If you know me, you know that I love the nonprofit fair trade organization Ten Thousand Villages, which sells handcrafted products made by disadvantaged artisans from more than 38 developing countries. If you’re not familiar with fair trade, it allows under and unemployed artisans an opportunity to earn steady income and improve their quality of life by establishing a sustainable market for their products. I love shopping at Ten Thousand Villages and even had one of my wedding registries there. They sell beautiful wares ranging from home decor to jewelry to beautiful nativity sets for Christmas. Although the decor of my house is rather eclectic, the underlying theme is “global.” The dining room table is graced by a coiled bamboo fruit bowl from Vietnam that is filled with papier-mache fruit from Mexico, and our coffee table features an etched ceramic vase from Nicaragua. I think my love for Vietnam and my immense desire to visit there stemmed from the gorgeous things sold at Ten Thousand Villages that had been made by Vietnamese artisans. When I travel I love bringing home articles unique to the destination I’ve visited, especially when the money for those wares is going right into the pockets of the individuals who made them.
Every year my college hosted a MayaWorks sale. MayaWorks is another fair trade nonprofit organization that promotes economic development for Maya women and their families by supporting a marketplace for their handcrafted goods. In a country like Guatemala, the indigenous community often faces discrimination and lower wages, so an organization like MayaWorks helps to ensure that this does not happen by serving as the conduit for their products. Just like the items sold at Ten Thousand Villages, those sold by MayaWorks are beautiful and well crafted. Products are mainly fabric based-table runners, aprons, napkins, kitchen towels-all handwoven and sewn by the indigenous women in Maya communities in the Highlands of Guatemala.
MayaWorks also offers a yearly tour to Guatemala which allows visitors to experience the country from a tourist perspective as well as a chance to meet and interact with the women who make the products. Not every tour to Guatemala would focus on teaching visitors about the Maya culture and fair trade, but MayaWorks does. Personally I feel that receiving an in-depth education about the destination you’re visiting is equally as important as taking a picture of yourself at a famous tourist attraction. Guatemala and its indigenous population have such a sorrowful past and I don’t think visitors can go there without encountering it in some form.
If you’ve never shopped at Ten Thousand Villages or MayaWorks before, I highly recommend checking out their locations online. I love shopping just as much as the next person, but feel much better when I know my money is going to a good purpose.