By Elizabeth Haas, Contributing Writer
The Freedom Café held its first clothing swap last Thursday evening from 6-9 p.m. at its 10 Mill Road location as part of its efforts to stop human trafficking. Students and members of the community brought items ranging from oversized winter sweaters to flower-adorned sun hats, exchanging each item for a token valid for any item of their choosing.
The event is part of Freedom Café’s current support of anti-trafficking organization STOP THE TRAFFIK. One of the organization’s campaigns is to make fashion traffic-free by encouraging businesses to source from responsible companies and having organizations like the Freedom Café host “Make Fashion Traffik-Free Clothing Swaps.”
“I brought sweaters,” University of New Hampshire sophomore Chris Grinley said. He heard about the event at one of the café’s Wednesday open mic nights. He came both to support the cause and to get rid of some sweaters. He hoped to find some new items as well, “maybe a flannel,” he said.
“I think that this is huge,” junior Dave Adams said. “A lot of what you buy and what you wear can be tied back to human trafficking and slavery.” He hopes the event will show people that “it’s a bigger issue than you think.”
Adams provided the music for the event, singing mostly original songs while playing the acoustic guitar. He is a music major at UNH and was excited by the opportunity to support STOP THE TRAFFIK while playing some of his older works.
The café has wanted to do a clothing swap since last year, and STOP THE TRAFFIK provided them with the activity pack to get started.
“With clothing swaps you get new clothes without going to [a] company that possibly uses human trafficking,” Tyler Racca said, a UNH senior and volunteer at the café.
Racca spent the past three weeks organizing the event. “I basically ran back and forth to town to the print store,” Racca said, explaining that it was his first time putting fliers together. He said he did not have many expectations for the event, but he’s planning to build off of it. He was recently hired as the café’s first part-time manager and only paid employee.
Volunteers, Isis Chapman and Sharissa Stout, assisted Racca in organizing the swap. “The control is in the hands of the consumers,” Stout said, a sophomore and last year’s fundraising coordinator for the café. “It’s a small seed planted.”
She explained that as consumers start to become aware of the problem stores will have to show where they source their products. “Like nutrition facts,” she said.
Another part of STOP THE TRAFFIK’s campaign is to make chocolate traffik-free. The Freedom Café is selling Fair Trade advent calendars and Divine chocolate bars to support the cause. It is “kind of the only chocolate that my family does eat,” Chapman said.
Chapman is a 13-year-old homeschooled student from Nottingham. She began volunteering at the café this past June and attends all of the Perform for Freedom open mic nights. She is especially excited for the Halloween-themed one on Oct. 29. “The open mics are great anyways,” she said, but dressing up in costume for free Divine chocolate, in her opinion, “only makes it better.”
Students are encouraged to visit the café for Fair Trade coffee and tea Mondays and Tuesday from 12-6 p.m., Wednesdays from 12-10 p.m. and Thursdays and Fridays from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. All beverages are sold for donations and all of the money not spent on supplies is donated directly to STOP THE TRAFFIK. The café also hosts Perform for Freedom open mic nights every Wednesday from 7-10 p.m.
Other special events are posted inside. As the sign out front reads: All are welcome.