For our 27th experience adventure, my daughters and I took an artisan’s apprentice class and learned how to create decorative flowers using recycled sari fabrics from Bangladesh.
Like so many of our adventures, this experience taught us a lot more than just a fun crafting process.
The class was offered at Ten Thousand Villages, a non-profit, social enterprise that I accidentally found during one of my Google “fall-down-a-rabbit-hole” searches. I previously knew nothing about it.
So, let me share what we learned (above and beyond making fabric flowers).
Ten Thousand Villages began in 1946 and continues to grow over 390 retail outlets and alliances all across the United States, including the one we visited in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.
These not-for-profit establishments carry home décor, jewelry, accessories, tea, furniture, art, soaps, and spices–all created by 130 artisan groups, representing 38 developing countries.
As a fair trade, globally-focused, social enterprise, Ten Thousand Villages employs very few people– in fact, the store we visited only keeps 2 or 3 people on salary. The other 30+ “employees” are volunteers that greet and interact with customers, help with unpacking and displaying orders and run the cash register. It is a wonderful, thought-provoking and very forward-thinking business model.
Almost all of the beautifully and skillfully handcrafted items are displayed with an informational sign about the artist, village or country.
Purchases improve the lives of over 20,000 makers, allowing access to better food, shelter and housing, appropriate healthcare and opportunities for education.
Ten Thousand Villages also verifies that represented artists and craftspeople create in a safe working environment, where each human is treated with dignity and respect in an ethical and responsible system. Fair trade focuses on stability, paying a fair income to individuals, empowering women and improving the lives of all people.
The more exposure I receive to these world changing social enterprises, the more I prefer to give my business to establishments that make a difference in the life of others.
A list of all Ten Thousand Villages stores and alliances (stores that carry products) can be found on the website at www.tenthousandvillages.com. Search by zip code or state and find one near you!
For my Texas friends, full retail stores are located in Austin and San Antonio, with alliances in McKinney, The Woodlands and Magnolia! Who knew?!?
Pennsylvania boasts 11 stores and 3 alliances. AWESOME!
The store we visited is located at 701 Gettysburg Pike, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, 17055. Open Monday-Friday 10:00 am to 7:00 pm, Saturday 10:00 am to 6:00 pm and closed on Sundays. For more info call 717-796-1474.
They offer other artisan apprentice workshops, so follow them on Facebook for updates!
We originally learned about social enterprise from one of our earlier adventures to a local candy shop. The Lancaster Sweet Shoppe houses the Stroopie Co., a family-owned company hiring refugee women and providing meaningful work for people who are forced to flee their countries due to famine, war and instability.
Read about this AMAZING company here.