‘I was one of two selected to spend four weeks travelling around India learning about Fairtrade and then blogging about our experiences.’ I’m interviewing Geelong 4th Year Deakin University Student Oscar Bitton. ‘It was a unique opportunity to see the other side of Fairtrade at its ground level where you can see how people are empowered and given opportunities to change their lives for the better.
‘I was one of 80 candidates who applied for the opportunity which required us to write an application about why we care about social justice issues and how we have been actively involved with addressing them. I’d travelled to Vietnam to volunteer with Heartbeat Vietnam which raises money for children with heart defects. The money not only goes to the operations but also goes to ensuring that the children are healthy enough to undertake the surgery by funding a healthy diet and the transport to and from hospital. It was Samantha Michelson and I who won the Deakin competition.
‘What is Fairtrade? Fairtrade is about stable prices, decent working conditions and the empowerment of workers around the world. What interests me most about Fairtrade is its focus on empowering people by giving them access to resources such as a fair wage, healthcare and an education that truly has a long lasting impact on their lives, their community and that of generations to come. The biggest thing I learnt was how profits could be re-allocated to make a difference to family members and the community. It might be to instil programs and initiatives that not only build skill base but also help with things like hygiene, thus decreasing the amount of money families have to spend on medicines. In India I saw lots of examples of ethical, business social justice.
‘Some people may criticise Fairtrade, but I can vouch from experience, those involved in Fairtrade are doing a lot more for communities. It may not be the answer to it all but Fairtrade are still making a big difference.
‘I tried to prepare myself for the poverty and pollution, but I would be lying to say it wasn’t confronting with around 40% of those in Delhi living in slums. There are many unregistered residents and immigrants from places like Bangladesh and Pakistan as well. We were keen to see the river in Delhi but our guide dissuaded us – telling us ‘That is no longer a river, that is a sewer.’
‘The funniest thing was when Samantha and I were both sick, yet as we found ourselves in the most stunningly beautiful setting of a tea plantation in the Himalayas, we just had to get out. We were half crawling up steep, pebbly roads to take in the amazing scenery. (see photo)
‘My message would be to be aware of what you are buying. If everyone just started working towards looking for things that are ethically produced it would make a difference.
‘To read more about the Fairtrade India Experience, check out the blog site https://blogs.deakin.edu.au/deakinlife/category/fair-trade-india-experience/?doing_wp_cron=1486418711.2170820236206054687500
‘I grew up in Geelong, attended Clairvaux Catholic School then St Joseph’s College Geelong. Now I am in my 4th year of a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Commerce degree, majoring in Economics, International Trade and International Relations. I am the Vice President of Fairtrade Vision Geelong Deakin and will continue to be an advocate for Fairtrade by organising events and talking about my Indian experience. I’m also interested in how For-Profit Businesses work in development as well.’
Photo: Oscar and Samantha dragging themselves up the scenic track in the Himalayas.