Helping Communities Abroad and At Home

By Megan Arzbaecher, SERRV Store Madison

When I started my job at SERRV last April, I was so excited to start working for a non-profit that helped artisans and farmers around the world. Giving a stable and equitable job to disenfranchised women or mentally handicapped people or sexual assault victims was what drew me to SERRV’s mission. These were people the global community had forgotten about, and fair trade helped create a just future for them. It never dawned on me that a lot of these same problems exist in the US, and in my home city of Madison, WI.

Our artisan partners from India visit our booth at a local street festival.

In June 2012, I began working as SERRV’s outreach coordinator through the SERRV Store. With our headquarters here in Madison, I realized how important it was for us to be an active member of our own community. It has become my goal to bridge SERRV’s global work with the needs of our local area. Many of the problems that exist in Nepal or Kenya still exist in this country, even if the forms are different.

For the past few months, I have connected with other area non-profits and companies who all support the same sustainable future that SERRV does. Through partnerships and joint special events, we will be able to accomplish real change in the Madison community as well as the global community. There are so many upcoming events and partnerships, I can’t wait to get started planning them all!

Martin the Puggle with Sarah the store manager

This past week, we partnered with the Dane County Humane Society to host a fundraiser at the SERRV Store. Supporting compassion for all is exactly what Fair Trade is about! We were graced by one of the shelter dogs, Martin, who warmed the hearts of all our customers. He reminded us how real the issue of animal cruelty is, and brought home the importance of this fundraiser.

We are also partnering with area student organizations to raise awareness of Fair Trade on campus. This week, we will be co-hosting an event with the University of Wisconsin’s Slow Food chapter. With organic food products from the Middle East and Fair Trade chocolate from Ghana, SERRV is a perfect match to the mission of Slow Food. By sharing stories of food from around the world within our own community, we will be able to connect students and supporters from many parts of the world.

One of our amazing interns at a SERRV booth during the weekly Capitol Square Farmer’s Market.

My most anticipated fall event is a collaborative art show & fundraiser we will be hosting in the store. Our partner, Chyrsalis, helps people with mental illness enter the workforce and offers them workplace training. Several of their clients are artists, whose art we hope to showcase while also sharing stories of artists from around the world who share similar struggles. Art has the ability to transform any life, and we look forward to celebrating the power of artistic talents.

So many times, I get wrapped up in the problems our global community faces, that I forget those very problems exist within my own community. I feel blessed that I am able to help alleviate problems on both fronts through my work at SERRV. I hope all of you are able to make one or all of our events, because they are a great opportunity to support SERRV’s mission while also giving back to your own county.

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