Being in the heart of the holiday shopping season, there's a place where teens can head to purchase gifts for others or maybe for themselves while supporting a worthwhile cause.
Ten Thousand Villages, located on Main Street in Williamsville, is a small store with a big message. It is a nonprofit fair trade organization, which means that it has fair prices that are paid to the producers of the products who live in developing countries around the world. The majority of the products are handcrafted and come from 38 countries around the globe. In existence for more than 60 years with more than 150 stores nationwide, Ten Thousand Villages enables disadvantaged artisans to receive a fair price for their work and allows the purchasers of the products to enjoy unique and remarkable objects from exotic places. In addition, since the store is mainly run by volunteers, it enables Ten Thousand Villages to keep its overhead low, which keeps the prices lower for the consumer -- an advantage for teens who always seem to be strapped for cash.
What makes the gifts at Ten Thousand Villages that much more special is the fact that the money goes to a good cause by helping the artisans in developing countries have a chance to survive. The store truly has something for everyone, which is great when looking for a variety of presents.
The children's section is worth checking out when looking for a novel toy for a youngster. There are boy and girl dolls from Zimbabwe. If you purchase a doll, its "twin" will be given to a child in a Zimbabwean family affected by HIV/AIDS. Most of these children have no other toys.
Throughout the store, clever techniques in the making of all the products are apparent. For example, the nativity scene and the hot mats are made by folding newspapers again and again. This is a lengthy process and is a very old and outdated technique, but the outcome is magnificent.
Most of the products at Ten Thousand Villages are environmentally friendly. The store is filled with many recycled items that are made with materials many people usually throw away. For example, earrings from Kenya are made from can tops. Normally, we would just discard cans, but the artisan uses the tops of them to make beautiful earrings. In addition, there is a brass necklace made from bomb casings. The artisan uses military scraps to make this exquisite piece of jewelry.
For boys' gifts, the wallets from India are often a favorite. They are made from recycled tires, so they are environmentally friendly. Boys also love the instruments, such as the Orutu, a guitarlike instrument from Kenya made out of wood, leather and strings.
Also, the singing bowls from Nepal make great gifts. These are a type of bronze bell that produce a humming sound.
For girls, the selection is even bigger. The jewelry made in all parts of the world is always a favorite, and there is a large selection to pick from. Furthermore, it is not just average jewelry; it is unique and will definitely be noticed. Also, girls often like the stylish bags made in Guatemala. They are called Guatemalan skirt purses because they are made from recycled skirts. Also, if you are looking for a great gift for Mom, one of the reversed painted trays from Peru would be a good choice. In the reverse painting process, the outline of a design is silk-screened onto the reverse side of the glass. In addition, the plates made in Vietnam out of recycled posters are also something original and can't be found in many other stores.
Several teenagers work at Ten Thousand Villages.
Arielle Wisbaum, a 16-year-old volunteer who attends Williamsville East, said she has been shopping at the store for a long time, and it has always been one of her favorite stores because she loves the fact that Ten Thousand Villages is fair trade.
"I would rather buy things from a store where the money goes to a good cause," Arielle says. "I buy most of my friends' gifts for their birthdays from here.
"The girls love the jewelry from this store, and the boys like the wallets made from recycled tires. The items are very reasonably priced for teens, especially considering they are mostly all hand-crafted."
Adelina Simpson, a junior at Nardin Academy, frequently shops at Ten Thousand Villages. When she discovered that the store was run mainly by volunteers, she applied and was accepted to become a volunteer.
When the store needed her to work more hours, she was then offered a paid position. Like Arielle, she thought that Ten Thousand Villages was special because it was fair trade and nonprofit.
"There are not many stores like this one in Buffalo," she said.
She added that teenagers would like the items in this store, and there has been an influx of teenage volunteers working at Ten Thousand Villages lately.
"The jewelry items are popular with the girls, and the guys really like the instruments," she said.
Ten Thousand Villages is a small store with a big heart, packed with treasures that help create a better life for others.
Michael Khan is a freshman at Canisius High School.