Around this time school parents (and grandparents, aunts, uncles, colleagues) everywhere get hit up with the dreaded school fundraisers. You know the ones, the wrapping paper, chocolates, coupon books, you name it. Soon enough, your kid’s teacher will ask you to send some money for Johnny to “buy” you a holiday gift at the holiday marketplace hosted at the school.

Come holiday time, you’ll feign excitement and gleefully open the kitten coin purse the size of a penny that your kid bought for $5. You think to yourself, there has GOT to be a better way to support my kid’s fundraisers than buy products that may have been produced under questionable conditions.

Two women have found a way – and are actively implementing their solutions in their hometown schools and throughout the country.

Meet Amy Kofmehl-Sobkowiak from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Amy and her husband, Michael, founded and operate, Women of the Cloud Forest, a fair-trade project they started almost 10 years ago while they were living in Costa Rica. The women from Costa Rica produce lovely jewelry from rainforest seeds and the company sells the line at retailers nationwide including zoos, museums and nature centers.

“Our charter school has an environmeTM-WomenoftheCloudForestntal theme so everything that we do at the school needs to meet that mission in some way,” says Amy. “It was a logical leap then that if as a parent group we were going to offer a holiday marketplace for the students, it would have to be fair trade. ”Since the parents at the school were aware of their work with women in Costa Rica, they asked if Amy could be a resource for them, providing education on fair trade for the students and staff as well as source products for the holiday marketplace. “Through our involvement with the Fair Trade Federation, we were easily able to find wholesalers with whom to work and provide artisan stories and an amazing array of products,” she adds.

The ripple effect? Last year’s fair trade holiday market was such a success that a few other schools in their area have asked Amy to help them “convert” their holiday marketplaces to entire fair trade offerings this year.

“I feel like when you start with our youth, this is where the greatest potential for change can occur,” adds Amy. “They will carry this message home and educate their whole families about the idea of the power of a single purchase.”

Next week I’ll share the story of Joan Shifrin, co-founder of Global Goods Partners. If you’re looking for an alternative to those wrapping paper or non-fair trade chocolate fundraisers, make sure to read what Global Goods Partners is offering schools nationwide.

I’m not sure how receptive my kids’ school principal will be of this type of fundraiser or holiday marketplace idea but I’m willing to give it a shot and ask him. Because, like Amy, I believe our youth have great potential in helping us shape the world and it’s our responsibilty to teach them how our purchases and what we choose to support can shape this world.

To learn more about Women of the Cloud Forest and its fair trade and eco-friendly jewelry handmade using rainforest seeds by women in Costa Rica, visit

Megy Karydes, Founder

World Shoppe