There's a story behind every item

Opinion: Columns

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By Chris Hauri

Behind every handcrafted item for sale at Ten Thousand Villages is a story. There is a necklace made from bomb casings from landmines in Cambodia and wall art hammered from steel barrels by young uneducated men in Haiti. 

Behind this graceful garland made of embossed paper flowers and dyed date palm leaves is Sumitra Baroi of Barisol, Bangladesh. 

Sumitra supports her family by working at Keya Palm Handicrafts, one of several workshops supported by Prokritee, an artisan group in Bangladesh. Though Sumitra only attended school through grade five, her daughter is now in grade nine and her son is studying accounting at university. Her goals are for her children to achieve higher education and good jobs. And she says her job at Keya Palm is important in reaching these goals. 

Prokritee and its enterprises provide jobs for poor rural women that improve their standard of living and help them send their children to school. The organization offers skill development training, adheres to good safety and environmental standards and encourages artisans to become self-reliant. 

Sumitra's story and others from around the world are an important reason I volunteer at Ten Thousand Villages. We sell merchandise — and we share stories. We are surrounded by beautiful gifts and jewelry — and all these items are fair trade and help improve someone's life somewhere on the globe. Our coworkers are talented and able — and interesting, passionate about fair trade and become great friends. Our customers are delighted by our array of goods — and proud to support the Ten Thousand Villages mission of bringing opportunities for artisans in developing countries to earn income with long-term fair trading relationships.

Ten Thousand Villages has heart-warming gifts that come with their own loving success story. Come in and get gift advice from a knowledgeable volunteer. Perhaps the gift you select was made by Sumitra or her fellow artisans in Bangladesh.

On March 6, there will be a student service project reception and shopping night at Ten Thousand Villages. Eighth-grade students from Gwendolyn Brooks Middle School will host a reception and shopping night as part of a service-learning project. TTV is donating 15% of the evening's net sales to HopeforAriang.org. 

On March 7, the students will host Garang Mayoul at Brooks to hear firsthand how their contributions will make a difference in South Sudan.

Ten Thousand Villages in Oak Park is a nonprofit, fair-trade retailer offering handicrafts by artisans in more than 35 developing countries. Products include jewelry and personal accessories, home and garden décor, musical instruments, toys, coffee, tea and chocolate. It's located at 121 N. Marion St. in Downtown Oak Park.  

Chris Hauri has been a Ten Thousand Villages volunteer for four years and is a board member and chair of the Volunteer Committee. Like most volunteers, she started as a loyal customer and really appreciates the 20% discount volunteers earn. She's a 27-year resident of River Forest and volunteers in many community organizations.

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