Bangladesh Artisans

FT TownOn May 20, 2014, the City of Brandon, Manitoba was officially declared a Fair Trade Town. Brandon is proud to be the 19th Fair Trade Town in Canada, and the second in Manitoba.

As part of the Fair Trade Town Steering Committee and manager of the Ten Thousand Villages store in Brandon, I am often asked the question: “What does that mean?”

It is an excellent – and important – question! What exactly does it mean to be a “Fair Trade Town”?

 

 

Soccer BallThis coming Sunday is Father’s Day, and I’m feeling a little sentimental.

I don’t generally get excited about holidays – but for some reason, this year feels different.

My father has been experiencing some health issues, so I’ve been reflecting a lot lately on the many happy memories I have of my childhood. For example, when the Toronto Blue Jays made it to the World Series, he was that Dad who bought the maximum number of tickets you were allowed to purchase. My sister and I invited a bunch of our friends to join us for a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I’ll never forget.

RS7280_L1027903-scrTurning off a bustling street in Kolkata, on to a dirt road, we were suddenly transported into a quiet village where the noise of the city was silenced. Children ran along the dirt roads and adults talked amongst themselves in the streets, while open fires warmed a late afternoon snack of samosas. We were led through a metal gate and down a grassy path. We then entered a workshop full of cotton, silk and thread.

It was here that we met the women of the Panchannagram Mahila Samity workshop where, 32 years ago, they formed their workshop and started to stitch beautiful stories through fabric and the traditional Kantha stitch.

Back-to-school pictureI suspect my children aren’t the only ones who’ve started counting down the days until summer break! And at this time of year, as the school year winds down, I find myself in a reflective mood.

In Canada, we take for granted every child’s right to a good education. Wherever we live, we expect our kids to get grounded in the basics they’ll need to thrive as adults, and to provide the tools they need if they choose to go on to post-secondary education.

Through my experience meeting some of Ten Thousand Villages’ talented artisan partners, I have been exposed to regions of the world where “education for all” is anything but the norm. One situation that comes immediately to mind is Nepal, where boys are much more likely than girls to have the opportunity to attend school.

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?