At the Ten Thousand Villages store, you can buy a hand-knotted oriental rug from Pakistan or a handwoven basket from Bangladesh or a carved-wood chessboard from India.
And behind each of these exotic novelty items lies a story of an artisan who is living in a faraway region, like Asia, Africa, Latin America or the Middle East.
Ten Thousand Villages is a nonprofit, fair-trade organization that seeks to empower and uplift the lives of thousands of disadvantaged artisans struggling to make a living in 38 countries. The group has stores in the United States and Canada — including O’Bryonville and Harper’s Point locally.
Darlene Rohrer-Meck, the nonprofit’s executive director in Cincinnati, recently showed off the innovative and unique handmade assortment of jewelry, home decor items, art and sculpture in the Harper’s Point store that depict the rich and diverse cultures of these countries.
She explained that the mission of the nonprofit is not just to sell the products but also to change the lives of the artisans by granting them a chance to sell their work, earn a fair wage and live dignified, respectful lives.
“We help the poorest of the poor artisans, those who would not have had any other way of getting their products to market,” said Rohrer-Meck, a West Chester resident, who is a former social worker. She has been with the nonprofit for six years and in her current position for three years.
The store stocks items that are breathtakingly beautiful, skillfully created and heartbreakingly poignant. Among the colorful rugs, vases, pottery, blown-glass pieces, wall hangings, baby gifts, candles and clothing are also items that represent causes, such as art work from former sex workers in Pakistan, who stitch in a flower petal to symbolize that they have emerged from a life of “hopelessness and despair.”