Ten Thousand Villages Shop in Pigeon Forge, a must when visiting the area.

My wife and I recently stopped in to the Ten Thousands Villages store in Pigeon Forge in the Belz Outlet mall on Teaster lane. All I can say is WOW! What an amazing place that is a Free Trade Retailer. I personally had never heard of anything like this but the clerk was very friendly and explained to us what Ten Thousand Villages was all about.

Ten Thousand Villages in Pigeon Forge in Pigeon Forge, TN, is a fair trade retailer of artisan-crafted home decor, personal accessories and gift items from across the globe. Featuring products from more than 130 artisan groups in some 38 countries, we are part of a network of over 390 retail outlets throughout the United States selling Ten Thousand Villages products.

As one of the world’s oldest and largest fair trade organizations, Ten Thousand Villages has spent more than 60 years cultivating trading relationships in which artisans receive a fair price for their work and consumers have access to distinctive handcrafted items. We seek to establish long-term buying relationships in places where skilled artisans are under- or unemployed, and in which they lack other opportunities for income. A founding member of the World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO), Ten Thousand Villages sees fair trade as an alternative approach to conventional international trade.

Ten Thousand Villages works to empower tens of thousands of disadvantaged artisans across 38 Third World countries by paying them a fair wage for their wares. Reflecting the artists’ cultural traditions, these handcrafted goods—ranging from baskets and jewelry to textiles and home decor—are then sold in the charity’s network of more than 390 retail outlets as well as online.

Ten Thousand VillagesAs one of the oldest and largest nonprofits promoting fair trade, Ten Thousand Villages reaches out to people who otherwise aren’t plugged into the normal trading system. The charity helps these workers to find a market for their goods, at the same time eradicating poverty by giving them enough money to provide for themselves and their families. In a quest to help, however, the organization can’t buy just any product. It has to be one that sells. It has to get customers’ attention as not just having a good price tag, but being a good item. Wanting to truly be fair to their artisans, the charity enters into a discussion with them of what is a reasonable amount of money for the goods. The point is not to bargain a lower price, of course.

The organization traces its roots back to 1946 when Edna Ruth Byler went on a trip to Puerto Rico to volunteer and was moved by the extreme poverty she witnessed. One day, she sat down with some farmers’ wives and discovered they were doing embroidery work in hopes of sending their daughters to school. Finding the work quality and wanting to help, she brought it back to the States, where she began to sell it to her neighbors and friends. It sold so well, she soon sent money in an envelope, requesting more products. She looked up one day to discover her basement was full of goods from all over the world.

Ten Thousand VillagesToday they are still essentially trying to do the same thing. So the next time you visit the Smoky Mountains, Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg be sure to stop in to the Ten Thousand Villages shop and find something unique to take home from around the world. You can also shop online and get more information or get involved by visiting tenthousandvillages.com.

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