Have a Merry, Global Christmas

By Jessica Kirby –

Ten Thousand Villages has been a Christmas market presence in Williams Lake for the past 10 years. After a short hiatus, Bethel Cariboo Church is bringing the market back to Williams Lake November 21-23.

Ten Thousand Villages

Photo: Ten Thousand Villages Canada

A sustainable, eco-friendly Christmas is coming to Williams Lake, thanks in part to the revival of the Ten Thousand Villages Christmas Market, held in partnership with Cariboo Bethel Church and its team of tireless volunteers.

Previously, Cariboo Bethel Church partnered with Ten Thousand Villages’ head office in Winnipeg, which held a national festival campaign that brings the store to communities across Canada. The past two years the official Christmas Market festival campaign did not run, which meant a hiatus for the market in Williams Lake. However, through a partnership with store in Abbotsford, the market will return to Williams Lake this November 21-23.

“All products sold at this market are crafted, sourced, and imported directly from Ten Thousand Villages, a global network that supports international artisans and craftspeople,” says Jasmine Alexander, office administrator for Cariboo Bethel Church and marketing coordinator for the Ten Thousand Villages Christmas Market. “The proceeds go back to the organization, who pays the artisans in full before the products even reach store shelves and our market sale.”

The pride of the market is that the products are made fair trade and as eco-conscious as possible, from 26 countries such as Vietnam, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Peru, Ethiopia, and more.

According to its website, Ten Thousand Villages is more than a store—it’s a place where people can explore and connect with the global village.

“From communities throughout the developing world, every inspired design is crafted with love using local materials (usually natural or recycled) and time-honoured skills by makers we have known and worked with for years,” says the website. “Every purchase improves the lives of makers by supporting their craft and providing a fair, stable income.”

The company’s model tackles sustainability in many ways. It has free-standing volunteer led stores in a number of locales and they source products by developing organic relationships with makers around the world.

“Ten Thousand Villages does the sourcing and distribution of products and ship to us,” says Alexander. “We set it up and sell the products and ship funds back to the store. However, Ten Thousand Villages pays its makers in full before the products hit stores, and this is part of its fairtrade model.”

Ten Thousand Villages offers consumers a way to become part of the global story by choosing to shop one’s values and give gifts with meaning.

“Many of the products that will be featured and sold in our market are made from natural materials, even Christmas items,” Alexander says. “During the Christmas season, it can be more difficult to shop eco-consciously, so we are very excited to offer products and gifts that are made out of materials such as wood, paper, silks, felt, and natural textiles.”

One thing Alexander is especially excited about is the sustainable and eco-friendly Christmas decorations offered at the market. In a season rife with excess paper and plastic use, finding durable, hand-crafted items that bring beauty to the home at Christmas is a wonderful treat.

“Even people who are eco-conscious the other ten months of year can struggle to find sustainable options,” Alexander says. “Then, all of a sudden they find themselves buying sparkly plastic items. We have ornaments made from hay or textiles, and we have other items that are felted or other sustainable nature materials.”

The market also features a variety of baskets and storage items that are reusable, beautiful, and will last. “Baskets are always a hit item,” she adds. “Our volunteers in the past have gotten into the habit of suggesting people but the basket to avoid paper or plastic wrappers.”

The Ten Thousand Villages market is a way to simultaneously shop local and support international efforts for equality and sustainability. “It is always important to shop local, and we must consider the paper and packaging involved with shopping online,” Alexander says. “We do support artisans all over the world and at the same time our market provides options to support our local community.”

The Cariboo Bethel Youth Group Café, for instance, will run at the market and is a fundraiser for the church’s youth group, which is faith based but open to all youth grades 7 to 12. Between 40 and 50 youth attend the weekly group for community and connection.

“At the youth group café, patrons can buy food and coffee and the money goes toward opportunities to serve communities in the future,” Alexander says. “As an example, the youth groups is looking at sending a group to Los Angeles to do service in the projects on Skid Row.”

Alexander says shopping consciously doesn’t have to be complicated. “I think we often get overwhelmed but the way even shopping consciously can have a consumerist angle because it is used as a buzzword—buy our ‘eco-friendly’ this or that,” Alexander says. “But you can think simply and creatively at same time. There are two other markets the same weekend as ours—it is a perfect time to carpool and go ‘market-hopping’ and make a fun day of it.” Be sure to visit the Ten Thousand Village Christmas Market hosted by Cariboo Bethel Church November 21 and 22 from 3 p.m. – 8 p.m. and November 23 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Ten Thousand Villages

Ten Thousand Villages encourages North American customers to learn about fair trade and to appreciate artisans’ cultural heritage and life circumstances with joy and respect. Photo: Ten Thousand Villages Canada

Underlying Principles of Ten Thousand Villages

The World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO) – outlines some key principles that are essential to fair trade. At Ten Thousand Villages, we stand behind WFTO and have also added a few principles of our own:

      1. We honour the value of seeking to bring justice and hope to the poor.
      2. We trade with artisan groups who pay fair wages and demonstrate concern for their members’ welfare.
      3. We provide consistent purchases, advances and prompt final payments to artisans.
      4. We increase market share in North America for fairly traded handicrafts.
      5. We market quality products that are crafted by otherwise underemployed artisans.
      6. We build sustainable operations using a variety of sales channels, including a network of stores with a common identity.
      7. We choose handicrafts that reflect and reinforce rich cultural traditions, that are environmentally sensitive and which appeal to North American consumers.
      8. We encourage North American customers to learn about fair trade and to appreciate artisans’ cultural heritage and life circumstances with joy and respect.
      9. We use resources carefully and value volunteers who work in our North American operations.

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