Becke Dawson owns SiS International Shop, a fair trade gift shop in downtown Davenport, the same downtown that made international news last week because of record flooding. Everyone, locals as well as visitors, incorrectly assumed that the entire downtown was underwater and shut down for business. Her shop and other downtown businesses represent one of the flood’s ripple effects — the impact on the livelihoods of people who own and work in these businesses.
SiS International remains open, offering gifts handcrafted by skilled artisans in developing nations where few income-making opportunities exist. The potential for another spike in the flood stage this week concerns Dawson. She can’t risk bringing in new pieces until the floodwaters fall and the number of customers rise. That affects her bottom line and also means lost sales for the fair trade artisans in some 48 developing nations represented in her shop. Fair trade works to support living wages and safe working environments for the people who create the gift items. “The big part of fair trade is that this is not about charity. It’s about dignity,” Dawson said.
Another thing you need to know about Dawson: she has been incredibly helpful to the Social Action Office of the Diocese of Davenport in its efforts to teach people about Catholic social teaching, global solidarity and subsidiarity. Her fair trade items have been displayed at Ss. Mary & Mathias Parish in Muscatine and in diocesan headquarters. Now it’s time for us, in parishes around the diocese, to reach out in solidarity to Dawson and other business owners and employees impacted by flooding that won’t dissipate anytime soon. Here’s what we can do:
• Take the extra effort necessary to get to downtown businesses in Davenport and other communities along the Mississippi River that remain open and need your business. Call ahead or send an email to verify that the business is open. Visit the website or Facebook page of a business to learn whether merchandise or products are also sold online.
• Consider hosting a fair trade sale in your parish. Dawson is willing to make some of her fair trade gifts available for display and sales. Think about gift-giving opportunities coming up: Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, graduations, baby showers and more. Contact Kent Ferris, diocesan director of Social Action, at firstname.lastname@example.org for guidance on setting up a fair trade sale. You can also contact Dawson at email@example.com for information.
• Volunteer for flood assistance duty. The flood’s ripple effects extend beyond business owners and their employees to farmers, home owners, renters and governmental entities. In Scott County, call the Scott County Emergency Management Agency at (563) 484-3086 for volunteer opportunities. Your skills will be matched with current locations needing assistance. Another great resource: floods2019.iowa.gov for people volunteering assistance or who are in need of assistance.
• Advocate for sensible solutions to flooding, which has become a chronic problem. The Quad-City Times Editorial Board offers excellent observations about the current crisis and what it portends for the future in a May 5 editorial:
“The river has been over flood stage for seven weeks, and it will be weeks more before the Mississippi returns to its home. Our city has changed, and so has the climate. We no longer can be comfortable in the knowledge that what we have been doing will always work. We should prepare for the future, whatever that may bring.”
Pope Francis reflects in his encyclical “Laudato si” that “Hope would have us recognize that there is always a way out, that we can always redirect our steps, that we can always do something to solve our problems.”
It’s time to look at other flood-fighting technology and devices. It’s time to reevaluate our use of the floodplain. It’s time to look at the factors contributing to flooding that occurs repeatedly. Business owners and their employees, all taxpayers in fact, must be willing to work in solidarity so that the ripple effects of this spring’s flood ultimately result in the revitalization of our communities and businesses.
Barb Arland-Fye, Editor