Bangladesh Artisans

Ten Thousand Villages Finger PuppetsGiven that our holiday campaign tagline is ’Tis the Reason, we thought it might be fun to ask a few of our younger shoppers to answer a question:

“What is the reason you like to shop at Ten Thousand Villages?”

We received a number of really great responses, and here are some of our favourites:

“Camels.” (boy, age 5) – He felt that all nativities should have camels, and Ten Thousand Villages is the place to find them!

Web ImagesI’ll just come out and admit it: I’m seriously coveting this year’s Reindeer Cushion. (It seems a lot of you are too – the online stock is almost gone.)

The cushion is a perfect example of what fair trade looks like today: Contemporary. Beautiful. Handmade. And, yes, a little trendy.

As a customer, it’s also a product that I can feel good about buying or giving this season (although, sorry, I’m keeping mine!). Not only do I love the way it looks, but because it comes from Ten Thousand Villages, I’ll never have that niggling worry that I’m improving my own life at the expense of someone else’s.

cheeky-monkeyWeekday mornings at my house can be quite crazy! One of the most common discussions (and, might I say, whining?) surrounds the topic of what my children will eat for breakfast.

The dilemma isn’t what we have in the house to eat. Quite the contrary! The problem is deciding what they would like to select from the multiple options available to them.

8600465534_0cdaf87863_z (3)As part of the “What I Want My Daughter to Know” series, I’m sharing on behalf of Ten Thousand Villages today – and thrilled for the opportunity to share my heart on what I want my daughter to know about fair trade.

Child, these days we’re doing our best to teach you to play with others. You’re pretty good for your twenty-six months of experience, but playtime is often a losing battle when combining multiple two-year-olds and a room full of toys. Regardless of what you already have in your hand, it always seems that what your friend has is what you want. There are howls and tears and pinching and chaos when the situation seems unfair. Even we adults can be so embarrassingly loud, pitching fits when we feel that life isn’t fair to us.

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.

TOP photo - twitter screencapFor the past few months, there have been some powerful images circling around the internet depicting scenes of extreme poverty or disaster, while a dozen anonymous onlookers give the horrific scene a thumbs-up. The message is hammered home in the tagline: “Liking isn’t helping. Be a volunteer.”

I’ve seen these images pop up on social media every couple weeks since their appearance in February. Ironically, while Facebook likes may not be directly helping the global poor, it certainly is helping this ad campaign. Without the viral appeal of the images, developed for Crisis Relief Singapore, the call to action would never have been heard.

P1060049There are many inspirational stories of individuals, groups and organizations tirelessly working for a better world, and for the fair and equitable treatment of all people. The world is riddled with challenges, but we can help to change things for the better by the actions we take every day.

A compelling quote by Jacques Diouf inspired and challenged me to reassess how I want to contribute to a more just world: “Hunger is not an issue of charity. It is an issue of justice.” It’s about the choices we make on a daily basis and the positive or negative effects they have on other human beings, the planet and other living creatures.

IMG_20140526_175946Working at Ten Thousand Villages, I have the opportunity every day to learn about Fair Trade and see the positive impact this unique business model has on artisans and farmers in developing countries. It’s hard, though, to get a sense for how much the general public knows about what we do.

Christian Malleck and I wanted to evaluate the level of knowledge people in our city have about Fair Trade. So, one evening a few weeks ago, we found ourselves in Uptown Waterloo’s Market Square. We chose this location because it has a high volume of pedestrian traffic and many retail shops nearby. Waterloo also has a pretty strong presence of Fair Trade, so it would be interesting to gauge the awareness in light of that.

Our setup was straightforward – just a table and a sign – and we didn’t say we were affiliated with Ten Thousand Villages, as we didn’t want to scare people away who thought we might be trying to sell them something. We asked just three questions, as our goal was simply to get a general idea of people’s awareness of Fair Trade, while also making sure we weren’t taking up too much of anyone’s time. (We used the tried-and-true technique of “bribing” people with chocolate!)

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.