Woven baskets, hand-stitched dolls and bowls made of finely pressed paper are just some of the items lining the shelves at Victoria’s Global Village Store at 527 Pandora Ave.
In 1988 the establishment opened near the central branch of the Greater Victoria Public Library as the city’s first fair trade store, and it’s now celebrating its 30th anniversary Aug. 18.
“The concept arose out of social justice issues, ” says Mavis Degirolamo, chair of the Global Village Store board and volunteer for 20 years.
“We asked how can we best support these people so that what we are doing is giving them a hand up and not a hand out,” she explains. “How do we help them to be able to raise their families with dignity, and be able to send their kids to school and have a home that they feel is theirs?”
Now, the non-profit store sells goods from 28 countries and 52 producers around the world. Any funds secured that aren’t needed to run the store go back to the producers or to grants or fundraisers around the world. Since its inception, the store has given back over $2 million to its producers.
But, it wasn’t always easy to co-ordinate products, especially before the internet was so well established.
“They had to go back and forth with letters, and often you would get pictures and often you would get nothing,” said Suzann Albion, co-ordinator for the Global Village Store and the only paid employee at the establishment. “Often they were were ordering blind, and sometimes we still do.”
While every once in awhile this has led to a bit of confusion about received products, most the time goods arrive as expected and finely made.
“They are handmade in the traditional style or craft of that particular country, so a lot are hand woven or hand sewed, so you get the sense of the person; you can just tell when someone is just learning and when someone is just perfect,” Albion said. “All the products are unique, it’s a great place to get a unique item.”
The store is run by over 30 volunteers, ranging in age from 15 to 80, with some serving the whole 30 years and others just popping in for a few months at a time.
On Saturday, Aug. 18 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the store’s back entrance in Market Square there will be a celebration of the store’s 30 years and to show appreciation for the volunteers who make it happen.
The event will include live music, cake and coffee, door prizes, raffles and a sale of 25 per cent off of most in-store products. The celebration will be heralded in by Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps as the City of Victoria launches a commitment to be a fair trade town, a move that encourages as many businesses as possible to work with fair trade producers.
For more information, you can head to victoriaglobalvillage.ca