Rainbow Turtle volunteers gathered recently to say goodbye to Fiona and Jim Rutherford. They started helping out at the shop at its beginning over 20 years ago! They are a bright friendly couple who were always welcoming to people coming in to browse or to shop.
They were passionate about fair trade and got involved our events. For many years they served on the board of trustees, with Jim as chairperson and Fiona as treasurer.
They are a talented couple both having worked many years as social workers in Inverclyde. Jim was also a beautiful singer and had organised many shows and musical events in Renfrewshire. He was probably best known as the creator of the play for the famous Renfrewshire Witch Project that remembered the Paisley witch hunt in 1697. The show was performed a number of times across Paisley town centre.
Jim and Fiona will be sorely missed, though I’m sure we’ll see them in the shop or at our events in the future.
In this episode we play a recording of a talk by Sally Sawaya of Meru Herbs in Kenya that she gave recently to the staff of True Origin and Rainbow Turtle in Paisley, Scotland. Sally is the managing director of Meru Herbs, the Kenyan fair trade company that produces tasty sauces, jams and herbal teas. Meru is a semi arid region of the country where, for many years, water was hard to obtain for farming and domestic use. Things changed just over 30 years ago with a collaboration between the Meru catholic diocese, the Italian government, and the local people which implemented a project to provide water to about 430 families. This change in conditions sparked off the creation of Meru Herbs that went on to improve the lives of many people and empowered women to both work in and run the company.
Sally’s story is one of many of the inspiring ones that have come out of Meru Herbs, where a change in circumstance, combined with fair trade, has transformed their lives. Sally left university with a degree in marketing and started out as an intern with Meru Herbs. Other women have been able to buy land and grow their own food. In rural areas it was often the boys who were sent to school, not the girls, because there wasn’t the money to pay for both. The conventional wisdom was that the family got a better return by educating the boys.
Our first winner is a Fair Trade shop that has recently celebrated 20 years in business. Based in Paisley, it offers a high street retail shop for customers from Paisley, Renfrewshire and the surrounding area. It has also been a centre and catalyst of Fair Trade campaigning in its local communities. Congratulations to our winner – Rainbow Turtle.
In response director, Colum Scriven, thanked them saying:
Thanks to the Scottish Fair Trade Forum for the award. It’s particularly lovely that it has been given to us in our 20th year.
I’d like to dedicate this award it to all the volunteers, staff, trustees and directors of Rainbow Turtle, both current and former. They are the heartbeat of Rainbow Turtle. I’d also like to acknowledge the part played by the people of Paisley and of Renfrewshire for the support that they give to us.
In a world where big systems seem to hold sway and where we’re troubled by war, economic problems and impending environmental disaster, I would like to recognise the difference that the small people make. For me it’s the small things that create the big changes. Where we, the small people in Paisley, can have a big effect on the world. Paisley is a place where someone can buy a bag of rice from our shop that can benefit a farmer and his or her family in Malawi. This story never reaches the news but for me it is far more important.
I’m grateful to the work that the Scottish Fair Trade Forum does in supporting the links with the other fair trade organisations in Scotland. For me fair trade is about community because we have to work together to make a positive difference.
To paraphrase a line from Dylan Thomas’ poem, Poem In October, August 31st is our 20th anniversary of being a shop and charity in Paisley, Renfrewshire. We have had an incredible journey over these last 20 years and it’s amazing that we’re still here.
We started back in 2002, when four friends – Liz Cotton, Phil Cotton, Kate Cox and Alison Patrick – had this exciting idea to move from running stalls in church halls to open a fair trade shop in Paisley. Those early years were about stepping out in trust, not knowing what the outcome would be.
We went through the heady years of growth, when we had a warehouse in Paisley and shared it with JTS, the importer and distributer of WFTO foods. Then our periods of financial difficulty when we looked like closing and had to pull back to just the shop again. Days when we were deep in our overdraft and didn’t have enough to pay the staff the next day. There was the impact of Covid when we didn’t know if we’d open again…
And yet we are still here, selling fair trade goods from our delightful Paisley shop and educating the young people of the west of Scotland about fair trade. We’ve welcomed rice farmers from Africa, honey producers from Guatemala, clothing makers from India, and who can forget Foncho our banana farmer from Colombia? We’ve even helped in making Paisley a fair trade town and Renfrewshire a fair trade zone. Last year we hosted Mauro Pereira from Brazil, a delegate at the COP26 conference in Glasgow who gave an impassioned talk on our podcast.
With all our ups and downs, recently one volunteer described Rainbow Turtle as the Miracle Shop. It’s been a constant theme throughout our existence, that when we’ve been at our lowest, and everything is bleak, something miraculous happens to revitalise us.
Along with our miracles we wouldn’t be here without the assistance of so many people and organisations. Primarily we’re grateful to our volunteers who bring their smiles and their enthusiasm to the shop. We particularly remember those who have passed away and are no longer with us. Many’s the time we’ve had positive feedback for the helpfulness and friendliness of a particular volunteer.
We’d never have started without the vision of Liz, Phil, Alison and Kate and the help of the Paisley Methodist Central Hall, who kindly offered us accommodation on a very low rent. We’re grateful to all the schools and church groups who’ve supported us by ordering fair trade stalls or inviting us in for talks and conferences.
Finally, we can’t forget the people of Paisley and the west of Scotland who’ve embraced us and shopped at 7 Gauze Street. It’s by buying our fair trade goods that we can help farmers and producers in developing countries. Through them we create this global bridge between Paisley and other parts of the world. The tiny actions of individuals here make a massive difference to others elsewhere.
What’s next? To celebrate our anniversary, we’ll be holding a cake cutting in the shop on the 31st August 2022, and a ceilidh (but of course!) in the Paisley Methodist Central Hall on Saturday 3rd September. Watch this space for more details and how to book for these events.
The new summer edition of Love Paisley, the magazine produced by Paisley First, featured an article on Rainbow Turtle on page 11. It explains why we believe that fair trade is so important and how Paisley’s past links well with what we do. Click on the image below and it should take you straight to page 11. In order to read the article you’ll probably need to maximise the screen (there is a little frame icon in the bottom right of the magazine window. Alternatively, you can read a fuller version of the article if you click here. Enjoy!
To celebrate Fair Trade Fortnight, Rainbow Turtle is hosting a series of tastings of fair trade goodies and home baking outside its Paisley shop in Gauze Street. If you come down to the shop between 10am and 2pm on Saturday 26th February, Friday 4th or Saturday 5th March you’ll be able to meet some of our wonderful volunteers and taste the delights of some of the products we sell in the shop. The home baking includes ingredients made with fair trade sugar, chocolate, olive oil and even beer bread mix! Also, on offer is fair trade coffee and hot chocolate.
The tasting is free but we also hope that you’ll like the products or ingredients so much that you’ll want to buy some for yourself inside the shop. Failing that, come and chat to our volunteers and staff at the stall, they’d love to meet you. Also, you’ll be taking part in one of our events to mark Fair Trade Fortnight where we remember the producers in developing countries and everyone that makes fair trade possible.
Our thanks go to all the staff and volunteers who prepared the stall, cooked the home baking, looked after the stall and encouraged passers by to try the food.
Following on from Jenipher Sambazi’s talk at our COP26 event, and our recent news item about Jenipher’s Coffee being stocked by Rainbow Turtle, we thought you’d like to hear more about her and the amazing work that she does in Uganda. Jenipher is an inspiring person who talks about how fair trade has changed the perception of women in Uganda. She also shares what she is doing on her coffee farm to combat the effects of climate change. Click on the video below, sit back with your cup of Jenipher’s Coffee, and relax…
Please note that Rainbow Turtle will be reopening for business on Saturday 8th Jan at 10am. You can not only buy her delicious coffee but you can peruse our extensive stock of fair trade drinks, food, crafts and gift cards.
We recently met Jenipher Wettaka at Rainbow Turtle’s COP26 event. She spoke about the coffee that she grows on the slopes of Mt Elgon in eastern Uganda. We’re delighted to say that we’re the only retailer of her delicious coffee in Scotland. Come and buy her coffee in our Paisley Shop for your own kitchen or make it a very different gift for that coffee lover in your life.
You can find out more about Jenipher in this short video clip that played in her talk to us in Paisley back in November. Look out also for our next podcast episode where we replay the whole of that talk.