If you want to make a positive impact in the lives of others while shopping for unique ornaments and decorations for the holiday season, Ten Thousand Villages fits the bill. You get handcrafted pieces that are fair trade, meaning that the individuals, groups or villages creating them are being paid a fair price for their creations, bringing a better quality of life to families and entire communities.
The nonprofit works with more than 130 artisan groups in more than 38 countries around the globe.
Every item you buy has a story. Hand-woven palm holiday streamers come from the Poocharam Federation, improving the economic lot of 7,500 rural poor women artisans in southern India and also encouraging their political involvement.
A newspaper papier mache peace sign comes from Caribbean Crafts, helping Haitian artisans; their articles are all from recycled or locally produced material, from used plastic bottles to steel from used steel drums.
And the pottery Eastern Star Nativity is made by Allpa, a Peruvian trading company working with artisan groups and family workshops whose crafts are usually their sole source of income, including artisans in the Amazon rainforest.
Ten Thousand Villages has something for every budget (but especially for the value conscious), folk and contemporary. Here are some favorites:
No Ordinary Ornaments
Patchwork cloth bird ornament (India, $6)
Lion and lamb ornaments of olive wood (West Bank Palestinian artists, $18)
Papier mache peace signs (Haiti, small--$12, large--$20)
Cheery chickens of recycled orange plastic bags (South Africa, $10)
Starry Mouse (bearing strong resemblance to Angelina Ballerina) made of felt and fabric (Nepal, $8)
Saxophones fashioned from strips from recycled soda cans (South Africa, $16)
Knitted sheep (Peru, $8)
Hand-carved cross ornaments of rose and ivory colored Kisii soapstone (Kenya, $10)
20-foot palm leaf garland in red, tan and green (India, $4.50)
Palm leaf garland, natural and gold color, from the (Philippines, $10)
Angel cutouts garland of blue and white silk paper (Bangladesh, $14)
Menorah of re”cycled” bicycle chain (India, $24)
Clay menorah of family with arms raised together (Mexico, $48)
Menorah with brass camel head and bells (India, $125)
Neat Nativity Scenes (more than 40 kinds from 14 countries!)
Eastern Star Nativity shaped in traditional Chulucanas pottery style, natural, ivory and black (Peru, $195)
Colorful Holy Family Nativity wall hanging of recycled metal (Haiti, $88)
Ceramic Joyful Andean Family Nativity, set of five (Peru, $38)
Nativity of tightly rolled and glued colorful recycled newspaper, alnos wood and abaca fiber (Philippines, $94)
Other Delightful Décor
Large Mosaic of Light glass candleholder with red, gold and mirror tiles (India, $16)
Recycled aluminum bowls with reindeer heads (India, $16)
Earth & Sky Star Boxes of grass and metal, great for decoration or for holding gifts (Philippines, $18)
Modern silver colored tree with red berries at the end, and glass candle holder in middle (India, $44)
Ten Thousand Villages, tenthousandvillages.com
4959 Elm Street, Bethesda, 301-718-3465
The Row at Rockville Town Sq., 107 Gibbs Street, Unit D, Rockville, 301-340-7122