Trade Fair Makes Annual Visit to Tumbler

Trent Ernst, Editor

The Ten Thousand Villages sale came to Tumbler Ridge, Nov 22–25, featuring fair trade goods from around the world.

Janet Hartford was instrumental in bringing Ten Thousand Villages to Tumbler Ridge. According to her 49 Forever Column dated Nov 15, 2000, “TR has been hosting the [annual third world craft fair] for years. We used to call it Self Help, but recently the name has changed to Ten Thousand Villages.”

Carol Poff, the current coordinator, says that when Janet ran the program, she would donate all the money back to the MCC. “Anyone who runs one of these sales makes 10 percent of the proceeds,” says Poff. Janet always sent that back. But the library has always supported us, giving us space, the use of their fax lines…we basically take over the place. So we give the library five percent and send the other five percent back. Poff says that working as a volunteer for Ten Thousand Villages can be very expensive. “Any time business is slow, the volunteers are out there, buying all the stock themselves.”

Over the last few years, the merchandise has changed somewhat. Poff says that shipping costs are getting quite high. “They have to pay shipping from the country of origin to the warehouse in New Hamburg, Ontario. Then from there, they ship it here. Anything that isn’t sold has to get sent back, and they’ll send it out again and again until it gets sold.”

As a result, says Poff, the emphasis is on smaller pieces. “They’re still the same quality, just not as big.” This year’s offerings featured jewelry, fair trade coffee, clothing, and small hand drums and other musical instruments.

Ten Thousand Villages is a program operated by the Mennonite Central Committee since 1946. The program began when an MCC worker visited Puerto Rico, where women were learning how to sew in an effort to improve their lives.

The volunteer brought several of the pieces home to sell to her friends and neighbours. The pieces becoame popular, and she added Palestinian cross-stitch needlework and hand-carved Haitian Woodware.

She ran the program on an ad-hoc basis until the 1970s, when it became an official MCC program and in 1996 was renamed Ten Thousand Villages.