You know that moment when you are in complete awe of something? And as you embrace it, you think to yourself, “I wish *insert name* were here to witness this with me?”
I had that moment at the end of an amazing experience in Botswana in 2010. But instead of having to wish my mother was there with me, I could look to my side and see that she was just as captivated as I was.
I had somehow convinced my mother to travel with me to Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa for three weeks to volunteer at a nature reserve and a Girl Guide Youth Centre. Still amazed that she even got on the plane, she doesn’t stop talking about the experience.
She proudly displays in our family room the handmade basket she bought at the Botswanacraft Marketing Centre. It’s a reminder of the trip she never thought she would take, and of the trip she plans to take again someday soon.
Standing in the basket gallery, in awe of the technique and skill used to make the works of art displayed on the walls, we couldn’t pick a favourite. No joke – it truly was impossible to pick just one to take home with us!
To call this place a gallery was an understatement. It was a museum of uniquely woven pieces of art that silently told the stories of the artisans who had created them. It was there that I first came to see a basket as something more than simply a practical item for your home.
After our experience in Botswana, it’s no surprise that every time my mother visits a Ten Thousand Villages store, she instantly gravitates toward the brightly coloured baskets from Gone Rural and Uganda Crafts. Functional, beautiful, practical – and a reminder of the adventure we embarked on four years ago – these baskets hold the stories of mothers who are making a difference in their communities.
Gone Rural, located in Swaziland, is dedicated to empowering the women who work for them, with them, and in their surrounding communities through education, health and development projects. These women are often able to complete their work at home, which allows them to provide adequate care for their children as they earn fair wages for their handmade baskets.
Similarly, Uganda Crafts empowers marginalized women in their community who suffer from HIV/AIDS, as well as those who’ve been widowed, orphaned or disabled. They place a strong focus on improving the living conditions of their employees, which ultimately has a positive effect on the broader community.
When I look at the basket my mother displays in her home, I remember how she broke out of her comfort zone to paint murals, shovel sand and dig holes for people she had never met. Now, when she admires a gorgeous new basket at Ten Thousand Villages, I can’t help but smile at the sight of a strong, spirited woman admiring the work of another strong, spirited woman.
My mother will never meet the talented woman who created that basket, but the artisan’s personal story is woven right into it.
I often tell customers who visit our store that every product has a story. Those stories elevate our products from the practical items that they are to true works of art.
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