Beyond the Candy Box

Our guest blogger - and Mayan Hands employee extraordinaire - is Kylie Gorski. Kylie coordinates our Friendship Bracelet Fundraiser program and is eager to work with groups looking for alternatives to conventional school fundraising programs.

fair trade fundraising


The Typical Fundraiser

It’s 2009 and I’m sitting on the cold, blue-vinyl school bus seat. Typical of any high school student, I’ve barely woken up and managed to eat a few spoonfuls of cereal. So, when one of my peers turns around and offers up a box of candy, I can’t resist paying him a dollar for his baseball team or philanthropy club in exchange for a Hershey's bar.

This is one of the few fundraising approaches that we are all familiar with: candy boxes. If not candy boxes, you or your children were being handed a catalog by the PTA and given a financial goal. I remember sitting in the auditorium, when my school doled out a list of fundraising items. Of course, all of our potential customers were given the very same catalog full of frozen cookie dough or pies, maybe it contained wrapping paper or toys for a change. In exchange for selling the most merchandise, we were awarded a prize leveled somewhere between a pencil and a new $30+ razor scooter. I only ever managed to win cheap pencils with completely useless erasers.

While many of these fundraisers had noble goals in theory, they were competitions in practice. I, for one, quickly tired of the factory chocolate and mass-produced plastic toys, and I can imagine my mother did too.

As an adult, I have come to realize that the cocoa for the chocolate was probably grown and harvested by thousands of child laborers in West Africa, and the toys were probably unsafely manufactured in China in sweatshop conditions. I wonder what my younger self would have thought, had she had this knowledge.

Alternative Fundraising

Mayan Hands seeks to create at least one small chip in this outdated fundraising mold. What if instead of unethically produced sweets and nicknacks students could sell something unique and handmade? What if the sales could be beneficial not only for the school and its students but for underprivileged and marginalized persons?  

Fair trade principles and scholastic economics do not have to be mutually exclusive. Selling friendship bracelets, through theMayan Hands Friendship Bracelet Fundraising Program, preserves cultural traditions, encourages sustainability, and supports human rights.

The beautiful and sturdy bracelets woven by our artisan partners in Guatemala, each one different than the next, have been exchanged as a symbol of friendship for thousands of years. Our sincerest hope is that fundraiser participants will be able to strengthen their own sense of community and fellowship while also supporting Mayan women and their families. To fundraise with these bracelets is to advocate for those who make them.

Fair Trade Fundraising is an Exercise in Advocacy

Anyone purchases fair trade products is not simply a consumer, she is an advocate. She advocates for fair wages, equity between genders, ecological sustainability, and social justice. When an artisan receives just compensation for her work and is given consistent work, the resulting income funds what should be basic human rights such as healthcare, sustenance, and shelter. At Mayan Hands, we ensure that our artisan partners are paid fairly for the traditional handmade products they produce, and we also seek to provide educational opportunities to Mayan girls and young women in Guatemala. We also hope to educate students stateside about economic interconnectedness and the championing of justice and equality. By participating in our alternative, but ethical and easy fundraiser, students learn about fair trade and the power of their purchase.

Together, we can break out of the candy box and think outside of the pages of a catalog.

Aside from offering unique products for fundraising, we also hope to update the usual structure of the fundraiser. We do so by omitting any initial fundraising fees. The bracelets are sent to an interested group free of charge and we only request payment after items are sold. The length of a particular sale is negotiable, and it takes no more than 24 hours after receiving the completed paperwork for the bracelets to be shipped out for sale. A group may take 40% of all sales for philanthropic purposes or school trips and programs or choose to donate the 40% to the Mayan Hands education fund, which provides scholarships to indigenous girls in Guatemala.For more information please visit ourFAQ page or contact:

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