Most of our readers will be quite familiar with the story of Global Gifts, the fair-trade stores in Indianapolis and Bloomington, Indiana and Columbus, Ohio. If you are not aware of the story, here’s the nutshell version: First Mennonite nurtured a ministry of selling fair-trade crafts from around the world to interested parties. This grew out of what was known as Self Help Crafts administered by Mennonite Central Committee. Individuals from FMC would give talks about fair-trade to various groups or have booths at festivals so that the artisans, all of whom were struggling with poverty, could benefit from a wider market. Eventually the enterprise moved to a storefront model and grew to the present not-for-profit stores sporting the Global Gifts name.
Global Gifts stores currently purchase from fair-trade groups in more than 30 countries. Providing a wider market helps these amazing artists send children to school, escape trafficking, feed families who have been hungry and basically provide hope. Hope and joy are linked, so without a doubt, those of us who purchase these fair-trade items, are giving and receiving joy.
(If you want more details, the principles of fair-trade are noted here: https://www.fairtradefederation.org/principles/)
Covid was tough on these stores, but it was tougher on the artisans. With reduced sales, their businesses and families suffered. The supply chain was interrupted; inventory was reduced, and the financial health of this effort was greatly compromised. Fortunately, many from FMC, Shalom and elsewhere who had an established history with Global Gifts, stepped up and offered cash to help stem the monetary drain which started when stores were closed due to covid. Much is owed to those individuals. Now the goal is to continue inventory purchases and grow support for the artists.
Recently, the store once filling a spot in Nora near Whole Foods has had to find a new place to call home. It landed at 8519 Westfield Blvd, not far from an earlier location. There’s plenty of parking for shoppers to come in, browse the merchandise and learn about the artisans or artisan groups who are supported by our purchases, but it’s taking time for shoppers to realize where the store is presently located. Signage has been delayed for weeks. Sometimes it takes time for a place to become home.
In the meantime, those who depend on fair trade stores for their livelihood are still in need of support.
For instance, Global Mama’s is a fair-trade group out of Ghana, which states it is focused on creating prosperity for African women and families. It goes on to define “prosperity” as going beyond financial well-being to include happiness and good health. There are around 350 producers participating in this enterprise, sending their children to school, some to university, helping to feed their families, and enjoying each other’s company. Their batik cloth is a signature item, used in tablecloths, clothing and other cloth pieces, but they also work with beads, soap, water hyacinth paper and more…. Beautiful things made by beautiful people who practice joy.
Chindi baskets from Bangladesh are made by groups of women in that country’s poorest areas. Many are widows or single mothers; heads of households with minimal income, if any at all. More than 1000 women are employed by “Handcrafters” at ten sites where they receive training regardless of their cultural status, using sustainable and natural materials. The sense of value these women must feel, and the relief when they can feed their children and send them to school must give them tremendous joy.
Twin Engine Coffee is a new partner with Global Gifts. It’s a direct trade group out of Nicaragua which seeks to keep the growing, roasting, designing and packaging at the original site so that more money goes to the community where the beans are grown. They also have items made from local leather workers and wood pieces from the coffee arabica tree. The entire community in this microclimate of Nicaragua is benefitting from these sales, giving people purpose and motivation.
The Global Gifts stores often have a rotating display of special artisans doing unique work. You can learn something on each visit. Presently, at the Nora store, there are direct pieces by African artisans with whom Kelly Trimble (former manager and interim executive director) has worked over the years. Pieces have been circulating which are done by Gift Rusere, a Zimbabwean artist who uses traditional serpentine springstone to create Shona sculptures. These dramatic statements are heavy and creative, utilizing traditional methods of polishing and carving.
As we seek to find place and joy, consider how we can help provide joy around the world as we support artisans who have created places of community in their work. And consider how we can offer joy in our purchases. Shop Global Gifts for fair-trade items!
About the author
Mary Liechty has been on this earth for 70 plus years. She finds much happiness in walking a trail through the woods and in laughing with her grandchildren.