My first fair trade purchase was a chocolate bar. And a can of hot cocoa.

It was a selfish buy: chocolate is a dietary staple in my life. But the story that was printed on the chocolate bar wrapper was intriguing. I learned the farmer who grew the cacao beans received a fair price on his harvest and that the creamy goodness I was eating was helping him, his family, and his community. Too many times, companies excluded artisans in developing countries from sharing in profits or paid too little for their wares or services. Fair trade fixes this.

Fair trade means that artisans, farmers, and producers who create goods for the market are paid a fair price. There is no forced labor or child labor involved which sadly is a common practice in modern day supply chains.

I was a fair trade fan from then on. One of my favorite fair trade only stores is Ten Thousand Villages, 567 S. Lake Ave., in Pasadena. The store closed in March due to the pandemic, and didn’t open again until May. In July, it celebrated its 14th year anniversary with a bittersweet footnote: sales are down 75%.

“Ten Thousand Villages is a global maker‑to‑market movement that breaks the cycle of generational poverty and ignites social change,” said Haylee Chesshir, assistant manager. “We are a way for customers to shop with intention for ethically-made goods and to share in the joy of empowering makers around the world. As pioneers of fair trade, we do business differently, putting people and planet first for over 70 years. That means people can trust that every handmade purchase and donation they make directly impacts the life and community of its maker.”

Each item sold at Ten Thousand Villages is handmade and fair trade. The store is a nonprofit, so every purchase gives back to support its mission to end generational poverty through long-term fair trade buying relationships in places where skilled artisans are under or unemployed, and in which they lack other opportunities for income, according to Rebecca Dunn, its manager.

“Pasadena’s favorite fair trade only store needs our community now more than ever,” Dunn added.

So here’s my plan: Do something life-giving to a community of makers worldwide and donate and/or shop Ten Thousand Villages in Pasadena.

I hope to start shopping for Christmas gifts now. My favorite items include beautiful shawls and cozy travel toppers, teas and spices, ornaments and treats such as mango pomegranate coconut bites, and, of course, anything chocolate. (Tins of hot cocoa were a big hit one Christmas.)

Other ways we can help include shopping in the store or online for curbside pickup at www.villagespasadena.com; donate to support the future of fair trade in Pasadena; help raise money to support the store by visiting the Web site and looking for the button that says, “I want to fundraise for this;” share about Ten Thousand Villages Pasadena on social media; and lastly, write a review to help people find the store while searching online.

“We’re so glad to be open again and here to serve our amazing Pasadena community, but the truth is we really need your support right now,” Dunn said. “Your favorite fair trade store needs you now more than ever.Your support means the world to us and we are so very grateful to have a community like you.”

Also consider partnering with Ten Thousand Villages during the holidays for a virtual market specific to a group, church or organization.

Email Hayley at assistant.pasadena@tenthousandvillages.com.

By donating and purchasing from Ten Thousand Villages, you are actively keeping artisans employed at a fair wage, sustaining their medical care, and helping break the cycle of generational poverty for artisans and their families around the world. What an easy way to do so much good.

For more information, call (626) 229-9892 or visit www.villagespasadena.com.

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