Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ten Thousand Villages

On my recent trip to Africa (I do love saying that!) I saw some amazing handicrafts for sale in hotel gift shops. 

I don't bring home a lot of souvenirs when I travel - usually just far too many photos on my laptop (check!) and, depending on where I am and the purpose for the trip, about five extra pounds of ME (but not this time!).

There were some really lovely things on offer, but I couldn't be sure that the money I paid would go into the hands of the artisans who had made them.

Luckily, there's Ten Thousand Villages.

Ten Thousand Villages began in 1946 when Edna Ruth Byler, a Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) worker, visited volunteers in Puerto Rico who were teaching sewing classes in an effort to help improve the lives of women living in poverty.

From this trip, Edna brought several pieces of embroidery home to sell to friends and neighbours. The pieces became quite popular and she soon added cross-stitch needlework from Palestinian refugees and hand carved Haitian woodenware to her inventory.

In the early 1970s, the flourishing project moved out of Byler’s basement and became SELFHELP CRAFTS, an official MCC program. Thousands of loyal customers and volunteers have helped to build this program into the strong alternative trading organization that, in 1996, became known as Ten Thousand Villages.  (from the website)

With 155 stores across the USA and Canada as well as a website, Ten Thousand Villages is your go-to place for gorgeous international handicrafts with a conscience.


Clarity said...

That sounds like a good alternative, if one can't be in the country of origin itself. At the moment we only have these initiatives with food items in England so I hope they incorporate more products.

Barb said...

I hope so, too. It's such a great idea.