November 4, 2011

Featured: Fair Trade at Fordham - Kenyan Artisan Joseph Muchina Speaks

Fordham was graced with the presence of a fair trade artisan from Kenya, during which he gave two lectures regarding his fair trade business and enjoyed various jaunts around the city. His trip to New York was made possible by Amani, a fair trade company run by our very own Fordham students. 

Joseph Muchina is a Kenyan artisan whose business, Trinity Jewelry Crafts, has been an active participant the fair trade industry for over twenty years. He currently sells to some of the largest fair trade companies in the world, including Ten Thousand Villages and SERRV. He began in 1984, when the fair trade movement had just begun to gain support and recognition. On Tuesday, he recounted his journey growing up in the slums of Kenya. A grassroots coalition of local churches sent missionaries into his neighborhood where they taught the children to make various handicrafts for a living. Young Joseph's artistic eye was unleashed, leading to the launch of Trinity Jewelry along with two other friends.

During his Thursday night lecture sponsored by the Students for Fair Trade Club, Mr. Muchina showed pictures of the workers at Trinity. As he flipped through the pictures, he fondly introduced them by name. He employs only a small number of workers, with each worker receiving adequate benefits as well as the opportunity to participate in decision making within the company. Each employee is trained in the art of jewelry making under Mr. Muchina’s creative direction. The difference between non-fair trade artisans and fair-trade artisans, Mr. Muchina explained, is that the former is profit-based while fair-trade is producer-based. After speaking of the hardships involved in running his fair-trade business, including an over-abundance of potential workers and fierce competition in the industry, Mr. Muchina dispensed some last words of advice to Fordham students. “We learn by seeing and touching,” he said. “Don’t just stay in one place. By going out, you experience hardships and learn about other ways of life.” Mr. Muchina’s Thursday night lecture enabled us to “go out” and “experience” the joy of a small room in Kenya filled with fairly treated workers making beautiful pieces of jewelry.

For those desiring more information on Trinity Jewelry, or interested in buying some of its products, please visit Amani at Faber Hall 451 & shop the collection. Open hours: Wednesdays 12:00pm-6:pm/Tuesday & Thursday by appointment only. 

-- Stephanie Hsu (RH ’15)

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