May the Power of the Cocoa Bean Story Continue Long after Easter
Champion School – St Thomas More’s Primary School Canberra
Sonja Mingay, School Chaplain at St Thomas More’s Primary School in Canberra, hopes the story of slavery-free chocolate will be remembered long after Easter. Sonja worked with the school community last year and during term 1 to understand the importance of buying ethically sourced chocolate and what impact it can have on children in developing countries, particularly in West Africa.
Sonja began working with Mini Vinnies 35 students in the school on the social justice issue of slavery-free chocolate. As part of the program, the Mini Vinnies families were asked to donate slavery-free chocolate that would be used in a school raffle, drawn before Easter. Sonja used the school newsletters to inform school families about cocoa farms in West Africa, and said: “A report on child labour in West African cocoa growing areas, estimated that in 2013–14 the industry used more than 2 million child labourers. It was common for children to be trafficked into cocoa bean farms and subjected to unfair and exploitative treatment.”
School families were asked to only donate chocolate that featured the symbols of FAIRTRADE, UTZ or Rainforest Alliance as these symbols ensure the cocoa beans used, were not picked by enslaved children. The whole school embraced the raffle and there were five baskets of chocolates by the time the raffle was drawn at the school’s final assembly before Easter.
“The aim of the Ethical Easter Egg Raffle is to raise awareness of the global social justice issue of child labour and slavery in the chocolate industry, particularly in West Africa where the majority of the world’s cocoa production occurs. It is disturbing to realise the Easter Eggs we are sharing, eating and enjoying with our family and friends has had child exploitation involved in the production of them. Our luxury items at bargain prices are coming at great cost to lives of people on the other side of the world,” Sonja said.
Importantly, the students themselves told the story in a unique way, of how cocoa beans are picked by children. Through a performance they showed their classmates what life could be like in West Africa for a child, their age, who had to pick cocoa beans and who might never get to go to school.
The scenes of the play, performed at the assembly before Easter, include:
- Children being taken or enslaved to work on a cocoa farm.
- A poor family where the children have to work
- Something that children at St Thomas More’s can do – buy slavery-free chocolate
- Children holding up placards which feature the three slavery free certification symbols of FAIRTRADE, UTZ and Rainforest Alliance (pictured above).
Sonja said many families had purchased slavery-free chocolate, others reported difficulty finding it. “Hopefully, more people become aware of this global social justice issue and decide to buy only slavery-free chocolate. Then companies and stores will get the message that ethical considerations are highly important to consumers.”
Mini Vinnies empowers primary school students to become advocates within their school and local community by putting their values into action. They meet regularly to learn about social justice issues, develop leadership skills and engage with the wider St Vincent de Paul Society.
To find out more about the project at St Thomas More’s Primary School in Campbell, Canberra, email Sonja at: [email protected]
To find out more about slavery-free chocolate and where to buy it, go to: