balaji who lives in Seetharamanpet village and is a member of the One Candle Fund committee)

In 2004 my husband Brian and I spent several months in the K V Kuppam area, researching many aspects of daily life in order to produce our web site

Whilst carrying out our research, we made friends with a large number of families. We were shown great hospitality and were privileged to hear about the hopes and fears of these families, both from parents and children. Over time, we began to hear more and more distressing stories of hardships, sometimes caused by illness or death. In times of trouble, people usually strive to help out family members if possible as there is no welfare state safety net for this community.

The concept of the One Candle Project arose out of a desire, shared by other visitors from Bishopston, to do something to help out, specifically when family problems mean that it becomes difficult or impossible to keep a child in education. After discussion with Mr Immanuel, who is the administrator of the Rural Unit for Health and Social Affairs (RUHSA), the development organization based in K V Kuppam Block, the simple structure of the One Candle Project was agreed. We made a bursary available for families who would otherwise not be able to afford to support their children to continue in school. This is for approximately £20-£25 per year and is paid by cheque directly to the children we support and administrated by me with a committee of people from the community and Rural Community Officers from RUHSA. We are extremely fortunate to have the support of RUHSA and some excellent local people. We started with eleven children in 2004 and this number has risen each year as we have been able to raise the funds to support the project. The aim of the fund is simply to enable children from lower income families to complete their education and when a child is granted a bursary we commit to supporting them each year.

In January 2010 we once again visited India and celebrated six years of this successful project with almost one hundred children attending a gathering in the new Pachai Kili Centre which houses the play centre and our new centre for the elderly. The One Candle Fund is now helping sixty children and we are extremely grateful to Bishopston Trading Company for their recent generous support which enables us to help an additional thirty four children from weaving families. It was heart warming to meet so many young ‘Candles’ and to hear them express their thanks so eloquently. It is very humbling to realise what a difference a relatively small amount of support can make. If anyone would like to know more about The One Candle Project, The Pachai Kili Play Centre and/or the latest exciting project with the elderly I would love to hear from you. Also if anyone would like to support us please get in touch.

There are further details about the One Candle Project online here, and Pam welcomes emails from interested people:

Sally's daughter, Rosie, will be running the Indian Queen's Half Marathon on August 1st and all funds she raises will be donated to the projects run by Sally and Pam in K.V.Kuppam. Sponsorship donations can be placed online here.

The Bishopston-Kuppam link is a registered charity (number 283659).

The One Candle Project takes its name from a saying sometimes attributed to Gandhi:

‘It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness’

Monday, 26 July 2010

Bishopston Trading Opens in Clifton

On Friday of last week we opened the doors of our new outlet store in Clifton village, Bristol. The shop can be found at 14 Clifton Down Road, see here for a map of the area. The shop is just open for four weeks, and is full of our organic Fairtrade cotton clothing at reduced prices. We're very happy to be adding this temporary outlet to our chain of shops as part of the celebrations of our 25th anniversary. Our other shops can be found in Bishopston-Bristol, Bradford on Avon, Glastonbury, Malmesbury and Totnes.

For 25 years this year, we have worked in partnership with the South Indian village of K.V.Kuppam, providing long-term, stable employment to hundreds of local villagers. The original inspiration for the business was a simple statement made by one of the villagers that as skilled craftspeople they need work not charity: this has remained the founding principle of the business since then.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Career Opportunity with Bishopston Trading

We are currently looking for a dynamic person with retail sales experience to lead the team in our Malmesbury store. This is great opportunity for someone who is motivated by Fair Trade and passionate about fashion to join our pioneer Fair Trade company.

Have a look here for further details.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Ethical Clothing Questionaire

My colleague Judi was recently accosted in Camden Lock Market by a student undertaking some research into how personal values relate to our decisions to buy ethical clothing.

You can complete her survey here, it sounds like a very interesting research project.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

500 Fairtrade Towns, Boroughs, Counties, Kingdoms and Villages

Take a look at this short video clip on the guardian site with soundbites from Fairtrade campaigners from across the country.

Video: Fairtrade heroes: 'It's bigger than a money thing' Society

The Fair Trade movement is about to celebrate the 500th Fairtrade town in Britain - here town is used in quite a loose sense: it covers Boroughs, Counties, Villages and even Kingdoms! Many of the Fairtrade groups behind these campaigns have had Fairtrade cotton bags produced for them by Bishopston Trading Company, some have gone on to have their own promotional Fairtrade cotton tea towels as well.

We're happy to say we're members of the Bristol Fairtrade Network which is the steering group behind Bristol's Fairtrade City status. We're also proud to say that the spirit of solidarity and justice that underpins the whole Fair Trade movement runs deep in our veins here at Bishopston Trading. The company grew out of a twinning link that was established between the area of Bishopston in Bristol and the South Indian village of K.V.Kuppam all the way back in 1978.

Bishopstonians have been supporting social development projects in K.V.Kuppam since that time and the trading company itself grew out of a direct request from some of the villagers for stable jobs. As a company we exist solely to provide stable, well-paid employment for the people of K.V.Kuppam; any profits that we make which aren't used to grow the business and generate further employment are donated to our sister charity to fund development projects in the area.

Here's to the next 500 Fairtrade towns!

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Eco-Fashion in Greece

For anyone planning a holiday to the beautiful Greek islands, we recommend a visit to sun-soaked Syros. In the picturesque town of Ermoupoli, you'll find Mumu, an eco-boutique selling stylish summer frocks designed and made by Athena Bentila using our organic Fairtrade cotton cloth.

Read her blog here and find her shop on Google Earth lat=37.4444484519, lon=24.9432047814. I tried installing a gadget to embed Google Earth into this post, but my technical skills failed me, so instead I've put an old-fashioned photo of the town, one of the map and a couple of Athena's beautiful designs.

For those of us not fortunate to be holidaying in Syros this year, you can instead visit Mumu's online Etsy shop.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Fair Trade Fashion Shows

We send out kits to people across the country who are organising Fair Trade Fashion Shows. The summer seasons is drawing to a close now in terms of bookings, but Gill has been busy putting together the kits for the Autumn range. The colours of the Autumn range are inspired by the deep reds and greens of Midwinter. The Autumn fashion show kits will contain 3 colour stories, each with a range of garments to create 3 full-outfits, although of course these can be mixed and matched in whatever way you like. There is also a selection of men's garments, jewellery and accessories in each kit, as well as a CD-rom that contains photos of the garments in production in K.V.Kuppam.

Here are some photos from recent fashion shows: