Metal art from Haiti, textiles from Asia, jewelry from Peru and carvings from Africa are just some of the Third World handicrafts available at Ten Thousand Villages, a new retail store on the Commons.
Ten Thousand Villages is a non-profit program of the Mennonite Central Committee and a member of the International Federation for Alternative Trade and the Fair Trade Federation. It purchases handicrafts under strict fair trade guidelines from more than 30 Third World countries, which are sold in 200 stores across the country.
“We try to promote the idea that people from the developing world can get a decent pay for their work,” said Laurie Konwinski, manager of the Ithaca store, which opened on Nov. 4. “We can make a difference with the way we spend our dollars.”
The organization promotes equal opportunities for craftsmen by ensuring fair wages and safe working conditions. It also promotes environmentally sustainable practices, so craftsmen are not using wood from endangered trees in their carvings, according to Konwinski.
Liz and Dick Adams, owners of Logos Bookstore, brought Ten Thousand Villages to Ithaca, the culmination of 20 years of interest in helping craftsmen in developing countries.
“It was their dream to build a permanent store in Ithaca,” Konwinski said. “They were interested in the Third World economic justice system.”
Through friends and the organization, the Adamses have been involved in a series of four day sales of these goods over the last decade. The sales were successful, so Dick Adams approached people from Ten Thousand Villages about opening a store in Ithaca.
“The more people we talked to, the more people said Ithaca was the perfect place for a store like that,” he said. “After a week of the store being there, we’re convinced Ithaca is the perfect place.”
Dick Adams estimated that the store has had about 50 customers a day for the past week and at least twice that many people have just stopped by.
To keep the costs low, the sales associates are all volunteers. There are currently over 50 volunteers, including several Cornell students.
“It’s a great a idea to have a store that supported fair trade with people and I’d like to support that,” said Meaghan Burch ’04, a volunteer.
The store is scheduled to stay open through December.
“We hope to raise enough funds to open a permanent store in the spring,” Konwinski said. “So far we’re doing well.”
Archived article by Anastasia Handy