What Came First: The Library Or The Books?

In January this year our Managing Director, Patricia Alexander, visited one of our long standing customers in Nairobi, Kenya. As with many of the producer groups we work with, Undugu Society of Kenya run several social programmes alongside their fair trade business.

Patricia was particularly touched by their education programme which provides schooling in the local slum area; you can read her thoughts here. Whilst visiting the school she couldn’t help but notice how bare the library shelves were.

Following Patricia’s call for support, the Shared Interest Foundation, our charitable arm, is just about to ship out almost 60 boxes of second hand books and stationery to Undugu for them to distribute to three of the schools they support. We hope that this will be a huge help to the schools and will be valued by their pupils for years to come.

Staff at head office in Newcastle managed to collect 4 boxes of books but we have to thank Chuter Ede Education Centre in South Shields for 40 boxes and Rachel Disley-May from Danes Hill School in Surrey for collecting the other 14.

Books

As this was a one off exercise, unfortunately we are unable to accept any more books. However if you do have spare books that you would like to send to schools in Africa you could contact organisations such as READ International who arrange to ship books through Newcastle University www.readinternational.org.uk

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How to lose weight and influence people

As part of the Shared Interest team here at our Newcastle HQ, fair trade is more than just a mark. Daily contact with our customers means we regularly see the direct impact fair trade has on farmers and handicraft producers in the developing world.

In a bid to lose a bit of weight before my upcoming summer holidays – who isn’t?! – I signed up to the Northern Rock ‘Cyclone’ challenge; one of the UK’s largest cycling festivals. As I started my training and began to realise exactly what I had let myself in for, I decided to try and get a bit more out of the challenge than summer weight loss by raising sponsorship on behalf of Shared Interest Foundation.

The Foundation works with entrepreneurs in the developing world, equipping them with the skills training they need to make their businesses a success.

I managed to complete the cyclone challenge in 2 hours 57 minutes 30 seconds, not bad for a 33 mile slog around the Northumberland countryside, even if I do say so myself! Luckily that weekend the great British weather held firm and I could enjoy the ride and the scenery. It was a beautiful route, but I’m not sure that I’ll be repeating the experience anytime soon!

Despite my best efforts, the cyclone challenge only managed to raise half of my sponsorship target. Onwards and upwards though! I think I must be a glutton for punishment as somehow I have ended up in the Great North 10k team. Luckily though I managed to escape the infamous banana costume, Sally I’ll leave that one in your capable hands!

The run, 10 kilometres (6.2 miles) starts on the Wearmouth bridge in Sunderland and then see’s us heading along the coastline finishing up at Sunderland’s ‘Stadium of Light’. Interested in joining in and raising some money for Shared Interest Foundation? To sign up click here

As an extra incentive the Foundation are offering anyone who raises £1000 or more on behalf of the charity by the end of the year  the opportunity to win the holiday of a lifetime, visiting some of the producer groups that we work with in either Costa Rica, Kenya or Peru.

The 10k could be a great sponsorship starting point. Alternatively if running isn’t for you the Foundation are embarking on a 7.5 mile sponsored walk of Hadrian’s Wall on Saturday 31 July. Again this could be a great opportunity to kick start your fundraising and get that step closer to that amazing holiday.

If taking part doesn’t appeal but you’d like to support us via sponsorship you can do online just click here

To find out more about Shared Interest Foundation click here

To find out more about the Great North 10k click here

For further fundraising hints and tips keep checking the Shared Interest blog
http://blog.shared-interest.com

Steve & Jane

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Bean There, Done That, So Much More to Come!

Bean There was established in 2005 as Jonathan Robinson set out to realise his dream of creating the first South African Fairtrade coffee company. Despite the organisation’s humble beginnings – originally operating out of Jonathan’s garage – the business has gone from strength to strength and Jonathan is well on his way to achieving his goal to “become the largest and most influential Fairtrade coffee company in Africa.

Bean there coffee company

Bean There first contacted Shared Interest in June 2009 as they required reliable, long term access to credit at a reasonable interest rate. In South Africa at this time interest rates were as high as 19%, which placed severe limitations on the development of the organisation. Jonathan explains why:  “Unlike local coffee companies who can buy coffee on a bag by bag basis, our commitment to fair trade and to the Fero and Coopac communities requires us to purchase coffee upfront in a 12 month cycle. As a small and growing company this puts severe strain on our cash flow and leaves us with very few options for finance. Shared Interest makes our commitment to fair trade possible, and for that we are extremely grateful. We see Shared Interest as not just a financier but a partner in our fair trade model.

Bean There is completely committed to the principles of fair trade and has incorporated these into the business plan from the very beginning. Jonathan’s personal story is incredibly interesting and shows how personal commitment to fair trade can have a huge effect of the development of the movement.

Jonathan started working life in the IT industry working for IBM and then Dimension Data. When the stock market crashed in 2001 he decided it was a good time to take a gap year, backpacking with his wife throughout the USA, Canada and Europe. Whilst travelling Jonathan met
the founder of Levelground Trading, a fair trade company based on Vancouver Island in Canada. Jonathan states: “I fell in the love with the direct fair trade model and decided to replicate his model in South Africa with a specific African focus. To me the fair trade model, if applied correctly, has such potential to change lives and the resulting shift from aid to trade is a real answer to poverty alleviation in Africa.

Since this original idea, Bean There has had what Jonathan claims as “a great ride” and have so far managed to grow 100% year on year, which is growth they plan to continue with the help of Shared Interest.

Bean There work with two FLO certified producers, Fero-Coop in Ethiopia and Coopac in Rwanda. Ethiopia was their first origin and continues to be their most popular coffee. Through purchases at Fero-Coop, Bean There is supporting over 3,000 farmers and a greater community of 27,000 individuals. As this relationship continues to grow Jonathan claims: “We are excited about the increased impact our growth will have on this community and look forward to looking at other creative ways of assisting our producers.

Coopac in Rwanda has over 2,200 members; after a recent visit to the cooperative Jonathan reported that he was “overjoyed to see their shift towards organic practices.

He continued: “Coffee agronomist Mario Serracin is working with farmers at Coopac, encouraging the use of organic fertilizers and training farmers to produce their own fertilizers through the effective use of coffee pulp.

Bean There is proud to be the first roaster of certified Fairtrade coffee in South Africa. To Jonathan, fair trade “is something that is part of the Bean There DNA; fair trade for us is not just about how we interact with our producers, but how we treat our suppliers, customers, and staff.

Trading fairly is how we believe business should be conducted and so although we were excited to receive the FLO accreditation, we believe that the action is more important than the label.

It is fantastic to see such positive action and we are delighted to see the first instance of South-South fair trade. South-South shifts the balance of power and dependence to those in emerging economies; a great step forward for Shared Interest customers and the fair trade movement as a whole.

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Next week sees the first national celebratory fortnight of all things co-operative

The UK movement is largely dominated by The Cooperative Group which offers everything from groceries, to holidays, pharmacies and financial services. Consumers are offered membership of the group where they receive a share of the profits, and voice issues that are important to them such as Fairtrade and ethical finance.

Other business set-ups include worker cooperatives and social enterprises; there is a great wealth of variety and diversity in the UK cooperative scene and in order to promote this alternative way of working, the two week programme of events is being organised by their voice in the sector Cooperatives UK.

To keep an eye on the happenings of the national fortnight see the website. Please also check out our twitter feed @SharedInterest (http://twitter.com/SharedInterest) to see which events we will be attending.

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In the Zone: Hadrian’s Wall

For those of you that don’t know, earlier this year Hadrian’s Wall was appointed the prestigious title of world’s first Fairtrade landmark and indeed heritage site!

As Shared Interest formed part of the steering group for the Fairtrade Hadrian’s Wall Campaign, we are always pleased to see positive coverage of the group’s achievements.

An interview with Lauren Harrison, instigator of the campaign, features on the Fairtrade Foundation website. Click here to see the interview in full.

If you want to see Hadrian’s Wall for yourself and raise some money for Shared Interest Foundation in the process, why not join us on Saturday 31 July on a sponsored walk of the famous Wall? For more information please click here or to download an application form please click here.

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Don’t be the last to check out our new website

We may have mentioned our birthday a few times before (it’s our birthday, we’re allowed!) but here at Shared Interest HQ we are incredibly proud to have reached our twentieth anniversary.

Our celebratory spirit has spread to our website and we are pretty pleased with the result…

Check out our new look at www.shared-interest.com.

We would love your feedback so feel free to leave your comments below. If you love the new site as much as we do you can share it with your friends and family using the buttons below.

We can’t wait to hear what you think!

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Namayiana - Fair Trade Producer Visit Click here to learn how you can invest in fair trade.

Click here to donate to the Shared Interest Foundation
Mexican coffee farmer at work in the fields


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