"If you don’t like the way the world is, you change it. You have an obligation to change it. You just do it one step at a time. "
Marion Wright Edelman
I've always loved to shop in Ten Thousand Villages with it's incredible offerings of art and handicrafts from all over the world. Curious to know more about its' origins, I was amazed to discover that it all began with the efforts of one woman.
In 1946 Edna Ruth Byler, a volunteer for the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), visited an MCC sewing class in Puerto Rico. She wanted to help the impoverished women that she met and returned to the U.S. with some of their handcrafted items. Byler began selling them out of the trunk of her car and sent the proceeds back to the women. Her efforts eventually led to what would become Ten Thousand Villages, North America’s first fair trade organization.
A few years later, relief workers from the Church of the Brethren, now known as SERRV, began helping refugees rebuild their lives after World War II by selling their crafts. The first product was a cuckoo clock from Germany. SERRV is a founding member of the World Fair Trade Organization and the Fair Trade Federation.
The efforts of Ten Thousand Villages and SERRV have paved the way for so many other organizations to help artisans and farmers support themselves and their families through fair trade. And it all happens one step at a time.