There was no air conditioning or hot water, and electricity was only available at night, but Jean Donaldson knew what she was getting into when she took a learning tour to Haiti and the Dominican Republic with eight other volunteers, staff and board members from the fair trade store Ten Thousand Villages. During the March trip, the group met with artisans whose handcrafted wares are sold in the Carytown store, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary.
“You just get such a sense of the country and the actual people,” Donaldson says. In a Haitian stone-carvers village, a tour participant asked one of the artisans what message he would like them to take back. “He said, ‘Tell them that people in Haiti are peaceful and we’re working hard. We’re not what you see on TV,’ ” Donaldson says. Now that the group has returned, the real work happens, says Karin Taylor, executive director of Richmond’s Ten Thousand Villages store. All of the participants are required to lead talks in the community about their trip and the mission of offering artisans in economically challenged countries a fair price for their goods.
A nonprofit with more than 390 stores in the United States, Ten Thousand Villages originated nearly 70 years ago after Edna Ruth Byler, a Mennonite from Pennsylvania, visited Puerto Rico. She was moved by the poverty she saw and wanted to create job opportunities there. Founded under Mennonite Central Committee, the organization later branched off on its own, but remains a partner of MCC. The Carytown store opened in 1995 as SelfHelp Crafts of the World. In 1997, the nonprofit rebranded as Ten Thousand Villages. The store is consistently in the top 10 to 15 stores for sales nationwide, Taylor says. “We’re talking about millions of dollars in sales over the last 20 years [in Richmond] ... that is directly impacting families.”
In celebration of its two decades, the store will offer specials each month and will hold a big 20th anniversary event at Maymont on Oct. 3.
Ten Thousand Villages will also hold its annual Warehouse Clearance Sale on Friday, June 19.
For more information, please call 804-358-5170 or visit tenthousandvillages.com/richmond.