Karen Wilke

6th Grade MBA in Justice

Karen Wilke, La Crosse, Wisconsin

Sixth grade teacher, Karen Wilke, first discovered Equal Exchange through her church where she learned how important Fair Trade is to global justice. Karen's team at school already teaches about Latin America and how Spanish and Portuguese colonialism has destroyed indigenous cultures and created an economy of plantations which still haunts the coffee, sugar, tea and cocoa industry today. Karen wanted to bring fair trade to the kids she taught because Sixth graders are all about fairness (they never hesitate to inform her when things are not fair). Adding Equal Exchange to the curriculum allowed her to not only study the economy of exploitation but also the economy of hope and change.

Learning about Fair Trade

Teaching Fair Trade in the classroom

Karen's sixth graders are going to shape our economy someday. Understanding justice is only half the tool box. They also need the hard skills in business to allow them to make justice a reality. Karen uses Equal Exchange fundraising to create and hone these business skills. They build a cart to sell before and after school and special occasions. They have explored different marketing and advertising techniques and brought in guest speakers to guide the students in their business. Speakers like a magazine editor, a food sales marketing expert, a small business owner who did wonderful packaging ideas for the holidays, and a woman who travels to Guatemala several times a year to buy from artisans there and sells their products on her website.

It is important to teach kids that injustice is present in the world but it is equally important to equip children with the skills to take on that injustice. We at Equal Exchange are proud that our partnership with Karen Wilke has helped support her to do both.