During Fairtrade Fornight (28th February – 13th March), BLINC hosted Jitzy Centeno from Nicaragua. Jitzy is a Fairtrade, organic coffee producer from El Jocote, a remote, rural community located in the north-western part of the country. She studied on weekends to achieve a secondary and university level education, but remains a grower with her own plot of coffee trees, the size of about two football pitches. She is also a member of the Tierra Nuestra women’s cooperative.
BLINC arranged a school tour in Bristol and South Gloucestershire to allow Jitzy to speak to students about her life in Nicaragua, and the benefits of being involved in the Fairtrade system. We visited 13 sites, involving 20 schools of which seven were feeder primaries.
South Gloucestershire: Pucklechurch, St Mary’s Thornbury, Castle School, Winterbourne, Downend, Kingsfield, Culverhill, Mangotsfield PRU, Mangotsfield Secondary, and Mangotsfield and Tynings feeder primaries
Bristol: Ashton Gate, Sefton Park, St Patrick’s, Brislington Enterprise College and 5 feeder primaries
Whilst most students were year six, seven, or eight, we covered the entire age and ability spectrum from year four to sixth formers, and included a SEN school (Culverhill), a SEN class at Brislington, and a morning with the Pupil Referral Unit at Mangotsfield. This was, we believe, a first, and it is very pleasing to report that these sessions with less able and troubled children worked very well. The informal sessions with small groups of sixth formers were also very interesting for both us and the students, enabling them to get a first-hand picture of life in a rural community.
Jitzy gave presentations and allowed time for questions and answers. Activities included a range of well known Fairtrade games (e.g. chocolate, banana and coffee games), word searches, and poster-making, as well as the viewing of beans before and after roasting. Most schools had done some preparation, and students clearly benefited more where this had been done. Some had very good questions indeed. A few had rehearsed “Goodbye” and “Thank you” in Spanish, which was pleasing. Many classes were planning to follow up by completing posters or displays, and some schools had included the visit as part of a wider Fairtrade or citizenship programme.
Feedback from schools has been very positive, with all schools saying they would like a repeat visit next year. A number of staff spoke Spanish or had visited Nicaragua. A couple of schools were interested in an ongoing contact. The impact on staff was considerable; one teacher was kind enough to say it was inspirational.
Jitzy also visited the Bishop’s Brew and BLINC’s International Women’s Day event. She spoke to Bristol procurement officers and at the Burgess Salmon Fairtrade fashion show. She attended but did not speak at the Fairtade fashion show in the Galleries, though she did find it fascinating; she had never seen a large shopping mall before. There were also a few private social events that she attended.