Shopping here 'helps those who help themselves'

Opinion: Columns

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By Bill McCready

This phrase occurs often in popular culture. In addition to providing material support through donations, we can support people by following the adage: "Give someone a fish and you feed them for a day; teach them to fish and you feed them for a lifetime." 

Ten Thousand Villages (TTV) specializes in providing opportunities for economically disadvantaged artisans in more than 35 countries — the poorer countries from Bangladesh to Zimbabwe. Many of the artisans are women raising children in difficult places and your purchases help them improve their lives considerably and those of their children. 

For example, Manos Amigas, meaning "Hands Joined In Friendship," works with family shops that make a variety of handicrafts in impoverished areas of Peru. Manos supports and feeds more than 400 children each Sunday and helps pay for school uniforms and supplies. 

Our shop currently carries painted wood housewares and furniture, retablos (devotional icons), nativities, ornaments, burnt gourd items, jewelry, musical instruments, puppets, ceramic items, miniature animals, purses and wind chimes from Manos Amigas. 

In Ethiopia, there is Beza Entoto Outreach, started in response to the influx of people living with HIV/AIDS into Ethiopia's capital city, Addis Ababa. Believing that generating income was a much better form of assistance than simply handing out aid, Beza established an income-generation project. They chose jewelry-making because it is not strenuous and requires little equipment or other infrastructure. 

The Entoto program, with 80 artisans, has reached out to people seeking healing at the church, offering them a new opportunity to support themselves (instead of begging) and to live healthier. The program also provides health care, children's programs, counseling and transportation funding. 

Another group of Ethiopian artisans, "Swords into Plowshares," focuses on peace-building in a war-torn region. These artisans recycle bullet casings from the Eritrea/Ethiopia war to create a Hope Necklace. Casings are recycled and silver-plated in rural Gojam Province, then hand-strung at a workshop providing jobs to people with HIV/AIDS. 

Sindyanna of Galilee is a group of artisans who focus on empowering Arab women. Led by women striving for social change, Sindyanna works with the Arab population in the Galilee region of northern Israel, as well as with olive growers and artisans in the Palestinian Occupied Territories. Sindyanna symbolizes a unique cooperation between Arabs and Jews, striving to strengthen the economy of the Arab Palestinian population, both in Israel and in the Occupied Territories. 

TTV makes the social, economic and environmental well-being of the artisans a priority, and we pay a fair price, assuring equal pay for equal work. We adhere to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. You can purchase unique handmade gifts from around the world without the hassle of going through airports. You will feel good about giving, your recipient will feel good about receiving and children can experience rare places throughout the world while shopping for gifts for all kinds of occasions. 

Bill McCready is an Oak Park Ten Thousand Villages board member.

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