Bangladesh Artisans

[This post was originally published in Mosaic, the blog magazine of Ten Thousand Villages in the US. We liked it so much we thought we would share it with you. It’s reprinted here with permission.]

Weddings inspire generosity on a level that few other occasions can reach. And why not? Two people have chosen to spend the rest of their lives together “for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health,” and that kind of commitment takes support and encouragement from a loving community. After all, aren’t we stronger when we stick together? Whether support finds its way to the happy couple by means of gifts, advice, or time, you know it will be heartfelt and generously given.

Generosity is something that you should be prepared for. Accepting gifts graciously, whether you were expecting them or not, can be challenging at times. Setting up a registry can seem a little overwhelming, and choosing the perfect ‘thank you’ gifts for your bridal party or wedding favors for your guests can feel like a challenge. But, don’t despair! There are ways to give and receive in the days leading up to your wedding without losing sight of what the occasion is really about, all while consciously choosing to keep the well-being of you, your guests, and the world in mind.

festive1Decorating my home in holiday style is one of my favourite things to do this time of year! I love adding lights, sparkle and fun festive accessories to change up the look of my home.

I thought it would be fun to try two completely different styles on my mantel this year, to see which one best suits my style. I like both of these options quite a lot, so I’d love to hear from you which one is your favourite!

Tis_the_reasonNovember is here! And as anyone who has ever worked in retail knows, this is the week that kick-starts the holiday season into high gear. Exciting? Absolutely! Our stores and warehouse are brimming with unique gifts we can’t wait to share with you.

But here’s something else new we’re excited to reveal: Our ’Tis the Reason campaign.

All year, we’ve worked hard to understand what current and new customers truly want from Ten Thousand Villages. You spoke, we listened – and we have created a campaign that not only excites and motivates, but also incorporates our longstanding values that remain strong and true.

Nosey Spectacle StandIf I had to narrow it down to just one word that I hear used most often to describe Ten Thousand Villages’ products, it’s “unique.”

Without a doubt, we specialize in bringing things to the Canadian market that you simply can’t find anywhere else.

Not only that, but when I look at reports on the items that are among our bestsellers, I’m consistently surprised by some of the items that are the most popular. Take our Nosey Spectacle Stand, for instance. It’s so incredibly popular – and has been for years – that we like to joke that pretty much everyone in Canada must have one!

In our office, you only need to refer to “the nose” and everyone knows exactly what you mean. (Pun totally intended.)

BODY1 - love knot sculpturePractical. Unique. Fun. Meaningful. Quality. Stories. Hand-crafted. Functional. Affordable. These words popped up repeatedly while researching the topic of the perfect wedding gifts from Ten Thousand Villages.

Marriage and weddings are top-of-mind around here these days (as are babies … but I’ll leave that topic to another blogger), since FOUR of my co-workers are engaged to be married. Summer is traditionally known as “wedding season,” so I thought a post about great wedding gifts would be appropriate. And who better to ask for their ideas than our brides- and grooms-to-be! They all graciously agreed to be interviewed because, really, who doesn’t like to talk about PRESENTS!

Gifts are fun. They’re exciting. And there’s probably not another event in your whole life where you get to sit around and open dozens of boxes and envelopes, all filled with wonderful things (again, except perhaps for baby showers). I asked my four colleagues to walk through the New Hamburg store with me and point out items they would give as gifts, as well as an item or two they and their significant other would love to receive to mark the beginning of their married lives.

strutting-bird-tinFair Trade retailers like Ten Thousand Villages carry hundreds of pieces of beautiful work made by artisans from all over the world. Our mission is to bring these works of art to markets artisans wouldn’t otherwise have access to, while facilitating opportunities for disadvantaged people around the world to make a living doing dignified work.

When many people think about Fair Trade products, they often automatically assume they’ll be expensive, and that they’ll have to pay a premium to buy ethically. This simply isn’t true, though. Fair Trade retailers stock a wide variety of products that are inexpensive, while still beautiful and high quality.

SteveAt Ten Thousand Villages, we recognize that our success is driven by the amazing staff and volunteers who work hard every day to keep the wheels turning.

One of our fine staff members is Steve Dorion. Steve has been with us for about three years – first on a temporary contract, and now permanently as Materials Handling Coordinator at our 58,000-square-foot distribution centre in New Hamburg, Ontario.

Steve wears many hats. But his primary responsibility is to ensure products are stored and organized well in our warehouse, and are easily accessible when it’s time for them to be picked for shipment to stores, festival sales and e-commerce customers.

RS8814_CIMG3925On a cool, bright Sunday morning, an elderly man with salt and pepper hair and a jovial manner walked into our store. He was looking for a gift for a friend. While he didn’t have a specific idea in mind, he mentioned that his daughter had suggested that he check out Ten Thousand Villages. And so, that morning he was there to pick up a unique handcrafted gift for a special loved one.

 

 

Sacred MarkMaking ethical choices can be difficult. There are so many causes  that call out to us – causes like the environment,  animal rights, and those who are living in poverty, to name a few.  It can be overwhelming to care about everything that needs our attention, and that can sometimes cause us to throw up our hands and not do anything. That was me, before I came to realize Fair Trade provided an opportunity to have my spending make a positive difference in the world.

Most children are taught the more obvious ways to help our world: turning off the tap when brushing their teeth and turning the lights off when they leave a room. Coming to understand what Fair Trade is all about, however, has changed my understanding of how people can make a difference.

1-Boys and bowlAfter moments of less-than-stellar parenting, I will often quip, “There goes my Mother of the Year Award!”

But with Mother’s Day approaching, it always gives me pause to think about how I am doing as a Mom. Are my boys happy? How healthy are they? They look clean, but where’s that smell coming from? Do they laugh enough? Am I teaching them what it means to be socially responsible people? Are they learning the importance of generosity? Are they compassionate?