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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 April, 2004, 15:32 GMT 16:32 UK
Oxfam manager's 'inspiring' visit
Swati Sharples
Swati Sharples says she would love to help more in the Caribbean
An Oxfam worker fresh from a charity trip to the Caribbean has witnessed first-hand the poverty people face daily.

Swati Sharples spent two weeks visiting Dominica, Guyana and St Lucia to see how the Fairtrade movement has helped farmers rejuvenate their livelihood.

The scheme aims to ensure workers are paid a fair price for their product and receive a regular income.

Ms Sharples, who lives in Flintshire, said the trip was "inspiring".

"People have this conception of the Caribbean being this really, really glamorous resort with sun, sand and sea, " she said.

They are getting a better price and can afford education for their children
Swati Sharples

"We did see sun, sand and sea but we realised that the world out there is Third World which many people don't know about."

Ms Sharples, a 35-year-old mother of two, lives in Gwernymynydd near Mold, but is originally from Rajasthan in India and says she knows all about poverty.

"I myself come from the Third World. I come from India so I was not really surprised but it was different.

"(In) the country I come from you see that people are seriously, seriously destitute and people commit crimes and thefts in order to feed themselves but in the Caribbean it was a bit different because food is available.

"These countries I class as paradise but when you see how much suffering is there, I'd love to go back and help more," she added.

In Dominica the main business is banana farming, but Ms Sharples said the industry had suffered.

"In 2000 the prices of bananas dropped and the reason was US dollar bananas - they completely thrashed the market of the Caribbean banana.

"They were cheaper in bulk and farmers out there really, really suffered and most of the farmers stopped their profession and other livelihoods."

She said that since Oxfam stepped in with its Fairtrade initiative people were returning to banana farming.

"They are getting a better price and can afford education for their children," she said.

Ms Swati, manager of Oxfam's shop in Wrexham, said shoppers in the town had become more aware of the importance of buying Fairtrade goods.

In July last year, Wrexham became the first county in Wales to achieve Fairtrade status.

To make the grade, Wrexham had to fulfil a strict criteria set down by the Fairtrade Foundation.

This included a minimum of 24 shops required to sell at least two items with the fair trade logo.

Surplus money from the selling of Fairtrade produce goes back into the countries that need it most.

"We went to Castle Bruce in Dominica and I saw loads of lampposts on a street.

"That street used to be dark and it's glowing now because they have money to establish those lampposts there," she added.

Fair trade first for county
18 Jul 03  |  North East Wales
Oxfam demands end to 'unfair' trade
11 Apr 02  |  Business
Town wins ethical trade tag
12 Jul 02  |  Wales

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