When people ask me about the impact Ten Thousand Villages has on producers, lots of answers come to mind. But I believe it’s the artisans themselves who should have the final word regarding whether or not our work is making a difference.
There are lots of heartwarming examples, but I’ll share two that stand out in my mind:
Setting High Standards for Ourselves
At last year’s joint meeting of the boards of directors for Ten Thousand Villages in the U.S. and Canada, Sunil Chitrakar, CEO of Mahaguthi in Nepal, joined us for part of the meeting.
Mahaguthi is a relatively large organization, and sells its products both internationally and within Nepal. Sunil shared what it’s like to work with Ten Thousand Villages, including a few reasons why we’re among the top three organizations his team loves to do business with:
- the length and consistency of our commitment to Mahaguthi;
- our clear, timely and transparent communication; and
- Ten Thousand Villages staff always endeavour to understand the culture and context of Nepal in any decisions that are made.
Encouraged by Sunil’s comments, in developing our current three-year strategic plan, we decided to set the goal of being viewed by all our artisan partners as their very best trading partner, if we aren’t already.
Praise Directly From Artisans
On a recent trip to India to meet with a number of artisan partners, Kathleen Campbell, Director of Purchasing for Ten Thousand Villages in the U.S., recorded some thoughts that inspired her as she met with groups:
In every conversation, we have heard tremendously positive feedback that Ten Thousand Villages is practising fair trade in a manner that supports the long-term success of workshops, and of the families of the people who make the products we sell. Repeat orders do so much to help families have secure incomes, and to help workshops improve their margins and recoup the investments they have made in product development.
People tell us about dramatic changes in their lives – from places of vulnerability to security, dignity and planning for both their and their children’s futures. They are changing their own lives, and are especially changing their children’s futures. If our customers could understand that they are actively contributing to this, they would be motivated. How do we effectively communicate that this is what sets Ten Thousand Villages apart from other retailers?
We have also heard from many of the producer groups that they are making efforts to sell to the domestic market to grow their sales, but that there are never any guarantees they will be paid on time, or even at all.
I wish you were here to hear directly how much the organizations we’ve met with in the last two weeks appreciate everything that Ten Thousand Villages does.
As I’m sure you can imagine from this account of firsthand conversations with artisans, it’s an incredible privilege to work for an organization that partners with such talented craftspeople in developing countries. I truly value the opportunity to play a role in bringing these high-quality products to the North American market, and in sharing the inspiring stories of those who must overcome many obstacles to produce them.
When you buy a Fair Trade item, know that your decision makes a meaningful and a lasting impact on the marginalized artisans who created it.
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