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Gateshead: bridge lit up for fair trade

The iconic Gateshead Millennium Bridge was hijacked recently to raise awareness of a high profile charity campaign ...

The iconic Gateshead Millennium Bridge was hijacked recently to raise awareness of a high profile charity campaign.

The normally white bridge was turned bright yellow and green on Friday in a bid to get the public behind a new appeal by Traidcraft, the UK’s leading fair trade organisation.

Traidcraft lit up the landmark in its brand colours to mark the launch of its Fair Necessities Appeal, the charity’s biggest ever fundraising drive.

The appeal, which runs until April, hopes to raise £1 million to help smallholder farmers in some of the world’s poorest countries escape poverty and build better lives, enabling them to afford life’s essentials. The UK government will match every donation made to the appeal through the UK Aid Match scheme, so the money raised will go twice as far.

A survey conducted by Traidcraft, a national charity based at Gateshead’s Team Valley, last week found that six in 10 people in the UK said they could not go a day without access to the internet, and four in 10 could not survive without their morning cup of coffee.

These UK necessities are in stark contrast with the needs of the farmers that Traidcraft supports, who struggle to access food, adequate housing and clean water.

A smallholder farmer currently working closely with Traidcraft is Josna Begum, a female farmer in north eastern Bangladesh (pictured right with her family and representatives from Traidcraft). In the last year, she has seen her profits from crops grow by 700 percent. This is down to learning new growing techniques which have transformed her farming, and also her life.

Josna said: “Before joining the project my social and financial conditions were very poor. I had a house made of paper, and faced problems with being isolated and getting my children an education. I felt so sad then. Now my production is double what it was.”

Feroz Ahmed, Traidcraft’s senior project manager in Bangladesh, who works closely with Josna, commented: “She did not know about soil testing, she did not know about the importance of compost fertiliser. Now she is acting as a role model farmer for her community, and many of the farmers nearby are following her advice and are changing their own cultivation techniques.

“Generating more income has made a huge difference to Josna’s life, and that of her family. They now have a house made of corrugated iron, a well for fresh and clean water, and electricity for the first time.”

Larry Bush, Marketing Director at Traidcraft, said: “We lit up the Gateshead Millennium Bridge to catch the eye of commuters and hopefully encourage people to give what they can to our Fair Necessities appeal.

“Everything donated will be match funded by the Government, meaning we can do so much more to help people who are struggling to afford food to eat, basic healthcare and education. Traidcraft really are making a difference in some of the world’s poorest countries, so by supporting the appeal, you will help change lives.”

You can donate to the appeal by clicking onto www.traidcraft.co.uk/donate-now or by texting ‘DOUBLE’ to 70500 from your mobile phone to donate £5.

Millennium Bridge photo: Graeme Peacock
Josna Begum and family photo: Traidcraft

 

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