By LeRae Haynes

Shoppers who look for sustainability, quality, and incredible fair trade diversity are in for a treat this season, with Ten Thousand Villages returning to Williams Lake. They bring fair trade crafts from over 35 countries, including housewares, food, toys, Christmas decor, musical instruments, pottery, linens, jewelry, coffees, and teas.

Ten Thousand Villages has set up at Cariboo Bethel Church for over 35 years, with a few seasons off, according to local co-ordinator Meg Fehr. “They bring in a huge variety of items—it fills the basement of the church. Each of our department heads takes an area of the store, pouring their time, interest, and passion into making it fun,” she explained.

She said, along with fellow co-ordinator Alex Froese and other volunteers, they spend a day unpacking and setting up the Village when all the freight arrives from Ontario. After tweaking the departments and displays to make them look their best, they choose a couple of items from each department, look up the artisans, and print out their stories.

“A big appeal of the store is showing local artisans from around the world, to support them, and encourage them in their trades,” Fehr explained. “We love the fact that every article is made by somebody and you can trace it, find the origin and see what their life is like.”

Ten Thousand Villages provides business loans, tools, and business advice and will pay the artist or artisan for their work before it leaves the country of origin. The artists and artisans are paid based on fair market value for their work.

There was a Ten Thousand Villages store in Winkler, Manitoba, where Fehr and her husband Terry Fehr, youth pastor at Cariboo Bethel Church, lived with their family before moving to Williams Lake two years ago.

“I loved being able to shop at the store knowing that all the staff was volunteers,” she continued. “That says so much to me about Ten Thousand Villages.”

A big draw at Ten Thousand Villages is the Menno Café, where shoppers can meet friends for lunch and dinner: fresh baking, coffee, Borscht, and sausage buns, made from Mennonite farmer sausage shipped from Manitoba.

Another positive aspect for Fehr is getting youth involved with their community: something she helps put into practice at Ten Thousand Village at the Bethel Church and at Youth for Christ (YFC) where she is administrative assistant.

Youth from Cariboo Bethel do the cooking and serving for the Menno Café. “It’s exciting for the kids to be involved–to learn this is how we serve our community,” she explained.

“One of the things I want people to experience at the store this season is a strong sense of community: both local and global,” she said. “That’s huge for me and one of my most favourite things.”

Ten Thousand Villages will be at Cariboo Bethel Church November 17-19 in the banquet hall, from 3-8 p.m. Thursday and Friday and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday.

LeRae Haynes is a freelance writer, song writer, community co-ordinator for Success by 6, member of Perfect Match dance band, and instigator of lots of music with kids.


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