Submitted by Joanne M.C. Lalonde –
Across Kitchissippi, in all of our diverse neighbourhoods, people are choosing to act globally by shopping locally for fair trade products. They know that their purchases directly support marginalized families to live more dignified, independent lives while offering a better future to their children.
The best way to understand the international fair trade movement is simply to listen to those involved: Ten Thousand Villages’ staff, Festival Sale organizers and volunteers, shoppers, but most important of all, the artisan partners whose lives have been changed by fair trade practices.
Ten Thousand Villages is a founding member of the World Fair Trade Organization and an adherent to their guiding principals including providing fair wages in the country where artisans work, safe working conditions, and economically sustainable long-term partnerships.
Kathy Neufeld is the volunteer Assistant Manager of Ten Thousand Villages in Westboro and Education co-ordinator at the Ten Thousand Villages Festival Sale. She explains that ensuring fair wages begins from the moment they order from an artisan group. Makers are paid 50% of the cost up front so that they are not forced to take out expensive loans for the raw materials needed to create the products. Upon shipment, the artisans receive the remaining 50% owed on the order. “When you buy fair trade from us, you know the makers have already been paid in full,” says Kathy.
“One of my favourite products is the recycled sari throws from Bangladesh,” says Kathy. “They are made with two, well-used cotton saris sewn together. Each one is unique. These throws began as a project to help street workers find an alternative source of income and they have become so successful that the artisan group, Hajiganj, now employs marginalized people in the Nilphamari District (one of the poorest in Bangladesh,) enabling them to earn a fair wage. When I cuddle up under my throw, it warms both my body and my heart.”
Judy Lincoln, the manager of the Westboro Ten Thousand Villages shop, is a passionate life-long advocate of fair trade practices. She started in her student days with fair trade coffee and sugar. Today, fair trade products in her home include chocolate chips and lovely (yet sturdy!) handmade cushions perfect for her kids’ pillow fights. For Judy, the common thread of her many conversations about the impact of fair trade with visiting artisan partners is the “…feeling of empowerment they have when they are able to support their families, send their children to school and see them prosper.”
For the artisans, their families and the community in which they live, fair trade has meant sturdier homes, regular meals, education for boys and girls, health care, maternity and paternity benefits to support new parents, the preservation of traditional crafts, and reforestation efforts. One craftsperson was able to save enough to purchase farmland, another bought a car to increase their business efficiency, and the innovative program, Cow Advocacy!, has helped to increase the individual ownership of cows (a sacred and valuable resource for many artisans).
Marla Huddleston (co-coordinator of the annual Festival Sale) has been volunteering for nine years with Ten Thousand Villages, and brings 30 years of work in international development, especially with women’s and community groups to her deep understanding of the importance of fair trade.
“Having seen the hardships people experience first hand, I can appreciate the sense of self-sufficiency and dignity that comes to the artisans through their long-term relationships with Ten Thousand Villages,” says Marla. For her, both the Festival Sale – and the store – are opportunities for everyone to learn more about fair trade while shopping for beautiful handicrafts and food items that directly support the artisans.
Joanne Lalonde is the Publicity Coordinator for Ten Thousand Villages Festival Sale.
The 2017 Ten Thousand Villages Festival Sale
Open every weekend in November at the Ottawa Mennonite Church on Kilborn Ave., Ottawa. Normal opening hours: Friday 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. & Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Friday Nov. 24: High Tea. There are sittings at 12:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. with extended shopping hours from noon to 8 p.m. Tickets available until Nov. 17. For information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.