Bangladesh Artisans

Tired of braving the snow and ice this winter? You’re not the only one. According to Expedia’s most recent Flip Flop Report, 50 per cent of Canadians say leaving behind winter blues is one of the most attractive reasons to travel to destinations that offer sand, surf and sun.


But figuring out what to pack can lead to headaches at this time of year. Do you bring winter boots and sandals? A heavy coat and tank tops? What about toys to keep restless kids entertained on road trips or while in the air?


Whether you’re a family heading south for March Break, adventure seekers looking for their next escapade, or students wanting to blow off some steam in the sun, here are a few travel-happy – and fair trade – products to make your time away even better.

If you’ve got kids

Going on a long car trip doesn’t have to be a chore if you have children in tow. Just pack lots of snacks, books and toys to keep them entertained. For instance, let them put on a finger puppet show in the backseat. Or show them how to play chess. The Menagerie Memory Game is a good bet when travelling by plane and you have a tray to spread out on. Meanwhile, older kids might like to scribble away in their very own journal to keep boredom at bay.

If you just need a little Om

Sunny yoga retreats are hot when the weather grows cold back home. Pack for the adventure by toting your mat in a Hatha Yoga Mat Bag, which is hand-loomed in Nepal. Or keep your shoulders relaxed (and hands free) by using an eco-happy Cork Backpack while exploring the area nearby. Meanwhile, keep stray hairs in place while getting warmed up and bendy with a Zari Flower Headband or Zari Leaf Headband. Don’t forget to give feet a swipe with a body scrubber to make them beach-ready in no time.

If reading week means travel week

University and college students, take note: there are so many ways you can make your spring break vacation meaningful and fun. Try a volunteer vacation. In some cases, you can save mega travel dollars by giving back while seeing the world – even if only for a week. Care for endangered animals, teach English or French, or help build schools overseas. Don’t forget to pack travel gear that keeps the do-good spirit alive: either a fair trade Nepal Weave Cosmetics Bag or a Kantha Toiletry Bag does the trick. Ready to explore a bustling city or nearby town? Keep valuables, passports and phones close with a cross-body Patterned Adventure Bag.



If a staycation is in the cards

Can’t go south this year? No matter. Sipping Chili & Spice Hot Chocolate Mix or Friendship Organics Moroccan Mint Tea adds warmth to your afternoon. Take a Latin dance class and dress up with a colourful Beads Aplenty Necklace. Or run a bath and crack open a Serenity Body Care Kit for a little “me time.” With its candles, soap, incense and textured scrubber, soon wintertime weather will seem miles away.

This February 14, many of us will buy roses or book a table at a swishy restaurant to share a meal with our longtime love or more recent date. At least 30 per cent of Canadians say they consider Valentine’s Day a special holiday worth celebrating according to 2016 data. At the very least, we’ll send Valentine cards: 40 million are exchanged in this country every year.


But while Valentine’s Day holds a special significance, love – true love – is hardly a one-day event. It requires patience, humour and a meeting of minds.


Just ask Hani Duarsa and Agung Alit, founders of Mitra Bali, our fair trade artisan partner in Bali, Indonesia, which crafts anything from coasters to colourful bags and kites. Last year they travelled to Canada and sat down with us for a fascinating (and freewheeling) interview that touched on politics, fair trade, tourism, culture and Indonesia’s troubled past. But Hani and Agung had a special treat for us too: they discussed their own personal history and even shared the story about how they met, wed in 1993, started their fair trade organization and raised five children – only two being their own biological kids. Here’s what we learned:

Different worlds

By all rights, Hani and Agung’s union is unique. Indonesia adheres to a caste system, and although Hani was of the lower, common caste – making a marriage to Agung a fortuitous match for her, her parents had reservations about her marrying him.


Agung was considered a “son of a communist.” Tragically, his family had been caught up in the mass killing of communists and communist-sympathizers in 1965 and 1966 during the assent of the new order autocratic regime of President Suharto. His father and six uncles were murdered. His mother and stepmother, a teacher, were forced to flee.


Even 25 years later, political and cultural scars remained, and Agung was stigmatized, finding it hard to find work or even get an education.


In the end, it didn’t matter

Fortunately, Agung, smart and driven, beat the odds and did what he had to do to survive – and thrive.


“Because I’m wild, I learned guitar,” he says now. “I speak English. That helped me a lot.”


Eventually he made it to law school where Hani was also studying law. But Hani too had a bit of a wild side. Although she came from a large, musical family, her parents were adamant that she not become a musician. They wanted a different life for their daughter.


But one night she left the house wearing a proper, conservative dress her parents approved of – and then changed into clothes fit for the stage. One of Indonesia’s most famous musicians had asked her to jam with the band and there was no way she’d say no. Playing the keyboards that night, she looked out into the audience and spotted Agung.


“I saw him dancing like crazy. I was curious. Who is this guy?” she says, laughing.


While Hani was an elegant “city girl,” Agung saw himself as a “county bumpkin.” Although they led a social activism club, it took a while for Agung to realize that she was interested in him too.


“I didn’t know whether she really liked me or she felt sorry for me,” he says.


Starting Mitra Bali

She liked him. In 1993 the couple were married and soon launched Mitra Bali in order to help struggling makers earn a living from their crafts. Rather than take a large cut – or make artisans wait for months to be paid – Mitra Bali offers deposits and pays within a week. Today the couple works with 38 different maker groups and 250 artisans.


Hani and Agung also have two children: a 24-year-old son, Carlos Santana, and a daughter, 18-year-old Janis Santana (named for Janis Joplin – who else?!). They also raised three children who arrived from a poor village. Hani and Agung are proud of the adults their “adopted” kids have become.


Having a strong family life full of hope and love translates to what Hani and Agung have been able to accomplish at Mitra Bali. And as long as the orders keep coming in, the future is bright.


“I believe a wonderful world is possible,” says Agung. “We can do it together.”


Arguably one of the best holidays is just around the corner–Family Day! It’s one of those fantastic holidays that allow you to spend time with your loved ones without the added stress of following strict schedules, and dinner plans. Like most holidays, a lot of local businesses will be closed so that they can enjoy a day off to spend time with their families as well! This can create the question of how you should spend your extra day off.

Here are 3 ways you could spend Family Day:


1. Get Outdoors!

Nothing says “family time” like spending time in the great outdoors! Living in Canada, there are so many activities you can enjoy in the picturesque winter we have. Why not build a snowman, or go snowshoeing at a local conservation area? With a little bit of creativity and the proper gear, you could spend hours in the beautiful outdoors! Remember to stay warm—Stop by your local Ten Thousand Villages store before Family Day to pick up warm, and woolly handmade knitwear!


2. Have a Game Day!

With the weather becoming a little unpredictable lately, consider enjoying a game day indoors with a delicious cup of Divine Drinking Chocolate! There’s no need to run outside to spend time with your loved ones. Vote on a fun game to play as a family, or have multiple little games if you’d rather! If you’re running short on games, visit a Ten Thousand Villages location in-store before Family Day for a selection of handcrafted games like chess, dominoes or ludo!


3. Learn how you can better another family!

Men and women around the world have a simple dream: to earn an honest living, provide for their families and to be employed in a job that brings dignity. Consider spending your Family day by researching more about fair trade, and how your everyday purchases as a family could change the life of individuals and families all over the world! Learn more about fair trade through Ten Thousand Villages or the Canadian Fair Trade Network!


Regardless of what you do with your loved ones for Family Day, we’re wishing you a safe and happy day filled with lots of fun and.. well, family!

Just when we start to think that winter may be on its way out another blanket of snow hits the ground. The forecast is predicting cold temperatures to continue to sweep through Canada bringing plenty of powdery snow with it! Luckily, we’re equipped for the frigid air: The Kumbeshwar Technical School, also known as KTS, has the means to keep us warm–both indoors and outdoors–with their handmade knitwear!

KTS, an artisan group in Nepal, offers training in wool spinning, hand knitting, carpet weaving, carpentry and jewellery to members of low-caste communities, disabled individuals and destitute women in Nepal. Following graduation, the graduates of the training program have the opportunity to move into employment positions with KTS, or to establish their own workshops.

In addition to the technical school, KTS operates an orphanage for abandoned children, a nursery, a primary school for children of impoverished families and a workplace daycare. Other benefits include literacy classes, training in writing and basic numeracy, women’s health education, health and accident insurance and access to loans.

Every KTS product purchased at Ten Thousand Villages Canada helps artisans in Nepal create a better future for themselves and their families.


“Working with KTS has made me independent and I was able to spend money for my personal work and for my children’s food.” – Maya Magar


Support the artisans of the Kumbeshwar Technical School by purchasing warm knitwear like the warm and wooly toque, circle motif wool mittens and the snuggly slippers in-store and online.


Click here to find more of KTS’ beautiful hand-knit products online at

You don’t have to live in Heart Lake, Alberta, Love, Saskatchewan or even Heart’s Desire in Newfoundland and Labrador to give heartfelt gifts for a special someone on Valentine’s Day. In fact, Canadians are known for their generosity when celebrating February 14, spending an average of $164 according to one survey.


But not all gifts are created equal. Whether you’re buying for a new beau or longtime spouse, here are some fair trade Valentine options that spread some love at home – and around the world.


For Her


Say it with studs

What’s the number one gift for Valentine’s Day in Canada? Jewellery. Try the unfussy Outlined Hearts Sterling Silver Earrings. Genuine sterling silver makes up the stylized hearts from the Allpa artisan group, providing employment opportunities for makers in and around Lima. There’s also the Amour Sterling Silver Bracelet, from the same makers, to create a matching set. Shiny, little presents are even better when they’re given in a fancy keepsake box.

Share a sweet treat

Sweet and melt-in-you-mouth delicious, no wonder chocolate is a favourite way to show some love. Fortunately there are more fair trade certified chocolate producers to choose from today too. Take Divine Chocolate, co-owned by the 85,000 farmer members of Kuapa Kokoo, the cooperative in Ghana that supplies the cocoa for each bar of Divine. What’s more, Divine makes its women farmers a priority, helping them to improve farm productivity and earn extra income used to keep their girls in school. Bars such as Divine Raspberry Dark Chocolate and Divine White Chocolate with Strawberries help break the cycle of poverty. (And they taste, well, divine too!)

Flower power

Roses are red, but not all of them are green. Don’t forget to ask your florist where their flowers come from (Canada actually produced 5.38 million rose stems in 2015). Ask for Fair Trade certified bouquets or try the Sierra Eco site to find a reputable florist. Don’t forget to place your blooms in a fair trade vase.


For Him


Slip on something cozy

There’s nothing wrong with a gift that’s more practical than romantic – especially if it’s going to change the world. Try a pair of socks made by our friends at Conscious Step, which partners with non-profit organizations to support causes around the world. All of their socks are made in India from organic cotton in fair trade conditions and dyed using non-toxic materials. Proceeds help fund organizations that protect the world’s oceans, plant trees and feed children.

Drinks and noshes

If your new flame or seasoned companion loves a good sparkling wine, he’s not alone. Canadians drink 16 million litres of bubbly each year (and that number is only going up). Forget wide-mouthed coup glasses or skinny flutes though. The new trend is serving up sparkles in a typical wine glass. Or try one that’s more atypical, like the Dot Deco Glass. From Cochabamba in the Bolivian highlands, each is mouth-blown using 100% recycled glass. While you sip, stir up an aromatic or spicy curry or stew in a Lidded Copper Curry Pot handcrafted for stovetop to table serving.

Give an experience

Traditional romantic gifts are nice, but sometimes what our loved ones really want is a ticket to a favourite show or a nice dinner out. Slip a handmade IOU or gift card into a With Love Red Batik Card – and circle a date on the calendar. Better yet? Go cash free entirely and agree to volunteer at a local organization together instead. It’s one way to spread some love together.



Sometimes, pending how you drink your coffee, you may crave something sweet—luckily, we can help you with that! Try the delicious Spiced Coffee Sponge Cake from Anna Weston’s book: The Global Bakery. If you’re looking to make it a little sweeter, consider using fair trade ingredients like Level Ground Trading’s Colombian Medium Roast coffee, or Cha’s organic nutmeg!


The recipe is adapted from a recipe by the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia.


Image courtesy of The Global Bakery by Anna Weston


Spiced Coffee Sponge Cake


Prep Time:

20 Minutes

Bake Time:

25 Minutes

Icing Time:

15 Minutes



  • 4 tbsp/30 g ground 100% Colombian coffee
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup warm melted butter


  • ½ cup brewed hot 100% Colombian coffee
  • 1/3 cup caster sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 355 degrees. Grease and flour 2 x 8-inch round cake pans.


  1. Combine the coffee, and milk in a saucepan and bring to a boil, then allow the liquid to stand on a low heat for about 10 minutes.
  2. Strain the mixture through a cheesecloth or clean tea towel into a small bowl. Return the coffee-flavoured milk to the saucepan and keep it warm over low heat.
  3. In a bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl, beat eggs until they thicken.
  5. Slowly add the sugar, continuing to beat well after each addition.
  6. Add the coffee-flavoured milk and vanilla, stirring until just blended.
  7. Fold the flour and spices into the mixture until just blended, taking care not to overheat.
  8. Fold the melted butter in carefully.
  9. Pour the batter into the pans. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  10. Allow the sponges to cool for 10 minutes, then turn them out onto racks so they can cool completely.
  11. To make the frosting, combine the coffee, sugar, salt and egg yolks into a heat-proof bowl.
  12. Over simmering water, beat the ingredients until the mixture has thickened
  13. Remove from the heat and continue to beat until the mixture has cooled
  14. Add the butter one tablespoon at a time, beating well after each addition.
  15. Add the vanilla and continue to beat until the mixture is thick enough to spread.
  16. When the cake has completely cooled, spread the frosting over one layer and place the other layer on top. Cover the cake with remaining frosting.


Find more delicious recipes like this Spiced Coffee Sponge Cake in The Global Bakery by Anna Weston.

Buy your copy here:


As summer fades and fall colours begin to blaze, I am reminded of the beauty of seasons. There are seasons in nature, seasons in life, and also, seasons in business.

In a challenging retail environment, Ten Thousand Villages is not immune to the pressures. As sales began to decrease, we undertook a massive brand exercise beginning in Fall 2013. The purpose was to determine, how best to engage with you, our current loyal customer and to determine how do we become relevant to a new generation of customers whose values align with ours.

You will begin to see a new generation of our logo and overall visual identity. We are excited about this freshening of a logo that has so much meaning. The logo and typeface are a reflection of the connection between the global village and our homes. The continuous lines represent our on-going connection, and the variety of sizes and shapes in the windows and doors represent both the homes of our makers, and ours. The house in the middle, more reflective of a North American home is nestled within the global village, representing our connection to the global village through the products purchased at Ten Thousand Villages that we bring into our lives.

We have already reinvented seven of our stores in Canada, and look forward over the coming months and years to rolling it out further.  The new in-store experience is an effort to highlight our makers and their products in a fresh, engaging way. We love that the craftsmanship and care that goes into each piece is more visible. We are also pleased with the artisan photos and stories, and the connection to our lives.

Our website has undergone similar changes. Updating our maker information, highlighting products and through our digital media, telling the stories of the people behind the products. If you are not already following us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest, I would invite you to join us!

You will see changes at Ten Thousand Villages Canada.  However, our mission:

To create opportunities for artisans in developing countries to earn income by bringing their products and stories to our markets through long-term, fair trading relationships.

Has not, and will not change.

We are a retailer with a story… it’s a story of quality, handcrafted products, retail realities and challenges,but most importantly, it’s a story of life-changing artisan impact. We invite you to join in our story!



Holly DeGraaf

CEO, Ten Thousand Villages

As Canadians gather today at citadels, in school gyms and on parade route street corners to mark Remembrance Day, we’re reminded how lucky we are to be living in a country at peace.

Most of our school children and even adults – thankfully – have never known what it is to be at war, watching family members and neighbours perish in a maelstrom of hatred and fear.

But on the other side of the world, Cambodia is still, to this day, picking up the pieces following decades of unrest. Literally. The country’s countryside is littered with spent bomb and artillery shell casings.

Equipped with knowledge provided to them by Phontong Handicrafts Co-operative, artisans create every silk scarf from start to finish at the co-op. Starting with the mulberry tree and ending with weaving the silk, each step is crucial to the production of the fine Lao silk products.

The Importance of the Mulberry Tree

At Phontong Handicrafts Co-operative, there is a balanced ecosystem. The entire silk production cycle starts and ends with the planting of mulberry saplings. These saplings provide fruit for dyes, leaves for organic fertilizer and food for growing silkworms. The silkworms continue the cycle by producing cocoons and nutrient rich waste that can be used as fertilizer for mulberry and food crops.

Raising Silkworms

The silkworm is crucial to the silk production process. The silkworm creates a cocoon made by secreting two filaments from its mouth. One is a very thin strand of silk, and the other is a cord of gum called sericin. When exposed to the air, the two strands harden together and become one length of thread. This cocoon is the beginning of what will be beautiful silk products that Phontong creates.

The raising of silkworms is a full-time job. The producer must keep the silkworms in a rearing house to protect the worms from pests, diseases and to maintain a humidity level. The silkworms must be fed mulberry leaves three times per day. Because silkworms are such delicate insects, producers must ensure that there is little variation in their living environment—even residue from tobacco on the producer’s hands could spread sickness among the silkworms.

As the silkworms create their cocoons, the silk producer is also busy ensuring that the worms are distributed evenly on a frame, known as a mountage, and maintaining a clean environment for the silkworms.

Harvesting The Silk

After five days of being inside the cocoon, the silkworm turns into a dark pupa in transition from a silkworm to a silkmoth (similar to the process of a caterpillar to a butterfly). At this time, the cocoon is ready to be harvested and transformed into silk thread. The cocoons are plucked from the mountage and sorted according to quality. They are cleaned and the loose outer threads that are frayed are removed by hand.

Cocoons are then placed in boiling water to begin to separate the fragile silk from the sericin.

Up to 100 strands are pulled through simple tools in order to form one silk thread.

The new silk thread must then be soaked, cleaned and softened first in rice water, and then left over night to condition it to absorb natural dyes, and hung to dry. Once the silk has dried, it is ready to be boiled for many hours, this time in ash water to wash the sericin off the silk.

A soft texture will be created when the sericin boils away, and the silk is ready for weaving or dyeing.


With beating combs and dancing shuttles, the village weaver creates the silk cloth finishing the cycle of silk production. Using skills learned from Phontong, the weaver operates a traditional loom. The weaving position is favoured among women in the village because it allows them to watch their children and participate in village life. Most weavers are able to produce 1 to 1.2 m in an eight hour day.

With the silk produced, Phontong Handicrafts Co-operative are able to create trendy silk scarfs and other items for the fair trade market. Ten Thousand Villages Canada recently received two of these soft scarves.

New in-store, and online:

Be the next part of this scarf’s story.

Shop the Purple Ikat Silk Scarf.

Shop the Black and White Ikat Silk Scarf.

“Face-to-face, transparent relationships with producers is the only context in which Fair Trade can flourish.”

-Stacey Toews, co-founder, Level Ground Trading.

We think our coffee tastes amazing. Whether it’s Tanzanian, Colombian or Ethiopian, we know that a cup of coffee made with beans bought at Ten Thousand Villages is going to be outstanding. And we know this from experience. If you’ve bought coffee from us in Canada anytime in the last 20 years, you’ll have bought some of the best beans in the business.

In 1997, Level Ground Trading was started by four families who wanted to come together to improve the lives of disadvantaged producers through trade. They wanted to make a difference. And they looked to Ten Thousand Villages for inspiration.

Hugo Ciro, co-founder and co-owner of Level Ground, was introduced to the difference that fair trade can make while volunteering for Ten Thousand Villages, then called Self Help Crafts. In the warehouse in Abbotsford, Hugo saw that when people came together to do good, they could make a real impact. It’s an experience that moved Hugo, so when his family came together with three others, he knew how they should proceed.

By 1998, Level Ground had secured a partnership with farmers in Colombia, and had bought, shipped, roasted, and packaged their first run of coffee. As soon as they were ready, Ten Thousand Villages came knocking. In fact, Ten Thousand Villages was Level Ground’s very first customer!

Level Ground has maintained their connection to Colombia, but have grown considerably since then. They now import coffee from Bolivia, Peru, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and the D.R. Congo, and have expanded into tea from India, rice and coconut oil from the Philippines, spices from Sri Lanka, vanilla from Uganda, dried fruit, and sugar.

Each relationship that Level Ground has is built with the intention to last. They believe, as we do, that long term fair trading relationships are the best way to make real change. It’s also the best way to ensure top quality products.

Transparency and accountability also set Level Ground apart. They publish the financial details of every bulk purchase they make from producers, detailing the ‘conventional’ price at the time of purchase, the fair trade price paid, the fair trade premium paid, and more.

Level Ground also invests in social programs in farmers’ communities through Fair Trade Premiums. The recipient communities use these premiums to invest in educational scholarships, health care and economic development.

Level Ground takes the fair trade relationship even further than most other fair trade coffee companies. Each business relationship that Level Ground maintains is also a personal one. A farm co-operative working with Level Ground doesn’t deal with a faceless offshore corporation. On the contrary, Level Ground’s owners make a point of visiting with producers to understand their unique situations and opportunities. As they’re fond of saying, “We shake the hands that farm the land.”

“But wait,” you’re thinking, “I thought we were talking about Ten Thousand Villages’ coffee.”

The truth is, we are. For many years, every bag of coffee in Canada with the Ten Thousand Villages logo on it has also carried the Level Ground Trading logo. We trust this organization that’s founded on the same principles as we are to maintain positive relationships with farmers, trade fairly, ethically, and environmentally, and roast the very best beans they can find.

For pushing the boundaries of environmental stewardship, transparency, accountability and flavour, we tip our hats to Level Ground Trading, and look forward to the next 20 years of partnership.