Bangladesh Artisans

1 fair trade ingredientsAs a Ten Thousand Villages store manager in Saskatoon, I have had the opportunity to share the story of Ten Thousand Villages with many people, either one-on-one in the store or to larger groups. For those of you who know the interesting story, you’ll know that Ten Thousand Villages was started in 1946 by a woman named Edna Ruth Byler.

Edna was also Mennonite Central Committee’s Akron, Pennsylvania hostess for a number of years. And from what I understand, she was an amazing baker. While there, she would make buns and doughnuts. Her recipe can be found in the More-with-Less Cookbook. The cookbook says she even offered classes on how to make this recipe!

I love to bake and to use fair trade ingredients in my baking. I also love to share my baking with others – which is good, because this recipe is huge. It will make 100 doughnuts/buns! I often make a half recipe so I can use my stand mixer to do some of the work.

This recipe is also very versatile. You can make cinnamon/sticky rolls (my favourite), doughnuts, dinner rolls or coffee cake. It also freezes well. I’ve given you my three favourite options below, and the others are listed in the cookbook. Enjoy!

blog-top-imageFor more than 20 years, Pantone has surveyed New York Fashion Week and previewed the most important colour trends for the coming season. For Fall 2014, Pantone selected 10 colours that “Transcend Time and Place.”

Interestingly, the selections of colours are probably not the typical colours you are used to seeing for this time of year. The Executive Director of the Pantone Colour Institute explains: “This is a season of untypical colors — more reflective of the imagination and ingenuity, which makes for an artful collection of colors and combinations not bound by the usual hues for fall.”

I decided it would be fun to create a few looks based on this colour palette with some of my favourite accessories here at Ten Thousand Villages.

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.

cakeI’m the assistant manager at Ten Thousand Villages on Henderson Highway in Winnipeg. I believe Fair Trade is important, and I want to share a recipe with you that incorporates some delicious Fair Trade ingredients we sell at our store!

A “flourless chocolate torte” sounds like it would be hard to make – but trust me, it’s actually quite easy.

Shortly after my husband and I were married two years ago, we decided to have some friends over to our apartment for a get-together. Being the new bride that I was, I wanted to impress my friends and family with a glorious dessert.

I had recently tried an amazing flourless chocolate torte at a local restaurant here in Winnipeg and absolutely fell in love with it. So I googled the recipe to see if I could find it. Sure enough, I discovered a recipe that looked quite similar. After tweaking it a bit to make it more Fair Trade-friendly, I came up with the perfect recipe! It was a hit among my friends, and it’s been a favorite in my family ever since! It’s gluten-free, vegetarian-friendly, and it uses some great Fair Trade products you can pick up at your local Ten Thousand Villages store. I hope you’ll give it a try. I promise… you’ll love it!

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.

TOP - Exterior shot of mill“This is where you belong,” a customer said, when she discovered the Ten Thousand Villages location in St. Jacobs, Ontario had just opened this past May.

Back when Ten Thousand Villages (then known as SelfHelp Crafts) was just beginning, one of the first Canadian locations was in The Mill in St. Jacobs. Over the years, the store moved around the village, and finally settled down to become what is now the Waterloo store.

The St. Jacobs Mill is a beautifully restored historic building perched on the Conestoga River, with local and Canadian artisan weavers and potters tucked snugly in the silos. A local artist hosts his gallery next to the silos, and three museum displays and a model train fill the majority of the building. The street side entrance welcomes visitors with Scottish treasures, and is once again home to Ten Thousand Villages.

79 - PhilippinesWe periodically receive questions from customers such as:

  • Why does Ten Thousand Villages buy products from the specific groups you work with?
  • Why do you import from those particular countries and regions?
  • Are you open to adding new groups from new countries?

Ten Thousand Villages’ mission is to create “opportunities for artisans in developing countries to earn income by bringing their products and stories to our markets through long-term, fair trading relationships.” This drives everything we do, and we will not compromise our commitment to our Fair Trade principles.

Volunteers are LOVE in motion- AuthorIt is a great thing to find a place where one can volunteer among generous souls in support of a good cause. Work becomes a delight and co-workers become friends.

This has been my experience as a volunteer at the Dix Mille Villages shop on St-Denis in Montreal, where I have been helping out on a nearly weekly basis for more than a year.

As you may know, Dix Mille Villages (Ten Thousand Villages) relies heavily on volunteerism. It helps keep the cost of overhead down so more resources are available to fulfill the mission, it creates communities of support for the principles of Fair Trade, and it strengthens the society within which it functions. As journalist Brian O’Connell writes, “Volunteering creates a national character in which the community and the nation take on a spirit of compassion, comradeship and confidence.”

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.