Fair Trade for the Holidays!

In these economic times, I imagine most of us will think creatively about the gifts we decide to give our loved ones for the holidays. While many people will stand in line for hours on Black Friday for the chance to snag one of the $1 laptops at your local
Wal-mart, I hope that the majority of people will stop and think about the impact their purchase is having – not just here, but in the area of origin. So much of what we purchase on a daily basis comes from mass produced factories and sweat shops around the world where highly talented people are reduced to working hours on an assembly line only to take home pennies for their time and effort. If there is any lesson to be learned in this recession, it is to understand the value of a dollar and, more importantly, the value of a human being. That is where fair trade comes in…

Designed by Intern Karrah Wood

Fair trade products are becoming more and more popular, and this is a trend that I hope continues for years to come. Fair trade means that the artisans producing the products are paid above standard, fair wages. It means that marginalized populations throughout the world are given an opportunity to make money for themselves and lift themselves out
of poverty. It means that artisans are taught how to save and how to work collectively on community development. To put it simply, fair trade puts a name and face to every product you purchase. It encourages you to think about your brothers and sisters in less than comfortable circumstances around the world. It connects you to people from other cultures, backgrounds, religions, and languages in an attempt to break down the barriers that try so hard to separate us and make us different.

Fair trade reaches far beyond the artisan and their family. Often times, there will be one member of the family generating an income and the extended family and even the village will depend on this income to survive. We have watched as artisan groups around the world have begun enrolling their children in school, feeding them more nutritious
food, and getting them the medicine they need to be healthy. We have witnessed homes improving and expanding, new businesses starting, and access to technology improving. I can’t stress how important it is to a community to have a viable product that can generate income for them and for the economy. When someone like you purchases a fair trade
product, not only does the artisan and his or her village benefit, but the small businesses that provide textiles, thread, sewing machines, zippers, buttons, bamboo, candle-wax, etc also benefit. You are directly pumping money into a struggling economy and helping to create a livelihood for hundreds, if not thousands, of people.

Fair trade products also work to keep the culture and traditions of the community alive. Ancient skills, traditional fabrics, and local designs are used to create products and thus contribute to an oral history the community can be proud of. So much of Western culture has permeated the developing world and threatens to completely destroy the unique characteristics of the culture…which is why fair trade is so important. How bland would this world be if everyone were the same? If everyone wore the same clothes, ate the same foods, and believed in the same higher being?? It’s imperative to cherish and cultivate local cultures, especially as the world shrinks and everyone becomes more inter-connected. Buying fair trade is just one easy way to help alleviate this problem.

This holiday season, The Village Experience will be featuring beautiful fair trade products from over 50 artisan groups from the developing world. Each group has its own unique story and reason to support it. We are proud to work with so many groups
dedicated to producing wonderful, hand-crafted product in an effort to lift themselves out of poverty. Below are a few examples of what you will find at our retail store on College and 61st in Broad Ripple, Indiana.

New line of handbags from a rural, women’s group in Sandur, India. These new bags feature patchwork designs, intricate mirrored details, and bright, vibrant colors reflective of local Indian culture. This ethnic group is one of the last remaining artisan groups to incorporate hand-cut, glass mirrors into their product. We found this group from Emily, our events coordinator, after she worked with them one-on-one for several weeks during her trek through the continent.

Wool scarves in reds, greens, blues, blacks, and browns direct from Heart to Heart Women’s Cooperative and the feisty women of Black Sheep. These two groups reside in Mwariki Village, near Nakuru, Kenya and have consistently been improving on their fair trade products since their inception in 2008. Stay warm this winter with handmade scarves from Kenya and now that your purchase is helping over 30 women uplift themselves and their families.

Our newly designed products from Thailand, thanks to intern Karrah Wood, have been arriving the past few weeks, and we are expecting another shipment this week. Beautiful silk robes, wonderfully constructed travel makeup bags, id holders and coin purses, vintage inspired clutches, and wine totes all make phenomenal gifts for the holidays. The 10 women of Duang Prateep use proceeds from the sales of the product to start over after the devastating tsunami of 2004.

Fair trade and organic teas from around the world have been a huge seller from day one! There’s nothing like the rich aromas of Moroccan Mint, Kenyan Chai, or Turkish Delight tea on a cold winter’s day. They make wonderful gifts, especially when paired with our unique tea sets from Vietnam that have been perfected over the years by local artisans. Local Broad Ripple business, The Egyptian Café, liked our teas so much they redesigned their menu to feature them!

This holiday season consider the importance of fair trade and visit your local fair trade retailer. You have no idea the impact you will be making simply by shopping in a different manner.

Happy Holidays from The Village Experience!