SOLE Strives to Buy Fair Trade Soccer Balls

Old Rochester Regional High School is home to a student organization known as SOLE, or Students Organizing Labor Equality.  A division of the United Students Against Sweatshops guided by student president Sara DeMello and teacher advisor Colin Everett, SOLE meets on Wednesday afternoons in the school library to discuss and initiate ways of encouraging Old Rochester Regional to take a stand in favor of fair trade practices.  Last year, SOLE was successful in purchasing fair trade soccer balls for the entire boys’ soccer team; this year, SOLE hopes to raise enough funds from its Technology Drive to purchase fair trade soccer balls for the girls’ team.  The drive, which runs from January 4 to January 19, 2012, requires donations of iPods and mp3 players, cell phones from at least 2005, GPS systems from at least 2008, digital cameras and camcorders from at least 2006, video games and gaming consoles, DVDs, and laptops from at least 2008.  Donations may be dropped off at the front office of the high school, among other locations.

SOLE hopes to make between $250 and $300 with the Technology Drive, as that figure will help the school to make the purchase of the fair trade soccer balls, which are naturally more expensive.  “The budget that the soccer team normally puts forth, they put forth,” Ms. DeMello said, explaining that SOLE will pay the differential.  “We buy [the soccer balls] in a bulk pack of 10 because they will use them for practice balls.”

Ms. DeMello also explained how the Technology Drive works.  “What happens is we collect the old technology, we package it and send it to this website, and they refurbish it and send it out.  We’re planning [the drive] right after the holidays and we live in a fairly affluent area — we’re going on the assumption that people will donate old items.  It’s a responsible way for people to recycle their electronics and it benefits the school,” Ms. DeMello concluded.  She also mentioned the specified dates for some of the gadgetry, explaining that donations need to follow those guidelines because technologies older than those that are accepted will actually cost the school to send to the refurbishing website, since those items are not appropriate for resale — they are too old.

The idea for the Technology Drive originally came from Ms. DeMello’s mom; Ms. DeMello brought it to the first meeting of SOLE this year, which she said was a fundraising brainstorm session.  She added that the organization hopes the drive will be a success because “it hasn’t been done before,” while other traditional fundraisers like bake sales “have been done to death.”

Currently, there are three drop-off sites at Old Rochester Regional High School.  One is in the front office, one is in the guidance office, and the last is in Mr. Everett’s room.  There is also a box at Sippican Elementary School in Mrs. Roseman’s room.  “We’re going to try to have them at all of the elementary schools to cover the district,” Ms. DeMello said.  “The one the towns can use is in the front office [of the high school].”

The goal of SOLE is, as Ms. DeMello said, “to get ORR to automatically incorporate fair trade things in the budget.”  To that end, SOLE meets to research information about what in the school can be fair trade.  Ms. DeMello explained that organizations like SOLE usually start at colleges and then branch out to high schools, and thus there is a precedence for schools taking a stand in favor of fair trade practices.  After the conclusion of the Technology Drive and the purchase of the fair trade soccer balls, SOLE is looking to a new potential project (a past one included a shoe drive for disaster relief in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake).  “We tentatively talked about substituting a different soda/drink company because Coca-Cola violates human rights laws,” Ms. DeMello said.  “It would be a lot bigger than soccer balls.”  Ms. DeMello explained that such an endeavor would require presentations to the school board.

Speaking on the merit of having SOLE as a student organization at Old Rochester Regional High School, Ms. DeMello expressed belief in the need to educate members of the Tri-Town about the subject.  “A lot of people refer to us as hippies,” Ms. DeMello said, “but it’s not about that—it’s about the belief that we, as a community, should take a stand.”

A press release has been posted on the website of Old Rochester Regional High School and lists the technology items that may be dropped off in the box at the front office.  The drive runs from January 4 to January 19, 2012.

By Anne Smith

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