Monday, February 13, 2006

SERRV: Fair Trade For Over Fifty Years

S ERRV International is a non-profit organization that promotes the social and economic progress of people in developing regions of the world by purchasing and marketing their crafts in a just and direct manner. It was one of the first alternative trade organizations in the world and was a founding member of the International Fair Trade Association (IFAT). Originally created in 1949 by the Church of the Brethren to assist World War II refugees, SERRV received a distribution network in the early 1960's from Church World Service.

SERRV has been creating a strategic marketplace based on fairness for almost fifty years, but it is no longer a program of the Church of the Brethren. ( However, SERRV still donates 10% of its annual LWR Handcraft Project sales to Lutheran World Relief to support their partners and projects overseas.) SERRV also has a partnership with Catholic Relief Services to sell fair trade handcrafts and foods at Catholic parishes, and SERRV works independently with churches around the country that belong to many different denominations.

Today, more than 3,000 one-of-a-kind items made by artisans from over thirty countries are on display in their International Gift Shop located in New Windsor, Maryland. In the alternative trade community, SERRV is known for its outstanding customer service and quality control for its products. The purchaser of a handcraft from SERRV International becomes part of a global partnership fostering justice and hope. These purchases bring "dignity and needed income to a developing world artisan." And the purchaser receives a one of a kind quality product at an affordable price.

Today the organization presents itself as "A Greater Gift" rather than SERRV. At the creation of the organization, "SERRV" stood for "Sales Exchange Refugee Rehabilitation and Vocation". Back then, and still today, SERRV International markets crafts through churches, socially responsible retailers, and community groups throughout the United States. They also distribute products through direct mail. With a current revenue generation of $6 million annually, SERRV International is marketing globally in cooperation with artisans from over 30 developing countries.

Today as A Greater Gift, SERRV International seeks to promote the social and economic progress of people in developing regions of the world by marketing their products in a just and direct manner.

In July of 2004 SERRV launched an eCommerce site. Since September 2005 a that site has been hosted by Timberline Interactive and SERRV is very pleased with the growth that took place during the 2005 holiday season. In 2005 sales were approximately $8.5 million.

The ultimate goal of SERRV is "to alleviate poverty and empower low-income people through trade, training and other forms of community support as they work to improve their lives."

SERRV seeks to carry out its aims and accomplish its goals of benefiting the lives of those it intends to help by:

"Marketing their handcrafts and food products in a just and direct manner.
Educating consumers in the United States about economic justice and other cultures.
Providing development assistance to low-income craftspeople through their community-based organizations."

They also offer their artisan and farmer partners up to 50% advance payment on orders, which helps them to purchase raw materials and have a more regular income so they can avoid high interest rates from borrowing locally. "

Although it uses a new name, its mission remains the same. And that is "to promote the social and economic progress of people in developing regions of the world by marketing their products in a just and direct manner." The organization also follows a set of internationally recognized fair trade principles and practices, including commitment to fair pay, equal opportunity for women, and no child exploitation.

Visit A Greater Gift to see how you can serve along with SERRV .

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For more information on the specific work that SERRV does with its African partners visit the website and click on the link for "Artisans and Farmers" and then on "Africa".

During the 57 years that SERRV has been working to alleviate poverty, economic conditions have gradually improved in much of South America and Asia. However, conditions in sub-Saharan Africa have actually deteriorated, and life expectancy in much of this region has decreased to less than 40 years. SERRV has responded by committing to a multi-year Focus on Africa initiative that aims to increase U.S. purchases of African fair trade handcrafts and foods, partner with new cooperatively organized African artisan and farmer groups, and undertake more capacity-building projects on the continent. SERRV is also committed to increasing our customers’ awareness of the problems facing Africa.
Meredith Mason
SERRV International/A Greater Gift