It Takes 10,000 Villages…

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 2, 2005

The Times-Journal

On Thursday, Nov. 3, the Presbyterian Women are having a party in the Warren Room of Selma’s First Presbyterian Church to preview their Ten Thousand Villages Festival.

What in the world is a Ten Thousand Villages Festival?

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At the preview Thursday evening from 5 to 7, distinctive gifts from 65 Third World countries will be on display: hand-crafted pottery, jewelry, baskets, musical instruments and textiles.

And at the same time, home-baked goods, international teas and coffees will be offered for sale in the Breezeway Caf adjacent to the Warren Room.

Profits from the sale will be given to the Presbyterian Home for Children.

Again, what is Ten Thousand Villages?

It began in 1946 when Mennonite Central Committee volunteer Edna Ruth Byler and her husband Joe Byler visited the organization’s sewing project in Puerto Rico.

Byler purchased some of the intricate embroidery pieces done by the local women and sold them at her home in Lancaster County, Pa.

The project was so successful she expanded her selection and traveled to area churches, showing samples and taking offers.

In the 1970s, stores opened to sell handicrafts year round; currently these number almost 150 in the United States and Canada selling Ten Thousand Village products.

International Gift Festivals and Sales held in churches, schools and other locations provide an additional venue.

In the United States, nearly 175 such sales benefit artisans as thousands of volunteers in both Canada and the United States work with Ten Thousand Villages in their home communities.

The organization contracts directly with artisans and craftsman in Third World Countries to buy and resell their wares at a fair market rate.

Income from the sales provides a decent livelihood for the entrepreneurial artisans and the added thousands in their employ.

One of the outstanding gift shops of Ten Thousand Villages is located on the third floor of a Montreat, N.C., book store, and is familiar to many Presbyterian visitors. Some of the artisan groups providing crafts for the Presbyterian Festival sale are:

PROKRITEE/BANGLAD-ES where Sweety Mankin Norek is a member of the Gaira Dikka Artisan group.

Fourteen years ago, her father, Nitesh Nokrek, founded a group of nine artisans to blend traditional skills of grass weaving with terra cotta pottery and create smoked terra cotta planters.

A college student, Sweety assists her father in the office and uses her income to help pay her college fees as well as school fees for her younger siblings.

DOMINION TRADERS/PAKISTAN, where Younus Inayat owns a small Karachi workshop that makes items from onyx.

His income helps him send his children to school.

His workers grind, sand, polish and buff semiprecious translucent stone on electric equipment, pouring cool water throughout the process to prevent cracking and limit dust.

Ten Thousand Villages purchases a variety of onyx products including chess sets, bookends, lamps and boxes.

CREACIONES CHONITA/GUATEMALA, where Carmen Simaj Pablo began making embroidered items and crochets hacky sacks for Ten Thousand Villages. Today an accomplished artisan, Carmen threads tiny beads to create colorful, unique designs.

Her steady income means that her son, Diego, is able to stay in school and obtain an education.

UGANDA, is the home of Dorothy Nabakiibi, a skilled basket weaver, who transforms simple raffia and banana lead into beautiful, functional art for homes. Her exquisite baskets offer her the opportunity to learn a livelihood with dignity and share her heritage with shoppers.