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A fond farewell for Trade Aid

The national closure of Trade Aid’s retail arm has prompted a wave of warm reflections from the staff volunteers who have served in the Masterton store over the last 37 years.

Trade Aid marks its 50th anniversary this year, and the Masterton store opened on November 2, 1986 – the 22nd in the network.

Over the years, its location has changed a few times, opening firstly in Centrepoint Mall, then 52 Queen St, where it remained for 17 years.

Other Queen St locations included sojourns at number 96, a brief return to 52 Queen St in 2012, and lastly in 2022 to its current location at number 98.

The heart of Trade Aid has always been about helping artisans and farmers in developing countries to overcome unfair trade barriers and get a fair price for their work.

Over the years, Trade Aid Masterton has had many volunteer retail assistants and helpers, without whom the store would not have been able to operate.

One of the youngest has been Megan McCaffrey, just 14 when she came on board.

Starting out at the back of the store, Megan was motivated to make a change in her community. But she found her decision to “give back” had personal benefits as well.

“I have retail skills now, and I’ve met people outside of Trade Aid that I really would not have spoken to,” she said.

“I started out doing vacuuming – you’ve got to start somewhere. Then I started doing stock takes and out the back doing labelling. There’s a lot of behind the scenes stuff I learned, and open and closing the shop.

“Even in a small way, you feel like you are making an impact somehow.”

Another volunteer, Alice Williams, has been involved in the Masterton store from its inception in 1986.

A love for retail and a belief in fair trade were her driving reasons – and, as the mother of four, volunteering gave her an interest outside of the home as well.

Alice later became one of Trade Aid’s educators, talking to schools and community groups about fair trade.

She rejoined the volunteer crew recently on retiring. “The volunteers have been a small group who have come to know each other very well and appreciate each other’s company.”

Each Trade Aid store was governed locally by a board of trustees, which bought stock from the group’s headquarters in Christchurch.

The organisation has supported thousands of artisans and farmers in 25 countries.

After the stores close, Trade Aid will continue selling products online and focus on its successful wholesale coffee business.

The chairman of the Masterton Trade Aid trust, Tim Bannatyne, said he wanted to thank the many people who had volunteered their services over the years, and the many Wairarapa customers who choose to support fair trade.

Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall
Erin Kavanagh-Hall is the editor of the Wairarapa Midweek. She has been a journalist for the past 10 years, and has a keen interest in arts, culture, social issues, and community justice.

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