The second you step into Ten Thousand Villages the spicy scent of the unordinary engulfs you. It is the smell of hundreds of ancient cultures: the Indian sandalwood soap, Ugandan raffia, and Peruvian wool. The modest storefront, just blocks from Thomas Jefferson University, disguises the cultural bounty inside. Ten Thousand Villages specializes in treasures from all over the world. From West African Bird Masks to delicately detailed Indian puppets, you can collect curiosities from all over the world without leaving Philly.
Even if you don’t buy anything, it is very easy to become absorbed in browsing. Just past the carved soapstone chess sets lies the jewelry section where hand-strung glass beads glimmer against one another. Unique craftsmanship is evident with every carefully applied strand and the glassy piles beg to be held, cool as rain, in your palm.
At first glance you may wonder if the same products are available at Pier 1, but the individual attention given to each piece becomes evident the longer you linger. The more important difference between Ten Thousand Villages and stores like Pier 1 is the source of their products. Did you know that buying a birthday card in Philly can change the life of someone around the world? It can if you’re shopping at Ten Thousand Villages.
Products at Ten Thousand Villages are fairly traded from artisans in countries all over the world. What started as a little old lady selling Palestinian needlepoint from the trunk of her car and sending the money back to the needlewomen has turned into an organization that spans the globe and has 160 stores in North America.
Ten Thousand Villages concentrates on cultivating relationships with unemployed or underemployed artisans in developing nations.
According to its website, “Ten Thousand Villages operates as a business with a compassionate mission by maintaining integrity in our actions and relationships. We market quality products from diverse cultures around the world made by people that we know and care enough about to do business with in a manner that together we consider fair.”
By paying fifty percent up front for an order and the rest upon reception of the product, organizers help artisans provide for themselves through trading at a fair price, rather than having the money trickle down from the top as is done in many large corporations.
Run by the Mennonite Central Committee, an organization that concentrates on providing aid to impoverished countries, Ten Thousand Villages is one of the oldest fair trade organizations in existence. Along with hand-crafted goods, the store sells fairly traded coffee and chocolate—hot button products in the world of fair trade controversy.
Ten Thousand Villages is Philadelphia’s fairly traded treasure house. Its wares are the hard work of collaborators all around the world. So, the next time you need a bar of soap or birthday present and you’re feeling socially conscious, remember the little shop on Walnut Street and step into another world.
Ten Thousand Villages
1122 Walnut St.
Philadelphia, PA 19107
You can contact Prasana William at email@example.com