Out of the ashes of civil war in Guatemala come gorgeous purses and bags that sustain dozens of families with a living wage, access to good health care and schools, and improved quality of life. 

That’s what the founders of Ruth & Naomi in Chontala, Guatemala, found out after a devastating war in 1982 saw 40 husbands from one town killed in just one day, leaving many women to raise their families with few resources. But with insight into reprising native Mayan dress into purses and bags in a range of beautiful hues and patterns, and introduced to Ten Thousand Villages with their fair trade practices, their lives have dramatically improved over the last 25 years. 

 You may have walked by the Ten Thousand Villages store on Marion Street several times. Some of you have stopped in and found a unique retail environment that combines one-of-a-kind, handmade, artisan wares for your home, as well as clothing, jewelry and, of course, chocolate! But there is so much more to this store.

That’s because when you shop at Ten Thousand Villages, you join our mission: to create opportunities for artisans in developing countries to earn a sustainable income by bringing their products and stories to a global marketplace through long-term, fair-trade relationships. 

So who are these global artisans? Ten Thousand Villages currently supports 75 artisan partner organizations in 28 countries. These organizations represent 40,000 artisans. It is estimated that purchases from Ten Thousand Villages provide direct income for 7,500 individual artisans, of which over 60% are women, and over 50% are led by women. 

So how does shopping at Ten Thousand Villages make a difference? It’s all about transformation. Transforming lives from poverty to sustainable livelihoods. Transforming communities through access to safe housing, clean water, health care, education and training. Transforming raw materials into beautiful end products. And transforming shoppers who live their values through their purchases. 

For 11 years, Oak Park has benefited from our own Ten Thousand Villages store. And while it is part of a 60+ store network, the Oak Park store is independent in management and operations. It is staffed primarily with the help of volunteers, so more revenue goes to support the artisans. 

And for those interested in supporting Ten Thousand Villages beyond shopping there, the store is conducting an online auction where you will find fantastic items to bid on, including restaurant gift certificates, sporting and entertainment event tickets, gift cards, high-end food/wine baskets and services. You can access the auction site from now until 10 p.m., Oct. 7, through this link: www.32auctions.com/tenthousandvillages2018. 

Each item is showcased online, in the store’s Westgate street window and found on our Facebook page: www.facebook.com/TenThousandVillagesOakPark.

 Ten Thousand Villages’ motto is “Together We Thrive.” This is an ethos we embrace in our communities. Go online or stop in this neighborhood gem and support those that are supporting our global artisans in need. 

Denise Walsh is president of the Ten Thousand Villages Board of Directors in Oak Park.

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