Letters 11-23-2015

Cheering From Petoskey While red-eyed rats boil fanatically up from the ancient sewers of Paris to feast on pools of French blood, at the G20 meeting the farcical pied piper of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue thrusts a bony finger at the president of the Russian Federation and yells: “liberté, égalité, fraternité, Clinton, Kerry--Obamaism!”

The Other Mothers And Fathers Regarding the very nice recent article on “The First Lady of Yoga,” I have taken many classes with Sandy Carden, and I consider her to be a great teacher. However, I feel the article is remiss to not even give acknowledgement to other very important yoga influences in northern Michigan...

Drop The Blue Angels The last time I went to the National Cherry Festival, I picked the wrong day. The Blue Angels were forcing everyone to duck and cover from the earsplitting cacophony overhead...

Real Advice For The Sick In the Nov. 16 article “Flu Fighters,” author Kristi Kates fails to mention the most basic tool in our arsenal during Influenza season... the flu vaccine! I understand you might be afraid of being the victim of Jenny McCarthyism, but the science is there...

Keeping Traverse City in the Dark Our environment is our greatest asset. It sustains our lives; it drives our economy. We ignore it at our peril. Northern Michigan Environmental Action Council (NMEAC) has submitted letters of concern to both the city commission and planning commission regarding the proposed 9-story buildings on Pine Street. We have requested an independent environmental assessment with clear answers before a land use permit is granted...

All About Them Another cartoon by Jen Sorensen that brings out the truth! Most of her cartoons are too slanted in a Socialist manner, but when she gets it correct, she hits the nail on the target! “Arizona is the first state to put a 12-month lifetime limit on welfare benefits.” That quote is in the opening panel... 

Unfair To County Employees It appears that the commissioners of Grand Traverse County will seek to remedy a shortfall in the 2016 budget by instituting cuts in expenditures, the most notable the reduction of contributions to various insurance benefits in place for county employees. As one example, the county’s contributions to health insurance premiums will decrease from ten to six percent in 2016. What this means, of course, is that if a county employee wishes to maintain coverage at the current level next year, the employee will have to come up with the difference...

Up, Not Out I would like to congratulate the Traverse City Planning Commission on their decision to approve the River West development. Traverse City will either grow up or grow out. For countless reasons, up is better than out. Or do we enjoy such things as traffic congestion and replacing wooded hillsides with hideous spectacles like the one behind Tom’s West Bay. At least that one is on the edge of town as opposed to in the formerly beautiful rolling meadows of Acme Township...

Lessons In Winning War I am saddened to hear the response of so many of legislators tasked with keeping our country safe. I listen and wonder if they know what “winning” this kind of conflict requires or even means? Did we win in Korea? Did we win in Vietnam? Are we winning in Afghanistan? How is Israel winning against the Palestinians? Will they “take out” Hezbollah...

Home · Articles · News · Features · Go now, be free: Microlending
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Go now, be free: Microlending

Erin Crowell - March 1st, 2010
Go Now, Be Free: Duo goes international with microlending
By Erin Crowell
Jody Treter got involved in the global fair trade movement through a coffee connection.
Fair trade is a social movement that promotes sustainability in lesser-developed countries by providing fair pay to producers of exports such as clothing, tea, cocoa and coffee. As one of the original minds behind Higher Grounds, the fair trade coffee company based in Traverse City, Treter has taken on a new project called GoBe, a microlending program that connects locals with entrepreneurs in other countries -- often, the same who benefit from the fair trade movement.
We spoke with Treter by phone just before she and GoBe business partner Juliette Shultz were about to board a flight to Ecuador.

Northern Express: Tell us more about where you got the concept of GoBe.
Jody Treter: Chris (my ex-husband) and I started Higher Grounds as a result of living in Chiapas, Mexico in 2001-2002, and we learned that to pay people dignified wages was a way to help them earn enough money to make healthy choices for themselves and their families. This is opposed to the typical charity aid model, which is: you give people hand-outs and usually that money has some kind of agenda to it. If you earn money, then you can decide where to spend that money, whether it’s education or health care. In Chiapas, we found that we could help the coffee farmers earn a fair wage through Higher Grounds.
We started leading groups down there; and that connection—that relationship—I think, changed people’s lives on this end because people found what it took to produce coffee.

NE: And that led you to GoBe?
Treter: One year ago, my friend (Juliette Schultz) and I started talking about creating a business that takes people to visit entrepreneurs in different countries and help to fund the entrepreneurial projects via micro loans. This is called person-to-person lending, meaning you could make a small loan; and in countries like Ecuador—which is where we’re headed to right now—$25, $50 really goes a long way. Our idea is to eventually have a website where people can participate in micro loans and have the option to go meet the entrepreneur. There are other businesses out there that have the micro loans, but don’t have the trip option.

ME: When people are taking these trips, what do you think they take from them?
Treter: Our goal is to support agrotourism and community-owned tourism. When they go to someplace like Ecuador, for example, they can meet someone that grows the raw form of chocolate. And they’ll learn about the processing and the indigenous culture.
There’s going to be different themes. Some of the tours will involve medicinal plants or are conservation-oriented. Some of them will focus on music and culture. I have connections in Liberia and there’s a bunch of artists there with a music cooperative, so we’ll go there and learn about traditional music and how that culture uses music as a tool for social change.

NE: Is there an end vision you see for yourself and the program?
Treter: The idea is to infuse money into local economies by supporting locally owned lodges, restaurants, tour companies… anybody that we can support in a country.
The other priority is the support of indigenous people. The end goal is to connect people in the U.S. with other places in the world and support more sustainable, local economic models by infusing money. So instead of taking tourist dollars to places like Cancun—the bigger resort destinations—you can have a more meaningful experience by getting to know a culture and putting your money into the local economy.

NE: About how much time do you put into this project?
Treter: Right now, it’s part-time. We’re in our pilot project phase; but it will be a full-time job. Both Juliette and I are working part-time consulting jobs.

NE: If you had to pick a job title for yourself, would you say consultant? Humanitarian?
Treter: I would say social entrepreneur and Consultant.

NE: Do you have a favorite place you’ve visited?
Treter: Well, first of all, I love Traverse City and I love our community here; and I think we can’t lose sight of that – how wonderful the place that we live is. I have a fondness for the Mayan communities of Guatemala and Chiapas. (Chiapas) really changed the course of my life. To me, I don’t know if it’s the place that struck me, but rather, the people. Every time I travel somewhere and I meet new people, it’s that connection with them that seems so valuable and that’s why it’s such a hard question for me.

NE: Juliette, did you have anything you wanted to add about GoBe or your partnership with Jody?
Juliette Schultz: Jody and I have known each other for years and have circled around each other for years. She was working with a client of mine at Food for Thought (of Honor); and that’s how we met. Now we’re just attached to each other and we just trail each other along. It’s a great partnership.
I always remember back to last January where her and I were sitting in Poppycock’s and she floated the idea past me; and I must have been—well, I know I was—in a place where I felt like I was ready to help people outside the boundaries of Northern Michigan. I’ve done a lot of business consulting and always felt connected to entrepreneurs. At some point, it’s almost like a flip-switch for me in my heart; and I just thought, ‘You know what? Everyone is connected to one another,’ and I have that same desire to help people all around the world.
It’s really been great and I think that’s because this project comes from the heart.

Interested in getting involved with GoBe? Go to GoNowBeFree.wordpress.com and join the email list serve. There, you will find information on the first business partnership between Miriam Vasquez of Ecuador and Mimi Wheeler of Grocer’s Daughter Chocolates in Empire.

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