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Published November 12, 2015

Ten Thousand Villages: Holiday Wish List For A Better World

Some Raleighites may have heard of or shopped at the Ten Thousand Villages store at Cameron Village. Although that location offered many shoppers a store full of unique and beautiful gifts over the last 19 years, the store closed last year.

But according to Kristine Ashwood, Executive Director, manager of the Raleigh Ten Thousand Villages, the closing was necessary to prepare the store “to change their site to Cary.” The move will facilitate a better, newer market in Cary for their diverse products due to the larger number and variety of cultures represented in Cary.

“We’re thrilled to refresh our look on our twentieth anniversary and reopen our doors to the community,” Kristine Ashwood stated.

Cary’s Ten Thousand Villages opened it doors on October 15th at the Shoppes of Kildaire just above Trader Joe’s. The new site has a new and improved 1626 square foot floor plan. Although the inventory was pared “to focus on the best selling items for this area,” there will still be a wide selection of handmade gifts, decor and personal accessories, and household goods (coffee, bowls, baskets, bath and kitchen tools). Games, percussion instruments and toys from many cultures are there for children to enjoy too.

Cary's Ten Thousand Villages - 2

Some items, such as CDs of music from different countries, are being shifted to online-purchase-only, in order to make more room for a larger assortment of “hands on” buying for Cary shoppers.

Ten Thousand Villages has a large supply of handmade Christmas ornaments, manger scenes, as well as gifts for followers of other faiths. Twelve year veteran volunteer Susan O’Neil remarked that many gifts are geared to the Christian faith for Christmas, but Jewish dreidels and mandalas used by Christian, Buddhist, Pagan and Hindu practitioners, are also available.

The movement to help connect artisans from developing countries to buyers began by a Mennonite volunteer, Edna Ruth Byler. Her project began with “Overseas Needlepoint and Craft Project in 1952.

Later the name evolved along with its growth to SELFHELP: Crafts of the World in 1968. In 1989 SELFHELP assisted in the establishment of The International Fair Trade Association. Ten Thousand Villages in 1996 became the name of the chain of what is now over 350 stores, all with fair trade certification. This means that one hundred artisan groups, involving thousands of artisans in over 30 countries all over the world benefit from the Fair Trade Certification. A few of the active countries included are Thailand, Peru, Kenya, and the Phillipines.

How is the Fair Trade Certification helpful? Since the items are handmade and sold in a store run by volunteers, there are fewer expenses to be deducted from the profit. With a more direct and personal relationship between the participating artisans and their buyers, more business can develop and therefore more income. With this system artisans can more quickly and better see the value of their products. Encouraged by these influences, they can work at an honest trade to support their families “instead of selling illegal products or joining an insurgent army to make money to support their families.”

RELATED: Earth Fare: A Gluten Free Fair.

When asked what she enjoys most about volunteering at Ten Thousand Villages, Susan O’Neill answered, “Knowing that I am helping people in other nations; and letting other people know about what the store does.” Interestingly volunteering in the store can also influence participants to see each item in the store for what it is: “Every product is a miracle.”

Sangita Tiga from Bangladesh, praised the differences Ten Thousand Villages made in many women’s lives. She commented that having enough food to feed a family is often a problem. To ward off starvation women often worked in “unregulated, dangerous factories” to bring home enough money to feed their children. Worse still some mothers became prostitutes to make money in the poverty stricken areas. But thanks to their new enterprises, jobs, and often training they can make much more money to feed and clothe their children. Just as important the artisans have hope for a better future and have pride in their work.

Sangita Tiga- Recycled Saris in Banglasdesh

Tran and Thuy Kenh, a Vietnamese business owner and his wife, employ 45 artisans to paint freehand intricate patterns on ceramic and pottery before the pottery is fired. It takes hours to paint these beautiful designs on each bowl–not to mention the actual process of gathering the special clay from the nearby river, pouring it into molds, sometimes handed down from 5 generations. There is so much talent that would otherwise be wasted, not to mention the life, health and pride of those often placed in the downward spiral of poverty with no hope and no help.

Tran and Thuy Kinh -Vietnamese Blue and white pottery

What an amazing gift we give through Ten Thousand Villages just by purchasing these detailed, unique handmade items as gifts or for our own personal uses. One unnamed speaker on a Ten Thosand Villages video explained that each of their products “builds villages, sustains souls, and they have the dreams of a better life made real. Every product is a miracle.”

Susan O’Neill also commented, “When we buy a gift at the store, we are giving two gifts: one to the person receiving the gift and one for the artisan of that gift and his family. Since just a $5 purchase can make a big difference in someone’s life in another country, we can empower our children by encouraging them to purchase presents for others at Ten Thousand Villages. Our children learn about other countries; about helping people from other countries; and hopefully this will propagate the desire to help others in their own country as well.

Ten thousand Villages is holding a Grand Opening on November 14 from 11 A.M. to 4 P.M. There will be gift bags for the first hundred customers to RSVP to the Facebook invitation. The event will feature live music, food and shopping in their new store. The new address is 1357 Kildaire Farm Road.

Normal store hours will be Monday through Saturday 10 A.M. – 7 P.M; Sundays 11 A.M. to 5 P. M. Items may be ordered online or viewed at their website.

Cary's Ten Thousand Villages - 3

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  • Elaine Estes


  • I love stories and legends, whether they be educational, humourous, silly or touching. I grew up on the fairy tales and later grew to love legends from different times and different cultures. Find other stories and legends from Elaine, by visiting her own blog “joyful2bee“. All my articles.

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