In the spirit of Earth Day, Spes Nova, the Fordham-based, fair-trade nonprofit, will be collaborating with fair trade groups from St. John’s University and the Vassar Haiti Project to sell goods that respect people and the planet.

The “fair trade fair” will take place at the Lincoln Center campus on April 22, 23, and 24, and will feature crafts made in Haitian, Kenyan, and Guatemalan communities.

“We’re trying to connect artists in these developing communities with consumers,” said Pinar Zubaroglu, a doctoral candidate at the Graduate School of Social Service.

The Vassar Haiti Project will bring more than 300 painting from Haiti to the fair.

Erick Rengifo Minaya, Ph.D., an associate professor of economics and founder of Spes Nova, enlisted Zubaroglu, who traveled frequently to Haiti as part of her dissertation research, to help make contacts with artists there.

“Working in Haiti I began to realize that there are so many challenges, but the people are so resilient,” she said.

Andrew Meade, Ph.D., co-founder of the Vassar Haiti Project, said the peoples’ resiliency is reflected in their artistic creations.

“It’s accessible art. It reaches out and grabs you with rich colors and a subject matter rich with joy,” he said.

The Vassar group will be bringing 200 paintings and hundreds of handmade crafts to the event, he said.  The event will feature a panel discussion titled “Communities at Risk:  Social Justice in the Developing World” at 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 22. Panelists include, Vinay Swami, Ph.D., professor and chair of French and Francophone Studies at Vassar, Patrick Struebi, founder of Fairtrasa, and Sean Murray, associate professor of Core Studies at St. John’s.

Painting courtesy Vassar Haiti Project
Painting courtesy Vassar Haiti Project

“A lot of organizations try to do this kind of work alone, but all the groups participating really believe in fair trade—not just the concept but in the application of it,” said Meade.  “Through their arts and efforts, we are empowering all three communities.”

The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the Gabelli Business School will also participate in the three-day event.  Proceeds will go to support Spes Nova, the Vassar Haiti Project, and student-driven fair trade groups at St. John’s.

See a schedule of events.


Tom Stoelker is senior staff writer and visual media coordinator for Fordham News. After fifteen years as a freelance designer, Tom shifted his focus to writing and photography. He graduated from Lehman College, CUNY where he majored in English literature and photography and he received his master's in journalism from Columbia University. His work has appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Wall Street Journal, and The Architect's Newspaper, where he was associate editor.