Bangladesh Artisans

Sacred Mark (8 of 57)It’s no secret there’s extreme poverty in Bangladesh. And although, according to The World Bank, the number of the country’s poor has decreased by 26 percent in recent years, here’s the harsh reality: there are still approximately 47 million poverty-stricken men, women and children in Bangladesh today.

Women in particular face massive societal and socioeconomic challenges in trying to make a better life for themselves and their children. Because school and well-paying jobs are often unavailable to girls and women, some turn to the sex trade to survive.

But now there’s hope.

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!

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.

“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

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.

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.

yes 0There’s no doubt that the work I get to be a part of at Ten Thousand Villages is inspiring. And yet, as with any job, from time to time, we can all use a tangible reminder about why we do what we do.

In September 2013, we invited Moses and Esther from Kaki Creations in Kenya to join us for our national store manager workshops. They shared stories about life in Kenya and the good work they’re doing there. It was an amazing opportunity for staff to meet some of our artisan partners, and to hear firsthand about the business they’re building and the contributions they’re making to strengthen their community.