Fair Trade for the Holidays

While many shoppers were out on Black Friday checking off their lists, some Frederictonians began their shopping a week earlier at the Ten Thousand Villages Craft festival in Wilmot United Church on Nov. 18 and 19.

Ten Thousand Villages is a non-profit organization that brings the feeling of a multicultural bazaar to communities all across Eastern Canada.

These carved maple leaf boxes are secretly a puzzle – if you remove the right pieces in the right order, you open a secret compartment – perfect for stashing small goods.

It buys fair trade products directly from close to 100 artisan groups in more than 30 countries, bringing them to North American consumers through their network of stores, community based festivals, and their shopping website.

“We find the poorest of the poorest, the ones that cannot get at any other opportunity. So we find what they’re good at making, a lot of these are traditions that are handed down from generation to generation, so these are sometimes ancient crafts. So they make their craft, we give them a fair wage, and they are able to support their family,” said Sarah Bunnett, manager of the Ten Thousand Villages warehouse in Petitcodiac, New Brunswick.

And there is certainly is lots to choose from. From lacquerware river stones from Vietnam, to decorative gourd birds from Peru, colourful woven baskets from Ghana, carved onyx from Pakistan, painted pottery from India and hats and gloves from Nepal, you can shop the whole globe.

These Vietnamese painted river stones make perfect decorative paperweights.

Bunnett said giving small communities the opportunity to buy fair trade helps bring everybody to an equal playing field, as well as being better for the environment.

“It makes a huge difference knowing there’s a person behind each product,” she said.

The variety of crafts means there is something for everyone, whether you are looking for a gift for your grandmother, or cute handmade toys for your nieces or nephews.

Bunnett said her favourite items are carved wooden noses to hold your glasses, and paper products from the Philippines.  The handmade baskets from Ghana, however, are always the most popular.

Joyce Chiarella lives in Fredericton. She says she comes to the fair trade festival because she wants to support the countries that produce these goods, and because she can find gifts unlike anything you can find at regular stores.

“I like the uniqueness and the designs, their patterns, and you won’t find this anywhere else, any of these products here,” Chiarella said.

If you’re looking into buying fair trade for the holiday season, or want to learn more about the products or artisan’s stories, you can go to the Ten Thousand Villages here. There you can find information about upcoming festivals near you, or you can order directly from their online store.