Grassroots Artisans in Peru..a Powerful View from Their World
November 8, 2011
When I joined the Board of Directors of Ten Thousand Villages, I expected to tap into my Mennonite heritage. I even knew it would be an opportunity to give back, using my skill set, for the cause of fair trade. What I didn’t expect was how much I would be educated on the difficult and messy work of finding sustainable, talented grassroots artisans and bringing their stories and products to North American markets.
Fresh off our Board trip to Lima, Peru, my heart is both proud and heavy because of the work we do. In all of our meetings – from the coiled wool weavers in Lima to the silversmith jeweler who works with his son in a back alley of Cusco — these artisans told us that Ten Thousand Villages accounts for the bulk of their business. They are able to send their children to University and hire more workers in a land of 40% unemployment because we have found them, spend time training them, and pay up front.
Most of these shops are small, largely undiscovered, and have relative degrees of sophistication — a combination which makes it difficult to break into North American markets. Most big retailers frankly won’t take the time or invest in the logistics of bringing these small shops their business.
Working with ethical, fair-trade minded groups like the Ten Thousand Villages network means access to North American markets ..and a chance to obtain many of the values and goals that truly know no borders… family advancement.. university….a good job…a fair wage…pride in one’s work. Turns out that people like Juan Carlos in Cusco, Peru are just like us.