Bangladesh Artisans

artisan-rafia-nasir-s72I sit beside Rafia Nasir on the loom, where she works on a 6’ x 9’ Persian rug with her two sisters.

Rafia is a new mom, just like I am. She holds her nearly eight-month-old little girl, letting her grab at the taut warp threads as she takes a break from her work. Rafia chuckles as I have to run and change my son’s diaper, tossing him down on her charpai – a rope bed, in the middle of her home – and asking if she minds if I change him there. It’s my son’s first trip to the villages of Pakistan. And at age two, he’s taking it all in, including the chicken running into the house from the outside courtyard.

gha2013_cm_1076My third grade teacher once said, “Learn one new thing each day.” Many years later, I can still hear her words in the back of my mind, and I often ask myself: “What did I learn today?”

In my role at Ten Thousand Villages, I not only have the privilege of working with our artisan partners every day, but I often get to learn something new from them as well.

As I began to learn about one of our new partners, Ele Agbe from Ghana in West Africa, I was immediately intrigued. I was impressed by their unique production processes and the beautiful products they create – in many cases, using what we would consider everyday trash. Ele Agbe uses items we would generally carry to the curb on recycling day to create Ten Thousand Villages’ newest recycled glass necklace.

Ryan CoffeeI don’t know about you, but my morning routine starts and ends with coffee! I probably don’t qualify as a connoisseur, but I know a good cup of coffee when I taste it – and I’ve long been a big fan of the coffee I get at Ten Thousand Villages.

Ten Thousand Villages has a strong history with Level Ground Trading, which supplies our coffee. This partnership began even before Level Ground Trading’s inception: Hugo Ciro, co-founder and CEO of Level Ground, was introduced to Fair Trade when he volunteered at the SelfHelp Crafts (now Ten Thousand Villages) warehouse in Abbotsford many years ago.

Students Working at DesksI have the great privilege of being able to work in two very different worlds. For the first half of each weekday from September to June, I teach secondary school students in the areas of philosophy, world religion and mathematics. In the afternoons, I step into the world of retail and manage the Ten Thousand Villages store in Cobourg, Ontario.

Teaching and retail … I get to be a part of people’s lives in two very distinct ways.

As a professional teacher, I touch the lives of the future generation of our rich and vibrant country. As a store manager, I participate in the worldwide Fair Trade movement and touch the lives of people in distant lands, whom I will likely never meet. At the heart of both roles is a focus on people.