This Saturday, Ten Thousand Villages will be celebrating their one-year anniversary at their downtown Harrisonburg location. The fair-trade retailer was founded in 1946 when Edna Ruth Byler opened up shop in the trunk of her car and has since grown to include 390 retail stores throughout the United States.
The mission of the non-profit is to create opportunities for artisans in developing countries to earn income by bringing their products and stories to a sustainable market through long-term fair-trading relationships. Ten Thousand Villages is one of the world’s largest fair-trade organizations and is a founding member of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO).
Ten Thousand Villages’ name was inspired by the Mahatma Gandhi quote: “…India is not to be found in its few cities but in the 700,000 villages…we have hardly ever paused to inquire if these folks get sufficient [resources] to eat and clothe themselves with.” To Ten Thousand Villages, “each village in the world represents a unique, distinctive people…offering extraordinary products born of their rich cultures and traditions.” The company now supports tens of thousands of disadvantaged artisans in 38 countries that span the globe from Latin America to East Asia. When you purchase any one of their products, you are helping to pay for food, education, housing, and health care for skilled artisans and their families.
At any Ten Thousand Villages location, you can find one-of-a-kind home décor, jewelry, textiles, art, sculpture, gifts, and personal accessories. If you ever get the chance to sit down with April Sedeen Estep, marketing coordinator for Harrisonburg’s Ten Thousand Villages store, her passion for working for this company is immediately evident. When asked about Ten Thousand Villages, she said, “I love working for a company that does such good work. We have artisans all over the world. Women have been rescued from sex trafficking and children have been rescued from child labor. We meet these people and we put them to work in good environments.”
As you walk through Ten Thousand Villages, your eyes are drawn to the back of the store where the floor is covered with richly-colored rugs that are truly individual pieces of art. Seven artisans work on a rug for eight hours a day for two years in order to complete the masterpieces. The gorgeous rugs aren’t the only treasures you’ll find in the store though! When you look along the wall that is lined with colorful jewelry, your eyes rest on the tags that tell you the country in which each product was crafted. It isn’t until you ask about the jewelry that you truly understand the beauty that is in each and every piece. One of April’s favorite pieces is a necklace with a pendant that is made out of old bomb casings, which she finds fascinating because the artisans took something so awful and made it absolutely beautiful.
This Saturday, February 11, Ten Thousand Villages cordially invites you to celebrate their one-year anniversary in downtown Harrisonburg. From 12 pm to 6 pm, they will have raffles for giveaways from downtown businesses, cupcakes, chai tea and fair-trade chocolate tastings, and live music from 4 pm to 6 pm. To top it all off, 15% of sales will go to HARTS, a local shelter. And did I mention that all jewelry is buy one, get one half off? What a deal! Men, it’s almost Valentine’s Day, so this is the perfect opportunity to get your special lady a gift with an awesome story behind it.
I have heard that there may even be a guest appearance by Ellie the Elephant! Who is Ellie the Elephant, you ask? Well, Ellie came to life this year on September 22, also known as Elephant Appreciation Day to fair trade dealers. This holiday is commemorated with a celebration featuring elephant goods. This year, Ten Thousand Villages donated the money raised to the Artisan Special Needs Fund, a relief and needs fund.
Ten Thousand Villages is always looking for more volunteers so I highly recommend stopping in and donating some of your time to this great cause! The volunteers and staff are extremely friendly and eager to share their knowledge and love for all of their unique products. I also have heard that while you volunteer, you are allowed to sample all of their fair-trade coffee. Sign me up!
I hope that you will make your way downtown this weekend to do some shopping, enjoy some live music (and maybe a cupcake or two), and most importantly, take in the beauty of each and every one of these products. Come celebrate with Ten Thousand Villages and discover downtown!
Kerri DeVries is the Visual + Social Media Intern for Spring 2012. She is a senior Media Arts & Design major at James Madison University.