What is fair trade?
Fair trade provides under- and unemployed artisans from around the world with an opportunity to earn a livable wage and improve their quality of life by establishing a sustainable market for their products.
At The Unity Center we believe in giving back to our global community and selling fair trade products is one of the many ways we do this. In 2007 we began partnering with Exotic World Gifts so that we could provide a wide range of high quality fair trade gift items to members of our community.
This partnership, combined with our congregation's passion for hand-crafted fair trade gift items, has grown our "Partners Fair Trade Boutique" into one of the largest Fair Trade stores in all of San Diego.
When you purchase a beautiful product from our "Partners" not only are you helping to provide a sustainable income for these great artists, you are also helping to fund our micro-finance projects around the world.
What is Micro-Credit?
Micro-credit is the extension of very small loans (microloans) to impoverished borrowers who typically lack collateral, steady employment and a verifiable credit history. It is designed not only to support entrepreneurship and alleviate poverty but also, in many cases, to empower women and uplift entire communities by extension.
The Unity Center actively supports micro-credit, and the broader field of micro-finance, in two ways.
First, through sale of fair trade gift items in our Partners Fair Trade Boutique. Profits from the sale of these items helped launch our first micro-loans to ten impoverished female entrepreneurs in Guatemala in 2010. The following year, a larger loan was made to a rural community outside of Cuzco in Peru to build a community greenhouse. This loan has since been paid forward many times and has resulted in the building of 22 greenhouses to date. These greenhouses are used to extend the growing season for vegetables used by the families who "own" the greenhouse in addition to providing space to grow a profitable cash crop (roses) which allows for the repayment of the loan. Our Travel With a Purpose program is part of our Micro-Credit outreach.
Second, through our investments with Oikocredit. Oikocredit is one of the world's largest sources of private funding to the microfinance sector. Oikocredit lends working capital to microfinance institutions (MFIs) all over the world. In turn, they dispense life-changing loans to the poor and disadvantaged, with a special emphasis on rural areas and women. In addition to earning modest financial returns, we are secure in the knowledge that our money is being used to fight poverty, promote fair trade and respect our planet’s natural resources.
Reverend Wendy Craig-Purcell is committed to creating a world that works for everyone. She also loves to travel. As Founding and Senior Minister of The Unity Center, Wendy has blended these passions to develop the concept of “Travel With A Purpose”. It is her heartfelt goal to take it to all seven continents of the world.
Travel With a Purpose (TWP) combines four elements to create a truly unique adventure.
Economic Opportunity – In connection with each trip, The Unity Center partners with a carefully selected, established, in-country non-governmental organization (NGO). As part of the trip, The Center works in cooperation with the NGO to provide microcredit loans to local indigenous people as a means to earn their way out of poverty. The NGO also introduces TWP travelers to local artisans who create “fair trade” products which are sold through our Partners Fair Trade Boutique which features products that make a difference in our world. Profits from these sales are used to fund our microcredit loans. The overarching philosophy of this element of TWP is to provide indigenous people with economic opportunity in the form of a “hand-up”, rather than a handout.
Sacred Service – TWP travelers engage in volunteer work alongside the local people to support their path out of the challenges of poverty. On our trip to Guatemala in 2010, the TWP group helped construct stoves with outside ventilation in indigenous families’ homes, to alleviate the harm done by cooking indoors on open fires. In 2011, the travelers to Peru helped construct an adobe brick greenhouse that produces both food and a cash crop of roses to supply the thriving Peruvian rose market. Working together on these Sacred Service projects, our travelers and the local people have the opportunity to labor, to laugh, to learn a little of each other’s cultures, and to develop gratitude and respect for one another – an important ingredient in creating a world that works for all.
Spiritual Practice – TWP travel is far from a “four star” experience! The rigors of the often remote location, working in an unfamiliar environment and climate, with people who speak different languages and have a different culture, all add up to a fertile opportunity for the practical application of such spiritual principles as: appreciation, tolerance, acceptance, patience, persistence, focus on the positive, prayer, grace, empathy, compassion and trust, to name only a few. Each day Rev. Wendy leads brief spiritual practices which help the group remain grounded in the deeper purpose of the TWP experience. Out of respect for the local people’s culture and traditions, we only discuss our Unity principles amongst ourselves.
Adventure – A significant aspect of each TWP trip is the opportunity to experience the fascinating, often sacred, and always beautiful sites in the vicinity of the work project, such as the volcanoes and Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, and Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley in Peru. Travelers also visit popular tourist locales in the cities and towns, traditional markets, farms, and are invited into local homes to learn about indigenous ways of life. We even get to hug the kids!