Earlier this year, I read the book Global Girlfriends by Stacey Edgar. In one of her chapters, Edgar shares about a visit that she made to La Palma, El Salvador. She lists off the route and family names of artisans that she and her co-worker visited and later partnered with. When Kevin and I decided to head to El Salvador for my birthday, I mentioned that I would love to spend a day following the same route and visiting the different family workshops.
(Current project being exported to Germany for Christmas)
For my actually birthday day we found ourselves in La Palma visiting each of the artisan shops. My passion for fair trade gifts, income generating projects and micro-financed initiatives that seek to provide fair wages for women and men began while I was working and living in South Africa. There I worked alongside women in a micro-finance initiative through the production of handmade cards made from various recycled products which included teabags. My mom and I actually began and continue to sell these gorgeous cards at a bi-annual fair trade sale in Minneapolis, called the Jubilee Sale. If you have never been, you should get there!
Kevin and I enjoyed each of the cooperatives, but our visit to Semilla de Dios (Seed of God) was spectacular. We arrived and began talking with Marta, the store manager who has worked at Semilla since it began in 1994. She was excited to share with us their many works of art and crafts on display, telling us the reasons for why many of the pieces had been created.
(Painting the items)
After chatting for a half hour about their beautiful goods and our work in Nicaragua, she asked us if we would like to see the workshop. We were thrilled to pass through the store doors and head back to the carpentry and painting shop and their warehouse. They even showed us some projects that they are working on for Ten Thousand Villages which will be available in the coming year. We ended up spending over three hours with Marta and the other individuals involved in the cooperative.
(Part of the warehouse, ready for shipment)
(More painting. We were happy to see that babies are allowed to come to work)
My siblings and I purchased the above stool for my mom for her birthday last year. She saw it at Ten Thousand Villages and fell in love with it and it now sits proudly in her porch. It was so neat to see where the stool actually came from.
If you are looking for ways to buy ethically for Christmas, I would suggest that you take a look at MCC’s Christmas Giving Website. For Christmas, you can give education, give peace, give food, give health, give livelihoods and give hope. You can give a gift that both you and the receiver will be happy about.
And lastly, I saw the following suggestions for holiday shopping on Rage Against the Minivan last week and thought it would be appropriate to share here. We hope that your Christmas season is merry and bright!