My neighbour Linda has been a fair-trader for almost thirty years and is holding a Traidcraft afternoon at her house. I stroll along eager to see how it all works and see if I find anything I like. I ring on the doorbell and Linda welcomes me in with a warm smile. I walk past the staircase and draped on her bannister is the Traidcraft logo and slogan 'Fighting Poverty through Trade'.

I walk into the living room and meet a few familiar faces. It is filled with wonderful merchandise. A thoughtful collection of Christmas ornaments, cards and wrapping paper is neatly displayed on a central table and colourful Swazi candles and some vibrant Kashmiri bell decorations have been beautifully arranged along shelves. I pick up a tweed travel wash bag and a small gift box filled with three pairs of men’s socks that my husband might like. I love the rustic feel of them and can see that these products are crafted with care.

I learn that Traidcraft was established in 1979. It has since been successfully operating as both a Christian trading company and a charity with almost 4,000 products available in supermarkets and independent shops.

I move into the kitchen to try some Christmas food treats. Linda pours tea from her big pot and I linger and chat with a few shoppers. Her dining table is piled high with coffee, tea, sugar, cocoa, honey and chocolate. I marvel at the swirly green designs on a black box of Divine Dark Chocolate Salted Caramel thins and have to have them.

I meet some interesting people who are well travelled and used to the more exotic sounding products. They joke about the very early days of Traidcraft and how supporters used to drink the not-so-tasty tea and coffee just to get the charity off the ground! I don’t mind admitting that I’ve never tried a lot of them including the Rwandan red Bourbon Ground Coffee or the Black Mamba Spicy Mango Chutney that I’ve just put in my basket. I look forward to trying out these unusual flavours.

Linda enjoys the social side of fundraising and raising awareness by occasionally giving talks, yet at times gets asked questions like "Why are Traidcraft products so expensive?" Linda explains that sometimes you do have to pay that little bit extra when you’re supporting a good cause and people should maybe see it as an opportunity to make a significant difference to people’s lives. Buying these products supports organic farming and traditional crafting skills within communities of some of the poorest countries in the world, so that all of the makers and growers are guaranteed to receive a fair price for their goods and skills.

I’m surprised to hear that Traidcraft has been running at a loss over the last few years and this year is under threat of closure. In a recent BBC interview the CEO Robin Roth claimed that the closure of Traidcraft “is not a foregone conclusion and it would make a huge difference to us if people went out to buy our Christmas products… Fair trade is about more than just a product; it is about a whole way of thinking, being and living…”

This afternoon has been an education and when I get home I sit on my sofa and flick through the Christmas catalogue. I love the photos and stories of the artisans, growers and of craft-people busy in their workshops and enjoy reading about how the merchandise is made. I feel truly inspired by how Traidcraft has changed people’s lives and hope that future generations will continue to recognize their responsibility in driving forward sustainable development and ethical trading.

  • Marisa Laycock moved from south west London to St Albans in 2000. She enjoys sharing her experiences of living in the city.