On Tuesday 21 May we received an e-mail from a Mr Michael Wirnsberger from Burghausen in Germany. He had found our website through googling, and asked the following:
“Member of Parents Association and member of Fairtrade group at city of Burghausen. Additional Info: Hi, We are currently in the process of selecting a supplier for the polo-shirt collection for our coming abecedarians (Year 10) at our high school. Burghausen is a Fairtrade Town and in our school we are on the way to qualify as Fairtrade school and decided to buy Fairtrade polos for our newies and I am heading this project. From the beginning I wanted to find a supplier, who might deliver more than only shirts but also information about Fairtrade for education. Therefore I am really happy that I found Koolskools online and hopefully you can also deliver your products to Germany. Could you also visit Burghausen, near Munich, for presentation, training?”
Well, we at Koolskools like a challenge! Of course it is not every day you receive such a positive e-mail from foreign parts, and it was the innate enthusiasm for Fairtrade and for the Koolskools project concept emanating from the e-mail that made us ask ourselves: “why not”?! So on Monday 22 July, Ania and Andy set off from their usual summer holiday location in Warsaw and drove the 1,000 kilometres to Burghausen in South East Germany. What a warm welcome we received! Andy had the pleasure of offering two presentations during the two days we were there, of distinctly different character.
On the evening of Tuesday 23 July Andy offered a presentation to the local Burghausen Fairtrade Action Group, and what a stimulating two-way session it was. Koolskools always like to be challenged when we present some of the issues surrounding Fairtrade and ethical manufacturing, and the Burghausen Fairtrade Action Group certainly didn’t disappoint in this respect. One of the most satisfying moments for us came towards the end of the presentation, when Andy was asked how we could prove to people that Koolskools factories really did treat their workers in a better way. Andy was able to answer this by showing the gathering a DVD of round-table session that Mike and Andy had conducted with a cross-section of the work force in March 2013 at the Koolskools factory in Mauritius. Seeing is believing!
The following day it was a nearly two hour session on Fairtrade and Fairtrade cotton at Burghausen’s “Aventinus Gymnasium” (school). What a great set of well disciplined and enthusiastic students who, once the ice had broken and we were well into the subject, presented Andy with some interesting and insightful questions. We hope they got as much out of the session as we did, as it was a real pleasure to present in front of such an interested group of students. The icing on the cake was the playing of the banana game, when the 5 break-out groups went away to discuss how much of a pack of non-Fairtrade bananas costing 1 Euro 80 cents it was fair for them to receive as an individual part of the supply chain (supermarket, importer, exporter, farm owner and farm workers/growers). The students were pretty pleased to learn that out of all of the schools that Koolskools have played the banana game with over the past 3 years, Aventinus Gymnasium are the ONLY school to have come up with exactly 1 Euro 80 cents when it was all totted up….and they promised there was no conferring between groups!! This, accompanied by our first two Fairtrade cotton garment orders in Germany (T-shirts for Aventinus Gymnasium, and polos for the local sailing club – on which more in a later blog) was a fitting end to a memorable visit.
PS: Since returning from our visit to Germany, thanks to Michael Wirnsberger’s initiative, Koolskools has decided to tackle strategically the German market and establish a more formal agency arrangement in the country. The German side of the company will be called “KoolKompany DE”. For our prospective German corporate and school customers: please watch this space!