Ten Thousand Villages began in 1946 when Edna Ruth Byler, a Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) worker, visited volunteers in Puerto Rico who were teaching sewing classes in an effort to help improve the lives of women living in poverty.
From this trip, Edna brought several pieces of embroidery home to sell to friends and neighbours. The pieces became quite popular and she soon added cross-stitch needlework from Palestinian refugees and hand-carved Haitian woodenware to her inventory.
In the early 1970s, the flourishing project moved out of Byler’s basement and became SELFHELP CRAFTS, an official MCC program. Thousands of loyal customers and volunteers have helped to build this program into the strong alternative trading organization that, in 1996, became known as Ten Thousand Villages.
Commerce with a Conscience
Men and women around the world have a simple dream – to earn an honest living, provide a home, food and education for their children, and to be gainfully employed in a job that brings dignity and joy. Ten Thousand Villages partners with thousands of talented artisans in a healthy business relationship.
Often referred to as ‘Fair Trade,' our philosophy of helping to build a sustainable future is based on the principle that trade should have a conscience. Through Fair Trade, artisans receive respect, dignity and hope from working hard and earning fair value for their work.
Our Beliefs Guide For Business
Ten Thousand Villages is a nonprofit Fair Trade Organization (FTO). FTOs are non-governmental organizations designed to benefit artisans, not to maximize profits. They market products from handicraft and agricultural organizations based in low-income countries, providing consumers with products that have been fairly purchased from sustainable sources.
Ten Thousand Villages is a member of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), a global network of Fair Trade Organizations. WFTO’s mission is to improve the livelihood and well-being of disadvantaged producers by linking and promoting Fair Trade organizations and speaking out for greater justice in world trade. Over 270 FTOs in 60 countries form the basis of this network.
Take a look at their Annual Report!