Shared Interest in Charity Cycle Challenge

Now before you get over excited this doesn’t mean bike-riding bananas and chillies!

Instead a team of six cyclists will be riding 600 miles from Box Hill in Surrey to Arthur’s Seat – Edinburgh’s highest point – in just six days. This Ride2Raise challenge takes place on 4-9 September 2010.

Raise magazine is the creative force behind Ride2Raise. In addition to raising money for charity the publication hopes to promote cycling as a healthy, eco-friendly pursuit.

So what’s that got to do with Shared Interest? Well, each member of the Ride2Raise team has chosen two charities that are of particular interest to them to receive their support. The aim of the challenge is to raise over £10,000 which will be distributed between the chosen charities. Yep, you’ve guessed it; Shared Interest Foundation has been nominated as a beneficiary!

We are now waiting for the Raise team to disclose who is riding on behalf of the Foundation and looking forward to hearing the reasons behind their motivation.

Watch this space for news on our cyclist; we’ll post more information as it comes in.

In the meantime to find out more about the campaign and to donate to help the team reach their £10,000 target CLICK HERE.

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

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Yeah Of Course I’ll Run in the Chilli Costume

Planning to take part in the Great North 10k to raise funds for Shared Interest Foundation seemed like a great idea. That was until the time came that I had to start training. Two weeks before the run, after a long and lazy holiday. Adding to the pressure of actually getting out there and doing some running was the challenge of running in the infamous Shared Interest chilli costume.

My colleague Sally, who some of you may recognise as the Shared Interest Banana, gave me some great tips for running a la chilli and made sure I pinned up my outfit so as not to trip over during the run. After requesting a target of at least £100 in donations to run in the outfit I was, surprisingly enough inundated with generous support from friends and colleagues!

As part of the Foundation Management Team I am lucky enough to see the direct impact of the work that those funds support. From assisting producers in times of emergency to supporting the growth of businesses through investing in business skills, the Foundation is a real source of support for fair trade producer groups. Knowing this made running – however slowly – the 6.1miles round Sunderland’s coast and city centre a lot easier, even when I passed colleagues on other side of the road, who were clearly much closer to the finish line than I was!

After the run the team (pictured) headed off for a much needed soft drink and rest in the local pub. Hopefully, the Sunderland 10k will continue to be a great source of fun and fundraising for Shared Interest Foundation, and perhaps the chilli outfit can be passed on as the baton for next year’s runners, any takers…?

Fun Run

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Shared Interest Foundation has Swaziland handicraft project all sewn up thanks to Comic Relief

Great news here at Shared Interest HQ, after a nervous post application waiting period we are finally able to announce that Shared Interest Foundation has been awarded £500,000 from Comic Relief to fund business skills training in Swaziland.

We are really excited about the project and look forward to building on the success of our Rwanda training project.

It was following news of our work in Rwanda that a group of budding Swazi entrepreneurs approached us about rolling out something similar in Swaziland. The area is particularly vulnerable as it has a population of less than a million people, yet it has the highest rate of HIV/AIDS in the world.

Andrea and Louise will be working with the Swaziland International Fair Trade Association (SWIFT) to provide training for over 130 Swazi handicraft businesses, meaning that over 3,000 people will benefit from the business support program. Training will include elements such as business planning and marketing along with basic skills such as how to appropriately value products. The scheme will also involve a mentoring system which will see larger organisations supporting the development of smaller groups.

We can’t wait to start working in Swaziland next year. Watch this space for updates on the projects progress…

Swaziland fair trade business

Mrs Nkambule from Gone Rural, a women’s weaving cooperative in Swaziland

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A Fair Deal

Anyone who attended an event over Co-operatives Fortnight may have picked up a ‘co-operative’ pack of cards.  A great way to replace the dog eared packs that usually find themselves in a corner somewhere, missing an ace of spades or seven of hearts (at least that’s generally the condition the packs in my house come in).  The yellow packs being circulated in Co-operative Fortnight will hopefully have more staying power.

Produced with a co-operative action on each card you can now play Solitaire while learning about the co-operative schools community or discuss ways of encouraging Bees into your garden while playing Rummy with friends.

The six of spades has a special significance to us here at Shared Interest as it bears the message “Open a share account with Shared Interest.”

We hope to see many people taking these co-operative actions.  Why not join us on August 25th, 52 days after the end of Co-operatives Fortnight, at the Co-operative Hive to see how many actions have been taken?

In the meantime, enjoy your card games and don’t forget to let us know if you manage to complete any of the action points!

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Fair ‘Bucks for Costa Rican Farmers

Many a coffee lover, if you are anything like me, will have breathed a huge sigh of relief last year when coffee company Starbucks announced that its espresso based drinks had been certified as Fairtrade. Now we can enjoy those white cups with pride, especially now they come complete with the Fairtrade Mark.

Starbucks are doing more than simply paying lip service. Most people know that by purchasing Fairtrade coffee, farmers in the developing world are guaranteed a fair price for their coffee and this is true, however the movement runs much deeper than this.

Have you ever taken the time to think about how farmers finance their coffee production? Well that’s where we come in. Shared Interest is the world’s only 100% fair trade lender. Based in the UK and with offices in Costa Rica, Kenya and Peru, we work with fair trade farmers and producers in the developing world, providing them with the pre finance they need to maintain their orders.

So what’s that got to do with Starbucks? One of our newest customers, Coopelibertad has achieved the certification required to supply the popular brand.

Coopelibertad was established since 1961; however its coffee achieved Fairtrade status in 2009, making it eligible to apply for a Shared Interest loan. The organisation collects coffee from other farmers in the area and prepares it for export – washing, drying and pilling – Coopelibertad then exports the coffee to international buyers in America and Europe.

Investment from Shared Interest will help Coopelibertad secure a stable future for the organisation. The co-operative has been the commercial arm of coffee families in Heredia, Costa Rica for at least four generations and the organisation wants to encourage younger people to see coffee production as a viable option to stop them migrating to the cities. In addition urban developments are raising the value of land in the area. This means that Coopelibertad may have to relocate some of its facilities. A Shared Interest loan will help the co-operative adjust to these changes, as funds will facilitate growth and development.

So next time you pop into Starbucks for a cheeky latte you can do so in the knowledge that your purchase is helping to secure a fair price for co-operatives such as Coopelibertad in Costa Rica. If you want to take your commitment to fair trade to the next level
check out www.shared-interest.com to find out how you can invest directly in fair trade businesses in the developing world.

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2010: A Fairtrade Anniversary

2010 seems to be the year for fair trade anniversaries, here at Shared Interest we are celebrating 20 years at the heart of the fair trade movement. Fairtrade chocolate bar Dubble is now 10 and Chesham4Fairtrade celebrated five years as a Fairtrade Town by becoming Shared Interest members.

Colin Cartwright of Chesham4Fairtrade said “we are very pleased to invest with Shared Interest…more needs to be done to support the farms and small businesses.  A small loan to such a business can make a huge difference to whole communities.

We value the support of fair trade groups such as Chesham4Fairtrade and the intrinsic role they play in helping raise awareness of our work. As the Fairtrade Foundation prepares the announcement for the UK’s 500th Fairtrade Town we hope that many of the 500 towns certified as Fairtrade will follow in Chesham’s footsteps and take the next step in their commitment to fair trade by becoming Shared Interest members.

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Increased orders for skilled Ugandan producers

From Rachel Ngondo, Regional Development Executive.

When Malcolm, Shared Interest’s Customer Services Manager, came to Nairobi last week I was reminded of four years ago when he interviewed me for this job and I am amazed at how time has gone so fast!

This is the week that the East African Community (EAC), comprising of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi, launched its own common market for goods, labour and capital within the region, with the goal of a common currency by 2012 and full political federation in 2015. The EAC is a potential precursor to the establishment of the East African Federation, a proposed federation of its five members into a single state. This means now I can live and work anywhere in the region with no requirement of a work permit.

In Kenya, Malcolm and I visited Salom Enterprises and, as always, Pauline, Salom’s Managing Director does not stop amazing us with more and more projects she is working on and the new ones she wants to start. She is really passionate about the coffee project she is setting up and she always takes the opportunity to get more information about buyers and advice on how to set up. It is this energy and enthusiasm that we saw in this organization that I know will be translated to many of the producers she works with.  Pauline was also not short of thankful words to tell us as she was working on an order for an Australian buyer who contacted her through us after he read Salom’s story in a recent edition Quarterly Return (QR) magazine. It is great to know the potential QR brings to our customers.

Unfortunately our trip to Uganda on Sunday was delayed first by one hour at the airport and then three hours from Entebe airport to Kampala. Apparently there were three things happening that Sunday; parents visiting their kids in boarding school, people coming from the Lake Victoria beach in Entebe and a music concert. As if the agony of waiting in traffic was not enough, the presidents convoy came zooming past us, with police sirens warning drivers to give way!

In Uganda we met with Nawou. It is an organization we have worked with for many years and both Malcolm and I had visited them before but we could not remember the way there as there is so much building work now going on. Peace is now the new Secretary General of the organization and it was impressive when she said that unlike other organizations, the financial crisis did not affect them and in fact they received more orders! We understood why when we saw the impressively intricate new designs that they are making. The women work in the villages but they are able to learn and make the new designs that are requested from their buyers.  We were informed that today the women are facing challenges in sourcing raw materials as wetlands which are their main sources are getting depleted. This shows the importance of the work that Shared Interest Foundation is doing within its training programs to create awareness of sustainable production methods.

I’ll be back again soon with more on our journey in Uganda….

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Co-op Awards 2010

I have just returned from a weekend in Plymouth where the weather was beautiful. This year the Plymouth Co-operative Society celebrates its 150th Anniversary as a co-operative. In honour of this anniversary Co-operatives UK held their annual conference and AGM as part of the newly launched Co-operatives Fortnight (19th June to 3rd July) in the Pavilions with around 500 attendees.

I was joined in Plymouth by Sally Reith our Supporter Relations Officer for the South. Prior to the event Co-ops UK had asked investors and customers of their members to nominate those organisations who had shown exceptional diversity, innovation and excellence and six awards were to be presented at the Gala Dinner on Saturday evening.

One of our long term investors and previous Council Member, Roger Sawtell, nominated Shared Interest and we were delighted to be selected as one of the six to receive the award from almost 60 applications. The awards, which were all specially made by a ceramic co-operative, were presented by David Button, Chair of Co-operatives UK who congratulated us by saying “we had shown how co-operation could tackle some of the world big issues”

The photograph shows Sally and me with Ed Mayo, head of Co-ops UK who is also a member of Shared Interest and a keen fair trade supporter having served on the board of the Fairtrade Foundation.

What a fantastic way to celebrate our 20th Anniversary and all our members should be proud that their support for Shared Interest has enabled us to carry on our work with disadvantaged fair trade producers and achieve this national recognition.

Ed Mayo, head of Co-ops UK, is a member of Shared Interest and a keen supporter of fair trade.

Ed Mayo, head of Co-ops UK, is a member of Shared Interest and a keen supporter of fair trade.

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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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