UCI Connected: Bria Balliet

Title: Senior Writer, School of Social Sciences Communications Department

Volunteer/charity organization name: The Peace Exchange: Sustainable Fair Trade

How do you give back? I began working with The Peace Exchange a couple of years ago as a volunteer blogger and writer. I continue to update their blog and handle press-related topics for the founder, Katie Bond, but I also have started helping out by traveling to trade shows and photographing events. Our annual fashion show fundraiser with Bead and Reel, an online ethical boutique based in L.A., will take place in July and I will be the event coordinator for the day. I may also be traveling to London this August for another fashion show fundraiser, as we’ve recently expanded into the European market. Exciting stuff!

Tell us about why this cause matters to you: The Peace Exchange is such an incredible organization. We’ve built two sewing centers in the Democratic Republic of Congo, one of the worst places in the world in terms of sexual violence against women. We employ more than 30 women now, many of them single mothers, and pay them fair wages as well as provide housing, school tuition, and medical coverage as needed. In return they create beautiful items for us that are 100 percent fair trade. No sweat shops, fair wages, sustainable practices, and we’re an organization run by women, helping women. As humans I think it’s our duty to do what we can to help one another. If my writing a blog post can bring just one more person to support our cause or purchase an item, that’s just the coolest thing to me.

How can others get involved? Contact me! We can always use volunteers, whether you’d like to help run a booth at a market or trade show or help us with inventory. We also are currently looking for sponsors for our fashion show in Los Angeles this July. Some of these women need as little as $500 to fund their rent and school tuition for the entire year. It’s so little to some of us but means so much to them. Of course, buying the products is an amazing way to help. We sell yoga bags, market totes, aprons and so much more. The women want to work, and we have to sell product before we make more. So treat yourself to a little gift you can feel good about.

Are you a faculty or staff member who lives to volunteer and give back? Do you have a coworker who spends their weekends helping others? Tell us about the organizations you love and the people who inspire you! Email the UCI ZOTline editor at zotline@uci.edu to be featured in an upcoming issue.