Bangladesh Artisans

album12Back in early January, our social media and marketing team gathered together to make a call to Level Ground Trading, our fair trade coffee partner.

Located in Victoria, B.C., the company’s slogan is, “We shake the hands that pick the coffee,” but in reality, the organization does much more. Not only does it invest in communities in South America and Africa, coffee roasting guru and master taster, Josh Del Sol, creates tasty blends and roasts beans.

We wanted to pick his brain and find out all we could about the coffee we sell. It turns out there was plenty to learn. For example…

New Items Summer 2013 WebWhat does it mean to imagine a better world, and to also strive for it? This is one of those questions that built Ten Thousand Villages.

It might sound odd – but in an ideal world, the concept of “fair trade” as a distinct niche would one day become obsolete. We hope for a day when all commerce is fairly traded, and the business community regards all people involved in global supply chains as equal parties. But there is so much more to our picture of a better world.

“The most fulfilling thing about working in fair trade? Definitely the amazing trading relationships Sasha has developed,” says Roopa Mehta, CEO of Sasha Exports.

“Sasha’s partnerships with workshops – and with our trading partners around the world, like Ten Thousand Villages – all make me so pleased. Every single one of these groups has overcome challenges to get where they are today.

“Fair trade is growing, and I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life.”Roopa Mehta from Sasha Exports

Lombok Pottery 1Turning greyish indigenous clay into rich red-brown and black pottery is no easy task. Yet the 214 women potters, who make up Lombok Pottery Center’s collection of four cooperatives, are experts at creating beautiful and useful objects from the ground up.

Ten Thousand Villages is now pleased to carry several pieces of their versatile pottery, handcrafted using traditional methods and designed with contemporary North American tastes in mind.

SelfHelp Photo’Tis the season for milestones at Ten Thousand Villages!

At this time of year, we celebrate our anniversary as an organization. This year, we’re marking 68 years since Edna Ruth Byler started selling the needlework she brought back from Puerto Rico.

And while the motivation behind our efforts has remained constant over these 68 years, much has changed. For example, in the early years, we were a grassroots movement run entirely by volunteers. Today, while volunteerism remains a big part of who we are, we’re now a world-class retailer with more than 120 stores scattered across North America.

WFTO Video ScreenshotThe other day, I received an email from the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), which included a message from Rudi Dalvai, WFTO’s president. The following words stood out for me:

“While many things have changed since we started our journey, our goals have always remained the same: to network between organizations which have Fair Trade at their heart and which embrace the trade values that make us different.”

Ten Thousand Villages truly sees itself as “different.” We represent an alternative to mainstream buying options, with an uncompromising focus on ethics that’s embedded in everything we do.

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.