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Hartlepool 'Chocolateers' come to the rescue

Don't be surprised if you wander on to the Belle Vue estate in Hartlepool and find yourself being accosted by teenagers wielding Fairtrade chocolate bars and calling themselves the "Chocolateers".

Fourteen-year-old Danny Thorpe, pupil at English Martyrs school in Hartlepool and a bit of a rebel before he joined the "Chocolateers" last November, is an apostle of the Fairtrade message. "People over there in the countries that make it get nothing for making the chocolate you normally buy. They can hardly live. What we are selling is good stuff and it allows them to have a proper life.

"We are telling our teachers and our friends about it. You get teased a bit at the start but when you explain to them all about it they start to understand," says Danny.

The Chocolateers, and another group in Hartlepool called "Cocobanana", are involved in an exciting scheme to get young people involved in selling fair-trade goods in communities that don't have large numbers of fair-trade buyers. These young people - from youth clubs across the town - are getting valuable entrepreneurial experience and an understanding of the world economy, while their customers get cut-price goods and lectures from young zealots such as Danny.

Kevin McGrother, from the Cleveland Co-operative Development Agency, helped set up the two groups as fair-trading co-operatives last year.

"I contacted the Young Enterprise scheme at first, but we couldn't fit in with their structures, which can be quite hierarchical. You will get the bright, articulate kids as the managing directors dominating it, and the less confident kids doing all the graft.

"The idea in a young co-operative is that everybody does all sorts of works and everybody makes the decisions together. It is very inclusive and everybody learns the business and organisation skills together.

"In our case, they also learn all about fair trading and how the goods they are selling help people."

For more details contact Kevin McGrother Tel: 01429 861303 Email: youngcooperatives@btopenworld.comFor more information about the fair-trade movement, read David Ransom's The No-nonsense Guide to Fair Trade (Verso Press, pound;7). For more ideas for fair-trading schemes for schools, contact the Fairtrade Foundation, which distributes an education pack for teachersTel: 020 7405 5942

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