Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Gifts from a Thousand Villages

For holiday gifts I went to the 2nd annual Fair Trade Crafts Fair at the Echo Park Methodist Church. To be labled "fair trade" a business or co-op has to be certified that it pays a decent wage and has decent labor practices. This year I'm trying to buy as many presents as possible either fair trade or from my local farmer's market.

At the church I first went to the table for Ten Thousand Villages, a non-profit store in Pasadena that has wonderful handcrafts from all over the world. I bought some fair trade coffee from East Africa and also rose soap made by traditian Indian soapmakers at from the Palm Rural Center, which provieds adequete housing, water, medical assistance, and education for Indian children. Ten Thousand Villages is, I believe, the first fair trade store in Los Angeles and also has an online catalogue where they sell a dazzling array of fairly traded hardcrafted goods from around the world including wonderful ceramics, book ends, furniture, pillows, jewely, musical instruments, purses, planters, hammocks, photo albums, and much much more. Ten Thousand Villages is a non-profit program of the Mennonite Central Community.

Next I went to the Cafe Rebelion table which had Zaptista coffee and honey produced by indigenous Indian co-ops in Chiapas, Mexico; at this table I bought some honey as a gift. The coffee is organic and shaded meaning they don't grow it by cutting down all the trees, destroying habitat for birds, but keep trees up so the coffee has shade and the birds still come to the area. I've previously bought the coffee which is very good. Throughout Central America and southern Mexico there is a movement to have fair trade shaded coffee grown in co-ops run by the producers and then sold in the United States--a very good movement to support.

After buying Zaptista honey I went to the table for the Garment Workers Center where I bought two utterly beautiful hand-woven beaded bracelets. A little card enclosed in both bracelet boxes said, "This product was made by 'Chanita,' a group of Tzutjul women in Santiago Atitlan, Guatamala, and marketed in the U.S. by UPAVIM." Each card told who made the bracelet: one was made by Elisa and the second by Delores. This is the first time I'm learning which co-ops and even which person has made what I've just bought. I like that a lot.

The Garment Workers Center works in downtown Los Angeles to empower 90,000 garment workers who make an average of $3.28/hour. They labor to get the workers better wages, enforce the state's work codes, and het better job conditions. The Center also sell online seven different fair trade gifts baskets to make money. "Start the Day in a Groupmet Way" has wild rice pancake mix, syrup, coffee, tea and cacoa. "Hot and Spicy Cooking" has hand crafted kitchen utensils, spices, olive oil and a farmers market bag.

Finally, I went to the table for Revolutionary Associaton of Afghan Women (RAWA) and bought a lovely hand-woven black-and-red wallet for a gift. The enclosed card explained that the wallet was made by the RAWA Income Generation Project. RAWA gets Afghan women and girls to make gifts which they then sell so the women and girls have income.. Founded in 1977, RAWA is the oldest Afghan women's organization. In the Talibian Era they ran underground girls' schools within Afghanistan. Now they run schools, medical projects, and orphanages. For over 25 years they have worked for peace, freedom, democracy, and women's rights in Afghanistan. RAWA has some of the bravest women on earth.

Saturday was the Fair Trade Festival but Sunday I always go to the Hollywood Farmer's Market, a reincarnation of the medieval fair in the heart of Hollywood! I headed to the ceramicst Kathryn Browne to buy two dark red mugs as a gift. Browne is a wonderful ceramicist, influenced both by great California pottery like Bauerware and Asian pottery. Last year I bought an elegant white vase for my hostess in Washington D.C. who loved her vase.

Next I went to one of three soap tables to buy handmade soap made by My Beautiful Soap & Company in Simi Valley, California. Each soap is made of different natural ingrediants and each has a wonderful smell such as peppermmint. After the soap table I headed to the section of tables for bakers, and stopped at the Old Town Baking Co. table (they are from Fontana, Ca) and bought a lemon bread loaf and a banana nut loaf as gifts. The baker had a made different loaves, and I asked him which one was his favorite. He said, "lemon," so I bought one of those. He was telling me he didn't use any sugar but just natural fruit purees to sweeten his loaves. The ingrediant list looked terrific with no chemicals at all. So I had a happy time with the ceramicist, baker, and soapmaker tables!

What I really like is knowing who made my gift! I am happy that as the fair trade movement grows they are including more information about the co-op who produced the items. That's great. So when I buy someting I feel more connected to the makers of it. It does really feel like I'm buying gifts from a thousand villages! Trade Jo's now has Fair Trade Coffee which I'm beginning to buy, so I will go beyond buying fair trade gifts to making fair trade puchases all year long!

Where to Buy:
Beautiful Soap & Company www.beautifulsoap.com for soap

Cafe Rebelion: www.caferebelion.com for honey and shaded coffee

Garment Worker Center: www.garmentworkcenter.org for fair trade gift baskets

Kathryn Browne Pottery: KBPOTTERY.com for pottery

Revolutionary Associaton of Women of Afghanistan (RAWA): www.rawa.org
www.afghanwomenmission.org for information and
www.cafepress.com/rawa.meena for a t-shirts, mugs, buttons etc.

Ten Thousand Villages: www.tenthousandvillages.com, 496 So. Lake Ave, Pasadena,
for fair trade handcraft from around the world.

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