Serrv is a nonprofit, fair trade organization dedicated to lifting disadvantaged artisans, farmers, and their families out of poverty.
Behind every basket, tunic, and necklace that we offer, you'll find a story of positive change. A story of an empowered artisan or farmer who works in a safe environment, can send his or her children to school, and can save for the future with the reliable income he or she earns through fair trade.
We partner with 55 small-scale artisan/farmer organizations and cooperatives to bring you unique, handcrafted product collections. We emphasize the word "partnership" in our work because that's really what these relationships are–we've created a system of creative collaboration built on mutual respect and trust, creating high-quality and well-designed items using sustainable materials and production techniques. Some of these partnerships have lasted for over 35 years!
In our world today, handcraft production is the second largest form of employment behind agriculture. Many small-scale artisans in developing countries lack access to markets for their products as well as business skills and tools needed to grow. Through our nonprofit mission and deep commitment to fair trade, we are dedicated to not only sell our partners' products but to develop educational offerings and skill trainings, resources, and more to help grow sustainable businesses. Prepayments are always offered for orders, reasonable production timelines are agreed upon, and we provide grants so artisans can expand and provide more jobs in their communities. And of course, we pay a fair wage.
Examples of our work:
The 400 marginalized women who work with MarketPlace: Handwork of India are involved in decision-making at multiple levels of the business. Organized into 11 independent cooperatives, the women work together not only to create beautiful handmade clothing, but to plan and carry out social programs that benefit their families and wider communities. These collaborations give the women stronger voices in all other areas of their lives.
Training and education
Our partner Turqle Trading takes great pride in supporting farmers and employees with not just a fair wage, but trainings and educational opportunities that benefit families and entire communities. 2.5% of every product sold goes to the Fair Trade Trust, a fund dedicated to paying school fees of employees' children, as well as personal development courses and HIV/AIDS classes. Last year, this meant putting 143 children through school and holding 110 group education courses for employees!
Providing tools and resources
VillageWorks in Cambodia employs young physically handicapped artisans in sewing and tailoring, providing steady jobs in an area where finding other opportunities is difficult. We recently provided a grant and low-interest loan to make improvements to their workshop such as better access for wheelchairs. The funds were also used towards increasing future production capacity so they can provide even more jobs.
Support in time of need
All of our partner organizations in Nepal were affected by the terrible earthquake and aftershocks which struck last spring. Artisans lost their homes and workshops while they and their children were forced to simultaneously deal with the emotional trauma. Since April we have donated over $20,000 to our partners to help them provide emergency support in their communities and rebuild what was lost.
History and Name
Serrv is recognized as a leader and pioneer in the fair trade movement, with origins in 1949 as one of the first fair trade organizations in the United States. As a founding member of both the World Fair Trade Organization and the Fair Trade Federation, Serrv has touched countless lives with opportunity to break the cycle of poverty.
Serrv began with a small group of Church of the Brethren relief workers helping refugees rebuild after World War II. The first product sold was a cuckoo clock from Germany! SERRV originally stood for "Sales Exchange for Refugee Rehabilitation and Vocation", but since our mission and work has expanded greatly since then, we now use Serrv as a word on its own. In 1999, Serrv incorporated as an independent nonprofit organization.
Over the decades we have steadily increased our impact through the number of partners we work with and the depth of our development work. From what began as a small black and white catalog of a few items and one gift shop located in New Windsor, Maryland, we have grown to offer a large range of products through seasonal catalogs, three Serrv-owned stores, and hundreds of retail stores and churches throughout the country.
Our Mission Statement
Serrv is a nonprofit organization with a mission to eradicate poverty wherever it resides by providing opportunity and support to artisans and farmers worldwide.
Our Brand Identity
The eight links in our logo mark represent our Core Values: what we stand for as a fair trade organization dedicated to lifting disadvantaged artisans and farmers out of poverty. The mark also represents how the Serrv global community is connected through these values. Together, our artisan and farmer partners, customers, donors, lenders, volunteers, fair trade allies, and staff are working towards a more sustainable world through fair trade. We look forward to growing these connections even further in 2016!