In case you haven’t finished your Christmas shopping…

Why not make your gifts as ethical as possible by visiting one of the many Fair Trade shops in the Diocese of Oxford?

Are you still finishing your Christmas shopping? Or maybe you have are only just starting with a last-minute dash around the shops. So why not make your gifts as ethical as possible by visiting one of the many Fair Trade shops in the Diocese of Oxford?

“When you shop at Fairtrade at St. Michaels,” says manager Daniella Cromwell, “you can expect to be met with a smile and a burst of colourful products from all around the world. We are often described as an Aladdin’s cave, with a vast range of products, ranging from your daily consumables like coffee, tea and muesli to gifts like jewellery, scarves, bags and musical instruments.” Fairtrade at St Micheal’s is at St Michael’s Church, on Cornmarket in central Oxford.

According to Sjoerd Vogt from Faringdon’s Fair Trade shop, The Mustard Seed, “It’s about changing the world; trying to put in place a level playing field; trying to give people the means to earn a living rather than being exploited.”

John Coyle, one of the founders of Headington Fair Trade, which sources foods and gifts from around the world, explains: “So many people choosing a Christmas gift are interested in who made it or where it comes from. So we can tell them part of the story – like that of the groups in Kashmir, who made our beautifully decorated paper mache Christmas decorations” – decorations which are among the shop’s many popular items.

  • At The Mustard Seed – which describes itself as ‘the little shop full of big surprises’ they’ve been doing a brisk trade in their Christmas hampers – including themed hampers such as the ‘hot and spicy’ (chili sauces, chutney, pickle, pesto, nuts, savoury biscuits and a pepper mill), and the ‘bake a difference’ filled with Fair Trade baking ingredients. The pre-packaged hampers are all finished – but there are still lots of ingredients in the store for you to buy material to make up your own special package: coffees, teas, drinking chocolate, cocoa, snack bars, chocolates, sugars, biscuits, fruit juice, honeys, jam, marmalade, dried fruit, nuts, nibbles, peanuts, rice, pasta, handmade writing paper, scarves, jewellery, wood carvings, handicrafts, and cards.
  • For Maranda St John Nicolle, from local charity Christian Concern for One World, Eswatini Kitchen chutneys, pickles, jellies and chilli sauce have a special meaning. “I visited Eswatini last year and saw first hand the amazing work they’re doing – they are a Fair Trade organisation that helps people from many groups gain some extra income: not just their employees in the kitchens themselves, but also local people who can sell fruit and vegetables from their garden for the chutneys and jams, and people living with disabilities in remote countryside areas, who carve the wooden spoons for their gift sets.”

“One of my favourite producers close to my heart,” Daniella of Fair Trade at St Michael’s says, “ is Hands of Hope, which is a cooperative based in Nong Khai, Northeastern Thailand. They provide employment for people living with HIV or AIDS. They make cards and different kinds of stationery out of Saa paper (from the Mulberry tree), creating their own designs and doing everything by hand. They receive a good wage, and the costs are covered if they need to go to the hospital for check-ups or treatments. Having visited them myself I saw what a wonderful environment they are working in and how well they are looked after.”

Each Fair Trade shop has a different character. One Village, in Woodstock, was one of the first shops in the country to establish a fair trade supply chain and is well known for its range of beautiful home furnishings – it’s a one-stop shop for decorating, with rugs, linens, ceramics and more.

Shoppers at the Cornerstone in Grove are not only able to do their Christmas shopping. They can also enjoy coffee, lunch or tea in the cafè connected to the shop. This weekend, there’s even free hot mulled punch, on offer all day Friday, Saturday and on Christmas Eve itself. In the shop, manager Sarah Shewring says that perennial favourites such as Christmas ornaments, chocolates, and Fair Trade silver jewellery are all available … and the bamboo sock sets are flying off the shelves – “they make a brilliant last-minute Christmas present”

Cornerstone, like the Mustard Seed, also sells a selection of Christian books – both were founded by local Churches Together groups. ‘Just’, in Wendover, also sells Christian materials alongside its range of Fair Trade goods. Founded by St Mary’s Church, it’s putting forward the aesthetic case for Fair Trade – the shop recently won an award for best window display during Wendover’s Christmas shopping event! The church of Christ the Cornerstone in Milton Keynes also sells a combination of Christian items and Fair Trade food and gifts – its shop is located in the church itself, beside its popular cafe.

At Wallingford’s Just Trading, the emphasis throughout is on products that embody not only Fair Trade but also practices that are good for the planet. There’s a wide range of organic Fair Trade children’s clothing for example, as well as gifts, foodstuffs, and beauty products. Founder Amanda Griffiths says their most popular items are chic bowls, made of recycled aluminium that has been hand enamelled in vibrant colours. Incense, oil burners and scented candles are also sold.  And if you’re wondering about preparing a vegan Christmas dinner, there’s a selection of organic, gluten-free, vegan Christmas puddings and mince pies.

The RISC World Shop in Reading also focuses on sustainability – and on all things international. The shop’s front room holds a wide selection of Fair Trade ornaments, china, food and sustainable household goods: the back is a bookstore with books from and about countries all around the world – children’s stories, cookbooks, books about sustainable development, and much more.

The last Saturday before Christmas will also see some pop-up Fair Trade shops. The Deddington Fair Traders will have their usual Traidcraft stall at the farmers’ market – and in Jericho (Oxford), there will be a Fair Trade sale at the Jericho Community Centre. And for people who aren’t near any of the dedicated Fair Trade shops, there’s also Oxfam, whose shops generally carry a range of Fairtrade food and Fair Trade gifts.

“We know presents aren’t the focus of Christmas, but if you’re giving presents, it’s lovely to be able to give ‘gifts that give twice.’ I love the thought that people around the world are better able to find dignified work, educate their children, and get access to good housing and healthcare because of our Christmas choices,” adds Maranda.