Mary Radney with the Ten Thousand Villages poster.

Mary Radney with the Ten Thousand Villages poster.

Ten Thousand Villages sale develops fair trade relations

It will take about a week and almost 50 volunteers to set up, run, and take down the annual Ten Thousand Villages fair trade market.

It will take about a week and almost 50 volunteers to set up, run, and take down the annual Ten Thousand Villages fair trade market coming up next week at Cariboo Bethel Church.

Unpacking of the sale items begins today, says Mary Radney, who is co-ordinating the event this year.

“It’s a basic store for three days,” Radney says. “We try our best to make it as welcoming and inviting as possible.”

While most items come with a price list, she says there will be instructions for bargain pricing on some items.

There are eight basic categories of items on offer, the biggest selling category being the Christmas items. These include ornaments, nativity scenes, cards, streamers, tree skirts.

Then there is the home decor section with wooden animals, puzzles, candle holders, sculptures, book ends, Kisi stone sculptures and more.

“Teenage girls really love the jewellery section,” Radney says. “Last year we introduced bombshell jewellery. Some of it is very intricate.”

Then there is the kitchen and personal items such as hand crafted mugs, bowls,  plates, scarves, soaps and more.

Toys, games and musical instruments such as rain sticks and thumb pianos are other popular items.

“Baskets are a whole category in themselves,” Radney says.

Dollars spent at the sale help to support struggling families in developing countries.

“Ten Thousand Villages is a founding member of the World Fair Trade Organization,” Radney says. “This organization has strict policies and guidelines for membership.”

The World Fair Trade Organization is a global coalition of handicraft and agricultural producer organizations and fair trade organizations.

Ten Thousand Villages is a non-profit program of the Mennonite Central Committee, the relief and development agency of Mennonite and Brethren in Christ churches in North America.

Radney says the program had its grass roots start in 1946 when Edna Ruth Byler would travel to South America where she would purchase crafts from local artisans and then sell them out of the trunk of her car when she returned home.

Within a five-year period of return trips, Radney says Byler had sold $30,000 worth of merchandise, supporting poor people in South America.

“It was initially a grass roots initiative to help the people there,” Radney says. “She would ask the seller for the fair price for their product and pay it.”

Today Ten Thousand Villages is a world-wide initiative supporting artisans and co-operatives in 35 countries.

The artisan or co-operative receives 50 per cent of the final fee for their product up front to cover the cost of materials and supplies, and the other 50 per cent is paid when the product leaves the country.

“Ten Thousand Villages is not just about fair trade,” Radney says. “It is about being responsible for the environment and everything is done with the idea of creating sustainable and safe working conditions.

While some women may bring their children to work, they do not work in the cooperatives.

Where artisans are working together in small groups or larger co-operatives they may have schools or child care services available.

“They say don’t give me anything, just buy my product,” Radney says.

One man in Haiti was making trees of life out of old steel drums. He had hired a truck and driver to make a delivery. The earthquake struck as they were making the delivery A building fell on the truck killing the driver and narrowly missing the artisan. The delivery company sued the artisan who was back to square one, but  has built himself back up again.

She says the program’s main goal is to help disadvantaged people in developing countries have access to sustainable work and income so they can build a future with their families.

“I like the phrase ‘doing business with a conscience, with a heart.’”

The Ten Thousand Villages sale runs Thursday, Nov. 20 and Friday, Nov. 21 from 3 to 8 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 22 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

One of the popular attractions is the Meno cafe that is run by a youth group which draws participants from many of the local churches.

The cafe features real mennonite farmer sausage from Steinbach, Manitoba and borscht, along with a cup of fair trade coffee.

In keeping with their green objectives she says anything that doesn’t sell has to go back to the central warehouse in the same boxes in which it came.

“It’s a lot of work but it is fun,” Radney says.