All’s Fair in Trade and Internships
Well, this is it. Today is my last day as the Communication Intern for Ten Thousand Villages. I’ll soon have to turn over my keys, or in my case, passwords and admin rights. Words cannot even begin to express how grateful I am to have had this opportunity, but I am going to try.
I’ll never forget the first day of my internship. Alice May and Kitty were both on vacation, so Becca was showing me the ropes. While it started out as a seemingly normal day, it quickly became anything but. The wi-fi decided to stop working, we were overwhelmed with customers, and the zipper on my romper broke, thus leading me to make my first Fair Trade purchase: pants. Although I was entirely frazzled and rather embarrassed, I had a feeling this was going to be a great adventure I couldn’t wait to embark on, and I can honestly say there hasn’t been a dull moment since. (And I’m apparently not alone when it comes to embarrassing work debacles.) I wouldn’t trade it for the world though, even the days when we would have to buy and split a chocolate bar because the store was so hectic.
I’ve learned so much about Fair Trade — and surprisingly myself — over the past seven months. I empathized with artisans as I read their heartbreaking stories of injustice. I’ve cried tears of joy hearing about the differences our store is making. I’ve laughed with all of our staff and volunteers over goofy stories and coffee. I even survived my first One Reason Why fundraiser, although I did have to go barefoot for half of it. The store has become my Fair Trade home away from home, and I cherish all of my memories, both good and bad. It’s going to be strange not having Wednesdays with Kitty and Catherine and tag-teaming Sundays with Becca (or, as we refer to ourselves, “Chief and MaCloud”). Finally, I will miss watching Kitty manhandle the water cooler when the time came to change the container.
My worldviews have been altered since beginning my internship. For example, I’ve started subscribing to the Fair Trade Resource Network newsletter to learn more about how other people are trying to make a difference around the country and even the world. Also, many of my family and friends have received Fair Trade birthday and Christmas gifts, complete with artisan stories, because I feel as though the handcrafted pieces in the store hold a greater meaning than a gift card or factory-produced item.
My mom cherishes her butterfly hair clip so much she apparently reserves it for special occasions, such as when she goes to special mass services or out with my dad. My dad loves his Yeti ornament, so he gingerly placed it near the top of the front side of our Christmas tree when we decorated. Plus, I’ve caught him reading the artisan story twice.
Aside from the great experiences and emotional ties I have developed with the store, I also learned about customer service and social media tactics that I will remember throughout my professional career. I’ve learned how to professionally and successfully act as a collective voice for an organization while keeping my quirkiness. Most importantly, I realize now more than ever how important it is to treat each customer like an old friend by informing each and every one about Fair Trade, periodically checking up on them, and making conversation while ringing up their purchases. By simply treating each customer as an individual, I would hear many great and fascinating stories. You can’t get these kinds of interactions in any old retail shop, so I cherish the conversations dearly. Although these customers may be total strangers, we’re still connected by our Fair Trade ties.
Ten Thousand Villages will always have a special place in my heart. The volunteers and staff members have taught me so many life and professional lessons. I can’t even name all of the wonderful people who helped shape me into an Elle Woods (from Legally Blonde) of Fair Trade of sorts. However, I do have to thank Catherine and Kitty for being the best dang bosses a girl could have, and I hope they know how much this opportunity has meant to me. As much as I hate crying in public, I am actually choking back a few tears right now, and I have yet to leave. So for now, I will say “See you soon” instead of “Goodbye.”
Signing off for the last time as the Ten Thousand Villages Communication Intern, this is Baillee MaCloud Perkins. Goodnight.