Bangladesh Artisans

At Ten Thousand Villages, we work with over 20,000 makers. Of those 20,000 many of those are women.

Not only do these women earn a sustainable income and develop new skills, they are able provide for their families; whether it is having flexible working hours to tend for their children and household duties, or that they are able to pick up the supplies to work from their home, these makers are forging a brighter future.

With Mother’s Day approaching, we wanted to share the stories of some of our maker mothers in fair trade. Each story reflects strength, hard work and hope.

In Hajiganj Handicrafts, a small workshop located near Saidpur, Rashida takes a few seconds to look after her eigh-month-old son Shumy, all the while holding with her feet the lid of a basked made with kaisa grass and palm leaves. For nearly 10 years, this work has enabled her to provide for herself and her children.


Jenny, maker with Sapia, Colombia:

“I dream to have the resources to give my children a good education and that they can become professionals. I dream they will graduate from college. “

“Before joining Sapia, I had another job in a company and I had almost no time to share with my family. The biggest one has been to have time with my family. Sharing with my kids and be aware of the children. Besides I have had the fortune of generating income to improve my home and the quality of life.”


Jothi maker with Blue Mango, India:

“Blue Mango is good to my family by giving me a steady income and helping to educate our children.”

“I joined Blue Mango in 2012 because we needed the money.  Blue Mango is my first job outside the home.”

“My two daughters go to the Blue Mango Tuition Center and are studying well.”

“Right now we’re concentrating on our kids’ education. I hope to stay for a long time as my savings will allow me to fulfill my dream of sending my children to school, giving them the chance I never had”


Joyanti from Prokritee, Bangladesh:

“Currently, I am really happy with the financial condition of my family. Jobarpar has saved the lives of my kids and mine.”

“Working with Jobarpar Enterprise (JE) has not only given me an opportunity to support my family but also made me a respectable member in my community.”

“I come from a poor family who often struggled to provide me the basic needs to subsist. When I was just 16, my parents arranged my marriage with a local man whose family’s financial condition was no better than mine, if not worse. Nevertheless, I didn’t complain and became a good housewife–just like I was supposed to be. Within a few years into my marriage, I was blessed with two beautiful children, whose existence only made things worse for my husband. He was constantly struggling to bear the family expenses; and suddenly one day, due to the extreme fatigue he was going through, he fell sick. Things started going downhill for my family from that point, as the doctors told me that my husband wouldn’t be able work anymore.”

“I decided to leave my post as a housewife and start looking for a job. It’s uncommon for a woman to be the breadwinner in a Bangladeshi family, so my husband hesitated at first; but after considering the family’s dire financial condition, my husband supported my resolution.”

“For a while, I was only doing odd jobs, until I stumbled upon Jobarpar Enterprise in the year of 1999. The managers of Jobarpar Enterprise were kind to me and gave me a job, even though I had no prior experience of paper making. Thus, I began my wonderful journey with Jobarpar Enterprise.”

“Both of my kids go to school. My son is studying in 12th grade and my daughter is in 9th grade. I want to see my kids become successful members of my community. I want to see them living fulfilling lives of their own.

“My husband is doing well now, as I am able to afford a better medical care for him. He runs a drugstore in our village. Also, I paid off all my loans that I took from local NGOs. Moreover, with the saved up money from my provident fund, I have recently bought a piece of land in my village, and I plan on building a house for my family there.”

“I am really thankful to Jobarpar Enterprise, as well as Prokritee, the parent organization of JE, for providing me the opportunity to support my family and implementing fair trade policies into its system.”


Without our volunteers, we couldn’t do everything we do. Volunteers are essential to the mission of Ten Thousand Villages.

Our volunteers share their time on a weekly or monthly basis depending on their interest and availability. For some, it could be a half day every week, while others volunteer more or less. Herb and his wife, Shirley, have volunteered with Ten Thousand Villages since 2003. Initially, they volunteered 3 days a week but have since reduced their schedule to a half day once per week.

At Ten Thousand Villages, we are passionate about creating economic opportunities for our artisan partners, enabling them to build a better life for their families through fair trade. To accomplish our mission, we rely on caring, determined individuals who hold a deep respect for the artisans that we work with.

Our volunteers span all age ranges, come from diverse backgrounds, and share a wide variety of skills. Karen was an ESL teacher working part time with people from around the world. To fill her time she began volunteering, and now Karen enjoys educating customers with artisan stories and information about product in our stores.

According to Karen, her volunteer shifts tend to be consistent, unless it’s the Christmas season or particularly busy in the store. Karen, who has volunteered at the Waterloo location for 6 years, spends her shifts assisting with day-to-day store operations.

“I do a lot of restocking, customer service, unpacking new shipments, merchandising and reading about new products,” Karen said. Other duties include maintaining the store’s cleanliness, ringing in sales, and other tasks to help with store functions.

“There’s a lot of interacting with customers. You get to meet really nice people that are kind of in alignment with how you think. The best thing about volunteering with Ten Thousand Villages is when people come in and you get to educate them on the products and artisan stories. Maybe they are a returning customer, or maybe I’ve just enlightened someone!” chimed Janet.

Janet has volunteered with Ten Thousand Villages for approximately 10 years. She currently volunteers at the Waterloo location.

Volunteering at Head Office in New Hamburg is a bit different, however, as tasks vary from week to week. One day, you could be placing price stickers on the products, the next time you could be counting items. “Today, I’m counting marbles!” Rosemary smiled. Rosemary began volunteering 5 years ago. “I was shopping at the tent sale and I noticed a sign looking for volunteers. I’ve met so many new people, and you’re doing work that’s worthwhile! You’re making a difference. It’s important.”

Regardless of where our volunteers work within the organization or the paths they take to join us, our volunteers are the heart of our team. We couldn’t accomplish our mission without their support.

Interested in learning more about volunteering with Ten Thousand Villages? Click here.



Goodbye grey, bleak and dismal days. This spring, home décor is heating up. Whether your living room needs a sprucing up, or you want to give your bedroom a fresh, new look, here are some of this season’s most inspired design trends sure to put a little spring in your step.


Go global

Ever visit a far-flung country and decide you’ve got to bring some of the region’s handcrafted flare back to your own home? You’re in luck. Travel-inspired interiors are gaining traction this year. Think earthy terracotta and globally influenced prints. Textiles and materials feel raw, natural and handcrafted. (And yes, Ten Thousand Villages has always been known to shine in this area. After all, our products come direct from dozens of countries – and thousands of makers – around the world.)

Shop the look: Flower Power Tablecloth ($80); Multi-Squares Peace Quilt ($125); Lily Raffia Basket Bowl ($48)


It’s about texture

From embellishments to appliqué, if it feels good under your fingers, it’s got to go in the home. Ceramic is often flat mat with raised textures. Look out for fringes, tufts and tassels too. They add a fabulously handcrafted quality to a room.

Shop the look: Diamond Textured Blue Ceramic Vase ($48); Flower Patch Cushion Cover ($45); Black Stripes Fringed Alpaca Throw ($189); Birds of a Feather Cushion Cover ($39)


Colour – and lots of it!

Goodbye beige. This year, colours are bigger, bolder and way more vibrant. (Want to wallpaper your ceiling in bright blue? It’s a thing.) Look out for ice cream pastels, moody indigo and pops of pink, purple and orange. Or better yet, try out the new “maximalism” trend and double up with colours and textures.

Shop the look: Multi-coloured Paisley Tablecloth ($80); All Reds Dotted Peace Quilt ($125); Turquoise Band Mangowood Cake Tray ($38)



Metal accents are still in vogue this spring and are popping up in everything from gold-coloured hardware to wall-hangings, table lamps and beyond. Circular mirrors give rooms a contemporary lift too.

Shop the look: Hammered Round Mirror ($120); Asymmetrical Jali Cut Candleholder ($18); Embossed Decorative Bowls ($68)


Go for green

Foliage and even more foliage. That’s the “it” look on the horizon. Forget last year’s tiny succulents though and embrace the humble houseplant instead. Lush, green and springtime bright, when it comes to filling the house with plants, the more the merrier. Just don’t forget to find equally inspired – and fair trade – containers to hold them. Some are crafted from recycled materials making it easy to go green in more ways than one.

Shop the look: Sky Blue Bottom Ceramic Planter ($34); Turquoise Square Recycled Tire Planter ($38)

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