Nov 16, 2008

Think Globally, Shop Locally

It's that time of year again. No, not Thanksgiving. For federal employees like me, its Open Season during which we make decisions about our health benefits and other allotments we choose to deduct from our paychecks. In addition to health care, disability, retirement, and insurance decisions, we are asked to consider charitable giving. I just turned in my pledge card for the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC). Lisa, our friendly CFC worker (should I say our sweet Charity Nazi) worked us good. Actually, we really didn't need much prodding. We reached 100% participation -- the first office in our part of the agency.

Every year as I sit down to prepare my pledge card, I think of how to make my limited dollars have the most impact. Typically, I scour the CFC Catalog of Caring, going page by page and running my finger down each column. That's how I found Ten Thousand Villages, a non-profit, alternative trading organization providing vital fair income to people in developing countries by selling their handmade crafts here in the United States. Alternate trading organizations market products from arts and craft and agricultural organizations based in low-income countries. Finally! A "charity" that encourages sustainable economies through marketing of handicraft -- fiber, clay, art, basketweaving, et al. Right up my alley!

The old Chinese proverb says, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." The main objective of fair trade is provide vital, fair income to improve the artisan's quality of life. Ten Thousand Villages is a NGO whose mission is to build long term relationships with artisans in developing countries. The store in Alexandria is one of several nationwide that helps increase awareness by telling the stories of artisans from Asia, Africa, Middle East, and Latin America. Although organizations like Ten Thousand Villages actually do not teach artisans to "fish," they do help build sustainable futures by supporting local artisan's efforts to make their way with fair, vital income earned from their own abilities.

Yes, it is that time of year again. A time to give thanks for all that we have and are about to receive. So, do your part. Find something you are passionate about. Give to help secure our world's future.

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