Santa's Helpers Needed!
Interested in learning about fair trade? Like talking to people? Learning about world cultures? Join our team as a volunteer!
Now interviewing for short-term volunteer positions.
Duties: Greet and communicate the mission of Ten Thousand Villages to customers, assist in check-out and gift wrapping.
Requirements: Good people skills, enthusiasm for fair trade and Ten Thousand Villages; minimum age of 16. Available between the hours of 11-3 and/or 5:30-9:30 for two hours each week October 14 – December 22.
Does this sound like the volunteer position for you? Come in and request an application today, or call 610-231-8776 and ask for the store manager, Tina.
Meet Our Volunteers
Following my third Mission Trip to El Salvador, I felt a need to support people in developing countries who were going to extraordinary means to support their families. In El Salvador, I often purchased handmade items from people who were attempting to better their lives and the lives of their children. When Ten Thousand Villages opened a retail store in the Lehigh Valley Mall, I saw an opportunity to connect to people in places similar to El Salvador. Unfortunately in many developing countries, the only work opportunities for people, are in large corporate ventures that take advantage of people. Through Ten Thousand Villages, artisans receive a fair wage for their work and are supported in the creative work that they do. I especially appreciate how Ten Thousand Villages works directly with the artisans in product development. This not only respects the artisans’ craftwork, but also empowers them to take control of their lives.
Volunteering at Lehigh Valley Ten Thousand Villages has been an enriching experience for me as well. Each time that I am in the store I learn more about the artisans who produce such wonderful crafts. It some ways I feel as though I know these people, because I personally met people in similar situations when I was in El Salvador. The staff and many of the customers are an inspiration to me in their commitment to the ideals of fair trade and making a difference in our world. Every time that I leave the shop after volunteering, I feel that I am part of a larger network that promotes the well-being of our planet and its people.
My first volunteer experience at Ten Thousand Villages was during an orientation week with Mennonite Central Committee in their warehouse in Akron, PA. I was part of a group of young people who were preparing for year-long voluntary services terms and learning about the impact that fair trade has on the people who we were preparing to meet in countries around the world. During that evening, I learned about the powerful mission behind the store that I had been familiar with for years and the multitude of people involved in getting all the products from around the world into the stores. I was 18 years old and my assignment took me to Asuncion, Paraguay, where I worked in the state run psychiatric hospital as a volunteer within the occupational therapy department. I helped teach the patients basic needlework and craft skills and they taught me so much more. That experience exposed me to people and situations in developing countries around the world and the responsibility I have in learning from them in order to live a more aware and sustainable life. Other voluntary assignments took me to an indigenous community in Paraguay as well shorter terms to Zimbabwe and Tanzania. The relationships and experiences that I had during those times opened my eyes to the world beyond me and continues to help give perspective to my life.
When I recently moved to the Lehigh Valley, I had more free time on my hands and found the perfect opportunity to jump onboard as a Ten Thousand Villages volunteer. When I volunteer, I look at the bags or the woven kaisa baskets and am reminded of my friends in Paraguay, where the women gather cactus fibers to make into gorgeous bags, using the resources and dyes that are available to them in nature. I appreciate the beautiful sarongs and batiked wall hangings even more when I think about Margaret in Tanzania, who taught me how much time and patience is required to batik. And I get to hear the stories of our customers, whether they have been shopping fair trade all their lives or this is their first time. I know that fair trade is empowering women and the underprivileged, giving them an opportunity to have education, food, housing and a sustainable life. I also know that it can open the eyes of people right here in the community to our neighbors around the world. There is something rare and powerful in connecting stories between people of different parts of the globe and I’m glad that I can be a part of it.
The combination of the sweet aromatic soaps, colorful scarves, and intricate figurines intrigued me and provoked many questions as I made my way around What In The World, a quaint, exotic store in Hackettstown, New Jersey. After chatting with the store owners for some time, a married couple with an unimaginable abundance of patience and passion, I began to realize how much I had in common with them. We all shared an infatuation with diverse cultures, travel, and offering a helping hand for the greater good. It was then that I fell in love with the idea of fair trade.
What could be a better way to appreciate art than to combine the talent that these artisans possess with the knowing that the purchase of these beautifully hand-crafted works of art are supplying them with the essentials that we Americans sometimes think of so lightly? Besides the knowledge of providing these artisans with clean water, education, and a steady income, we are able to appreciate the different product developing techniques and materials and resources that our country fails to bestow. Each hand-made item in Ten Thousand Villages shows intricate design, something I am familiar with through my work in creating jewelry and accessories for friends and other customers. I can truly appreciate the hard work that these artisans do by understanding the patience and effort hand-made and good quality products require. Fair trade is not to be confused with charity of any sort. Fair trade will never exploit artisans, but will only aim to enhance the quality of life and art for those who need some assistance. It disgusts me to think about the experiences an innocent girl the same age as me is forced to go through, including rape, starvation, and negligence. It is not enough to just think about it or to feel sympathetic while I put myself in her shoes. I plan to take action along with all the others involved in the fair trade movement.
Volunteering at Ten Thousand Villages has provided me the opportunity to gain experience as well as confirm that working in this type of company is the most rewarding and perfect job for me. Any questions that I had regarding fair trade prior to volunteering here at Ten Thousand Villages has been thoroughly answered and pushed me to strive for more information in order to better my chances of owning my own fair trade store one day in the future. Learning how to express the goals of Ten Thousand Villages to customers has not only taught me more about fair trade in general, but also how to strengthen relationships with others through the fair trade idea. Seeing the expression on a customer’s face after explaining all the opportunity fair trade has to offer to artisans is not only rewarding, but also helps to spread the word. Networking is crucial is most situations, but especially in fair trade. With the help of eager customers who appreciate art that is not mass-produced and all those who are involved with Ten Thousand Villages and other fair trade companies, these artisans will have the life that they deserve.
Ten Thousand Villages is an organization that understands the need for empowerment in the developing world and implements it well through bringing fairly traded items to the U. S. marketplace. My involvement as a volunteer with the Lehigh Valley store allows me to support my passion for empowering women in the developing world, right here in my own community.
My work with Touching Lives Ministry also allows me to support my passion by impacting a community in western Kenya. Through an ongoing project for a 120 bed hospital, providing clean water and sanitation, providing adult education, supporting the community with spiritual care and developing a micro-finance organization we are able to empower that community with sustainable opportunities for the future.
Though the two organizations operate on opposite sides of the globe, the focus of both is unified: Assisting people by providing opportunities they can embrace to create a better life for themselves and their families.