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.
January 12, 2011
When was the last time I really explored (let alone even wondered about) the process or story behind any of the things I consume, wear, even give? I will be the first to admit that I’ve become way too accustomed to relying on a few mass retailers for holiday (and post-Christmas sale) shopping. For me, it’s Target, Nordstrom (so much so they’ve offered me a Personal Shopper – eek!), BananaRepublic. It’s a good bet that most of what I have purchased came through mass production somewhere, likely China.
But even as I look at the full year ahead of me, as I teach my children to think about the concepts of consuming, creating, giving, I really need to do a better job myself — even if in little ways — of living an appreciation for others’ small stories which may help us to think beyond ourselves. I know of one very good place to start. It’s the retailer Ten Thousand Villages and its specific mission is to create opportunities for artisans in developing countries and connecting them to our markets in meaningful ways.
Having tried it out for Christmas, I see they also have some great post-holiday deals. I found some earrings for my Sister in Law who wanted some hoops and gifts to replenish my gift box (of things I love and want to have on hand to give as small gestures of friendship and thanks). Here are the beautifully etched earrings I found from Indonesia. They tell a story of the APIKRI artisan group, located in Indonesian cities known for craft production.
Ten Thousand Villages actually provides not only a photo of the artisans, but a bit of their stories . Even though I will never know their life, Ten Thousand Villages connects me to them in a small way, perhaps to better appreciate their human experience.
Next post… I will explore some of my other Little Finds at Ten Thousand Villages.