ATCF was formed in September 1999 as a program of the Austin office of the American Friends Service Committee, and since 2010 has operated as an independent non-profit. The organization is guided by the Quaker values of peace and justice. Although no longer a program of the Service Committee, we continue to draw inspiration from these values:
- We ground our work at the community level both at home and abroad in partnership with those who suffer the conditions we seek to change and informed by their strength and vision.
- We work to transform conditions and relationships both in the world and in ourselves, which threaten to overwhelm what is precious in human beings.
- We encourage collaboration in social transformation towards a society that recognizes the dignity of each person.
Our main activity is to sponsor three to four solidarity delegations a year to the U.S.-Mexico border where we are hosted by a Mexican non-governmental organization, the Comité Fronterizo de Obrer@s (CFO or Border Committee of Workers). Once every two years we also organize one delegation to the Texas Valley. While our primary activity has been the delegations, we recognize the need to promote alternatives to free trade in various ways. As a result, since 2004 ATCF has held the annual Women and Fair Trade Festival in Austin as a way to learn more about community driven alternatives.
The two-day Festival includes local and international fair trade vendors who bring their unique crafts for sale, educational and poetry presentations, and artistic and cultural workshops, all accompanied by live Latin American music. We provide information to buyers about how communities benefit from their purchases and about alternatives to sweatshop manufacturing and unfair (and often illegal) labor conditions. The vendors are all members of collectives that benefit communities rather than single artisans.
As an outgrowth of this event, ATCF facilitated the formation of a project called Conectando Hilos de la Justicia (Connecting Threads of Justice) that brings together two of the Festival’s women’s collectives to share marketing, technical skills and cultural ideas: Jolom Mayaetik in Chiapas, Mexico and Fuerza Unida in San Antonio, Texas. The project is in it's fifth year with the support of NALAC (National Association of Latino Arts & Culture) in San Antonio, Texas.
During the first quarter of 2013, a new project was formed by our Mexican partners the Comité Fronterizo de Obreras (CFO). Its name GEMA (Género y Empoderamiento de la Mujer para la Acción) translates as Gender & Empowerment of Women towards Action. It includes 6 modules per year to women maquiladora workers in three border towns. ATCF has supported the project by incorporating three of our volunteers who go to the border to participate in the workshops. They provide translation, interpretation, communication skills (video and photography), and writing. The writing skills have become part of the agenda of each workshop. As an extension of this project, ATCF is considering expanding this program in the near future to local immigrant women in the Austin area. We will post updates as the project develops.