Ten Thousand Villages

Posted by Black Mountain Birdie | Posted in | Posted on Friday, May 14, 2010

Here, once again in Montreat, I am sharing with you another hidden treasure...Ten Thousand Villages. This small shop, brimming with vibrant colors of beautifully crafted hand-made goods, is an expression of culture and skill from a world far away. This alone should be a reason enough to visit; however, it is the mission behind these lovely displays that grabs your heart (and opens your wallet). Each one of these beautiful sculptures, fine pieces of jewelry, children's toys, or unique gifts represents an artist many miles away who carefully and skillfully worked with their hands to create something beautiful...not in a factory...but in a village, possibly their home...passing their art on to their children. And it is part of this store's mission to pass on their story.

Ten Thousand Villages, birthed as a ministry of Mennonite Central Committee, buys all of their items through Fair Trade partnerships from over 65,000 artisans in 38 different developing countries. As part of their commitment to these artists, their families, and their villages, they strictly follow some basic guidelines...
• Fair price - mutually agreed upon
• Safe working conditions
• Long-term relationships that the artisans can count on
• Sustainability - using materials that they can farm or are replenished for continual benefit
• Upfront and prompt payment despite the often difficult circumstances

So I had to ask (as I have often wondered), "Is there really 10,000 villages that you help?" Ok...not exactly...however, the inspiration for the name came from a quote from Gandhi "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 to eat and clothe themselves with.” Their mission, to provide opportunities to individuals and communities around the world, coupled with the natural skill and artful beauty of these handmade items has lead to 125 successful stores around the US and Canada.

Ellen McClintock, the store manager, has worked there since 1999 and is passionate about the impact Fair Trade can make. She pointed out that it is often the women, who when given an income generating opportunity, change an entire village. Hani Mani is a prime example. She designed and created a beautiful woven garland. From this many jobs were created for her village, and now she is the first woman Mayor, proving to her community that a little ingenuity and hard work, coupled with opportunity can change a entire village. In 2001 Ellen went to the Philippines with Ten Thousand Villages and met another woman who made beautiful handmade paper greeting cards from local grasses and now 300 people in her town have jobs and a chance to acquire better health care, housing, and education.
It is true that lately it seems we have been rediscovering the value of buying local and buying handmade...however, here, tucked away in Montreat is another opportunity to have a much farther reaching impact to a much needier community. And somehow, knowing their story and seeing some of their faces in pictures, you realize that in a way you are still buying locally...somehow the gap between here and there is bridged by a common thread of hope.

Seeing the beauty of so many of these items and hearing the story behind them, I couldn't walk away empty handed...earrings for my Mom, the quirking carving for my Dad's reading glasses (pictured right), a gift card, a calendar of sorts, and a long wish list is what I came away with.

So...take a stroll up to Ten Thousand Villages perched just next to Lake Susan on Lookout Rd. Be sure to keep an eye on my twitter for updates on events in the store as they often do children's crafts, benefits, promotions, and more....
 - May 29th and 31st - a homemade bread sampling from a cookbook in the store
 - Also a "Fair Trade Your Home" photo competition right now...bring in a picture of a fair trade bought item in your home and you get a free chocolate bar

Comments (3)

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I LOVE Ten Thousand Villages! They have great fair trade coffee and tea to sample every day, and you can't beat the view!

Ten Thousand Villages is one of my favorite shops ... it's such an eclectic mix of lovely art.

By the way - Congrats on winning Black Mountain Library's blog writing contest! :) I can certainly see why you won!

Have a great day!

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