Ruth and Mike’s story: Investing in a fairer world

Ruth and Mike with a Shared Interest stall

During Fairtrade Fortnight this year, Shared Interest and ECCR ran an event to explore how our financial decisions can help shape a fairer, more sustainable world.

Speaking at the event, alongside our Money Makes Change programme manager, were Shared Interest volunteers Ruth and Mike Holmes. What got them thinking about how to use their money for good?

“My husband, Mike, and I have been involved with the fair trade movement since we lived in Newcastle in the early 1980s. We can remember visiting the very first Traidcraft shop in an old warehouse near the Quayside and drinking the original Fairtrade coffee – the taste has improved significantly since then!

Shared Interest first came to our attention when we read an article in The Big Issue magazine. An ethical investment organisation that supports people in remote and disadvantaged communities, to trade and earn a living, seemed such a great idea. The fact that our investment would help farmers and handcraft producers to develop their businesses and ultimately their standard of living, particularly appealed to us.

Keen to find out more about how our money was being used, we attended regional information events, initially held in person but recently of course via Zoom. Regional representatives based in South America and Africa have given updates on the current issues facing producers including climate change and access to markets to sell their goods. Stories on how producers and co-operatives have used their loans illustrate the benefits of Shared Interest’s work at a local level. Like the small handcraft business in Mongolia providing employment within their community by supporting people to make woollen slippers at home.

We have been extremely impressed with the enthusiasm and passion of the Shared Interest team and, having taken early retirement, felt we had time to get actively involved as volunteers.

We met whilst volunteering for the student counselling service when we studied at Newcastle University and are always keen to find opportunities where we can volunteer together on an ad-hoc basis to fit around our other commitments.

As Shared Interest Ambassadors, we attend events and give talks to help promote Shared Interest to a wider audience. In March 2020 we ran a Fairtrade Information Day at our church with stalls promoting Oxfam, Traidcraft, Shared Interest and CAFOD.

Over the last year or so, talks have been on Zoom, including a presentation as part of the recent Shared Interest/ECCR webinar, and we’re looking forward to being able to attend events in person now that lockdown has eased.

We will soon be running a Money Makes Change workshop in Lincoln which gives us an opportunity to engage with local churchgoers.

We’ve been volunteers with Shared Interest for over 5 years and receive great support from staff. It’s a really fulfilling role and we feel that, in a small way, we’re doing something practical to enable people in developing countries to improve their own lives and those of their families.”

Thanks to Ruth and Mike for sharing their story. As part of the Money Makes Change programme we are gathering stories from individuals and churches who are seeking to use the finances they steward to shape a fairer, more sustainable world. If you’d be willing to share your own story, please get in touch.

  • Could you run a Money Makes Change workshop with your church? Explore our small group workshop resource here.
  • Download and share an article that introduces the idea of ethical investment and gives ideas for action. 
  • Find out more about the work of Shared Interest and how they use finance to shape a fairer world.

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