Many describe author and writer Neil Gaiman as a new age rock star of the literary world. Not only is he married to activist and punk princess Amanda Palmer, but Gaiman is responsible for creating one of the most influential comics books series of all-time, Sandman, and is also the author of two best-selling novels, “American Gods” and “Anansi Boys”, which are currently being adapted into television shows.

There is little that Neil Gaiman hasn’t accomplished and recently, Gaiman used his celebrity status to help raise money for Heifer International through Worldbuilders, a collective power of readers, authors, and fellow book lovers who care about making the world a better place.

Joining forces with founder and fellow fantasy author Pat Rothfuss, Neil Gaiman recorded himself reading a live version of Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham in playful voices as a reward for those who helped Worldbuilders raise $500,000 through Heifer International.

“Heifer International is my favorite charity. It helps people raise themselves up out of poverty and starvation. Heifer promotes education, sustainable agriculture, and local industry all over the world. They don’t just keep kids from starving, they make it so families can take care of themselves. They give goats, sheep, and chickens to families so their children have milk to drink, warm clothes to wear and eggs to eat,” said Rothfuss.

Fellow fantasy authors contributing in raising awareness and donations for Worldbuilders included Scott Lynch, Elizabeth Bear, and John Scalzi. Other musicians and actors also supported the cause including Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Amber Benson who will record herself and Rothfuss reading urban fantasy fiction if the charity raises $700,000 by the fundraisers end.

The money received through Worldbuilders will be used to empower families and their communities on a “teach a man how to fish” philosophy which aims at ending poverty through increasing opportunities. Heifer International’s core model, Passing on the Gift, sets out to bring sustainable agriculture and revenue to areas plagued by years of poverty.

By providing animals to communities and teaching their members how to utilize such resources, Heifer International works to help the recipient benefit from the knowledge and products the project and animals produce. After specific techniques are learned, the recipient than becomes the donor and teaches other members of the community the same values they were taught.

After that training is passed on, so is the first female offspring of the original gift, which starts the cycle all over again. Nearly 70 years later, this process is not only a success, but is also creating opportunities for building schools, creating agricultural collaborations, and boosting the local economy.

Jeffrey Scott Haley
Feature Writer

Sources: Patrick Rothfuss, A.V. Club, World Builders, Heifer International
Photo: Entertainment Weekly

Oxfam Fair Trade
Coffee is the second most-traded commodity and one of the most consumed drinks around the world. The consumption of coffee is a universal business within its own, for its demand is incredibly high worldwide. Drinking coffee has become almost second nature to many who can afford it. American author and journalist, Sarah Vowell, says that she realized that drinking a mocha, although seemingly trivial, was in fact “to gulp down the entire history of the New World.” She continues on to say that the modern mocha is nothing less than a “bittersweet concoction of imperialism, genocide, invention, and consumerism served with whipped cream on top.”

Taken into consideration how big of a role coffee plays in people’s lives today, one would think that people would know where their coffee was coming from and what kind of conditions it was produced in. However, the truth is to the contrary because many people have no idea what conditions coffee producers undergo. Approximately 25 million farmers depend on coffee production/sales to make their living, and many of them live in poverty. The coffee market is prone to severe fluctuations due to changes in climate which in turn affect the growth patterns of coffee plants. Due to the longevity of the growth of coffee plants, producers cannot react quickly to changes in coffee demand. Thus, this is where smart consumers can help poor people, and in particular, coffee producers.

As smart informed consumers, people can buy certified fair trade coffee which basically means that farmers and coffee producers are paid a fair and stable price regardless of changing conditions. A recent Oxfam Australia survey reports that more than 85% of consumers want more fair trade products in their supermarkets, and 60% believe that their consumer decisions can make a difference in the lives of producers and farmers in less-developed countries. Marcial Valladolid, from CACVRA, which is a small producer organization in Peru, expressed how coffee cultivation used to disappoint him because the money he made was not remotely close to cover the cost of his coffee production. CACVRA uses its fair trade premium to “support and improve organic cultivation and certification.” By joining this cooperative, Marcel is content that he was able to receive some profit, and he is hopeful for a future with more fair trade.

It is no wonder that coffee was once described by Neil Gaiman as “sweet as sin,” taking into account all the producers and farmers horribly affected by our enjoyment of their produce. Majority of coffee producers live in developing countries including Brazil, Colombia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Ethiopia, and Mexico. Luckily, our enjoyment can come as a better price as the conditions can change because certified fair trade products are becoming increasingly available and accessible through independent grocers, major supermarkets, and retail stores. Thus, making the switch to becoming a smart consumer could not be any easier today. Make the switch today and change people’s lives.

– Leen Abdallah

Sources: AU News, Good Reads
Photo: Google, Google