Ten Thousand Villages South Bay is a nonprofit agency with over 70 volunteers. It is a fair trade retailer of home décor, personal accessories, and gifts crafted by artisans worldwide with a location inside of Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles. Purchases support the fair income for hundreds of otherwise disadvantaged artisans from developing countries, breaking the cycle of generational poverty.
Michelle Dever-Ryan, executive director of Ten Thousand Villages South Bay, says, “It is phenomenal that the majority of the artisans are women. It is incredible to me that the fair trade movement was pioneered by a woman, who started out of the trunk of her car to help other women.” Ten Thousand Villages has been helping artisans in developing countries for over 75 years.
Some of the more popular items that they sell include a bicycle pizza cutter made in India by a group called Noah’s Ark. Upcycled saris that have been made into purses, pastels, and throws are also bestsellers. The small store in Crafted has a wide assortment of goods, including jewelry and dry bean soup mixes created by the Women’s Bean Project, which transforms women’s lives through employment.
Once a year, a beautiful assortment of rugs handmade in Pakistan are sold at the Crafted location of Ten Thousand Villages. The rugs are designed and crafted in villages in Pakistan by an artisan group known as Bunyaad Rugs, a fair trade rug program. Eight hundred and fifty families participate in the making of the rugs. It can take months and even over a year to make a single rug, as each one is handcrafted. Artisans have the creative freedom to choose the designs and colors of the rugs they are making. Bunyaad — which means “foundation” — works to create strong foundations in the remote villages by paying a fair wage to artisan families. By providing a fair wage, families can live off the land and grow their food versus having to find work in other cities in a migratory lifestyle. Fairly paid adults make all the rugs.
Bunyaad guarantees a fair wage for their artisans, contributing to a more stable living environment that includes three meals a day and better schools. In a rural economy, creating a consistent, fair wage enables the families to invest in the foundations of their homes so they can withstand earthquakes. Artisans are paid per knot rather than speed, which motivates them to make high-quality, high knot count rugs. The styles and colors of the rugs are distinct, depending on what village the artisan is located in.
Yousaf Chaman, executive director of Bunyaad, drives across the U.S. with rugs in his van and trailer to the events held at Ten Thousand Villages locations throughout the country. His family is involved in the process; his wife runs their stores in Pennsylvania, and his brother also helps at events. Yousaf is gone from his family for weeks at a time to ensure the artisans have the income opportunity.
“It is the quality you desire, and the fairness artisans deserve. The rugs are very high quality and last a lifetime,” states Chaman. “Due to the quality of the wool, rugs are resilient to stains, including wine or other spills,” he adds. Some of his customers have bought rugs and have been able to communicate with the artisan who created the rug in Pakistan.
Products sold at Ten Thousand Villages are making a difference in the world. Purchases provide fair wages, so artisans have the security of a fair income to care for their family needs. The Rug Event will be held March 18–20 at Crafted from 12–6 p.m. Rugs range in cost from $125–$13,000. To learn more about Ten Thousand Villages South Bay, visit villagesredondo.com. For more information about the rugs, visit bunyaad.com. spt