They say it takes a village to raise a child. This proverb rings true for all of us. Whether at the workplace, between family, amongst friends, but also, between strangers. It takes a village to raise each other; to inspire, lift and support.
“From what we get, we can make a living; what we give, however, makes a life.” ~ Arthur Ashe
This world seems so colossal yet so small — I strongly believe we all have a similar purpose in this life and one of the main ones is to ensure we can care for ourselves and those we love. How we achieve that, truly does take a village (big or small), because patronage from those around us is extremely valuable.
As we head into the holiday season and in full-on shopping mode, while you purchase gifts or personal items for yourselves, did you ever think about those facile and precious hands that have created them? I often do. And nothing makes me feel more gratification then knowing I have purchased something that I not only love, but that gives back to the hands that created them.
I recently learned of a company that not only offers an array of spectacular and distinctive products — from unique jewelry to warm woollies, to the must-have toys, kitchen and dining accessories and on-trend home décor pieces — but that strive to improve the livelihood of tens of thousands of disadvantaged makers in more than 30 countries!
This year Ten Thousand Villages celebrates its 70th anniversary with a stunning holiday lineup of gifts ideas all sourced and handcrafted by makers the world over.
But Villages is not just a gift shop—its rich history tells a story of entrepreneurship, empowerment, and a commitment to promoting economic development through fair trade craft sales.
In 1946 Edna Ruth Byler traveled to Puerto Rico with the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) and bought some hand-embroidered linens from disadvantaged craftswomen in La Plata Valley. She paid fair price for the needlework and brought it home, selling it out of the trunk of her car to friends and neighbours.
Today, Ten Thousand Villages has 38 retail locations in Canada and more than twice that number in the United States. Stores, including the newly-renovated concept store on Bloor Street in Toronto, carry a wide variety of stunning, handcrafted goods—a one-stop-shop for home decor, fashion and gifts galore.
In 1952 after just five years, Byler had become hugely successful in her mission, selling $30,000 worth of goods and reaching more makers throughout the developing world. Her simple idea was blossoming into what would become known as ‘fair trade’ and she would position herself as the pioneer of a global movement for ethical sourcing and human rights.
Today, Ten Thousand Villages is incorporated as an independent non-profit arm of MCC Canada. Profits are reinvested in the organization benefiting makers and their communities. Ten Thousand Villages’ partnerships result in: better education for the next generation, more money for food and shelter, empowerment for the marginalized, community development, and expanded employment and leadership opportunities, especially for women.
In 1972 the first retail store opened under the name Self Help Crafts, selling ‘thrifts and gifts’ from makers around the globe. By this time Edna’s project had been acquired by MCC as one of their initiatives.
Today Ten Thousand Villages is one of the largest and most experienced fair trade retailers in North America working with 74 artisan groups in 27 countries.
1996 Self Help Crafts decided it’s time for a new name. The name finally agreed upon was Ten Thousand Villages, inspired by the Mahatma Gandhi quote: “I have…repeated times without number that India is to be found not in its few cities but in its 700,000 villages.”
Today Ten Thousand Villages continues to pay makers a fair price for their goods, rather than negotiating the best possible price. Knowing each artisan group they support, as more than just employers, helps establish lasting relationships. Holiday shoppers can feel good knowing the gifts they purchase will not only put a smile on the face of those who receive them, but will go a long way toward supporting a way of doing business that’s changing the world.
What an inspiring and wonderful story of how this beautiful retailer came to fruition.
If you have time (and of course you do!), you must visit them online to learn more and to see all the amazing products they offer. Check them out here including their latest Holiday Collection.
This is why we just had to have them as part of our #CACGiftList this year, featuring their chic Yellow Eco-Leather Purse made from artisans in India, lovely Filigree Tree Ornament from Indonesia’s Pekerti Nusantara Artisans, and more!
Courtesy of Ten Thousand Villages, one of our readers will win a cozy and emblematic prize pack featuring
London Fog Infinity Scarf from India, Drip & Sip Mug from Nepal and Recycled Paper Coasters from the Philippines.
To enter, simply leave me a comment below telling what ways you are (or have done) giving back to your community and to others.
Open to Canadian Residents. Ends 11/28.
Ten Thousand Villages ‘Round the World’ Prize Pack