If you’re shopping for Christmas gifts, or just shopping in general, Ten Thousand Villages has it all, from beautiful decorations, to instruments, jewelry, and children’s toys. And they’re all homemade. All that at reasonable prices – and using fair trade practices. If you’re unfamiliar with fair trade, fair trade is a practice that essentially helps farmers, artisans, and other workers in developing countries get fairly compensated for their work and their products that are exported to the U.S., and ultimately reach financial security. It is a practice based on integrity and caring.
For Ten Thousand Villages, it means that poor, unemployed, or underemployed artisans in developing countries are given the opportunity to support themselves and their families through the products they create, are treated with respect, are paid promptly, and are given the security of consistent, ongoing orders for their creations. These artisans can be found across the world – Peru, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Pakistan, Uganda, Chile, Guatemala, Egypt, Vietnam, Ethiopia and Nepal are just a few of the countries from which the artisans hail. And Ten Thousand Villages takes care to ascertain that the products they sell are environmentally friendly and culturally conscious.The purchases you make can help a woman in Tamil Nadu afford health care for her children, or give people in Hazigonj opportunities to enjoy year-round work. Because of Ten Thousand Villages, a disabled man in Pomaire can continue creating his handmade pottery despite the fact that the ever-rising popularity of cheap, plastic, factory-made pottery threatens to put many potters out of business. Ten Thousand Villages works with various non-profit groups to ensure that many people across the world, from rural villages to impoverished towns, can enjoy the gainful employment, basic comforts, and respect that everyone has a right to enjoy.
Ten Thousand Villages is a non-profit organization that is staffed with volunteers, so the prices are not overwhelming. You can find beautiful, authentic handicrafts in Ten Thousand Villages for half the price the factory-made imitations in Pier One would cost. In most states, you can find at least one Ten Thousand Villages, but many states have multiple stores. If you happen to be in a state that does not have a Ten Thousand Villages (Mississippi, Louisiana, and Maine to name a few) or the nearest one is too far away, you can always buy products online through their website, www.tenthousandvillages.com.
If you’re looking for a pleasant shopping experience during the holidays, Ten Thousand Villages is where you want to be. The stores I have visited have been warm, comfortable, and inviting, and have had artisans’ quotes and other pertinent quotes painted on the wall. In general, the stores offer a quiet, relaxing environment that encourages shoppers to calm down, take their time, and look around leisurely. It’s a nice change of pace from the busy, crowded, flourescent-lit chain stores blasting Christmas music and filled with bustling, stressed-out shoppers.
If you’re looking for decorations, Ten Thousand Villages is the place to go. You can find holiday decorations, including ornaments and nativities, and all kinds of home decorations, from small items, like candle holders and picture frames, to large items, such as furniture, wall hangings, tablecloths, and sculptures. If you’re looking for personal decorations, they have all kinds of jewelry, bags, hats, purses, and scarves. You can also find some really unique musical instruments. On the website, they offer panflutes, singing frogs, singing bowls, and something called a thumb piano, along with a myriad of hand drums, among other hard-to-find instruments. If you’re on a limited budget, there is a clearance section on the website that features items at a reduced cost. (I don’t know if they have clearance sections in the actual stores; I have yet to see one, but that does not mean that they don’t exist. )
So check out the website, or if possible, visit one of the stores. If you’re interested in more information, in volunteering, or in learning about the artisans, the website has a lot of additional information and you can also pick up various pamphlets in the stores.