‘Sing’ with us at the Capitol!

27 Jun

Please join Ten Thousand Villages in celebrating the Dalai Lama’s birthday and help set the Guinness World Record for most singing bowls simultaneously rung!  We’ll be meeting at the State Capitol on July 12th at 9am for this history-making event.

Singing bowls are believed to have been used in Tibetan culture since the time of the Buddha in 560 B.C. and are used for meditation, relaxation, holistic healing, stress reduction and chakra balancing.




If just one singing bowl can provide deep relaxation, imagine what 250 of them playing at once can do! On July 6, 2013 Ten Thousand Villages of Austin celebrated the Dalai Lama’s birthday and World Tibet Day by attempting to break the Guinness Book of World Records for the most singing bowls simultaneously rung. The sound and vibrations in the open air rotunda were indescribable.

Store manager, Kitty Bird summed it up, “I hope everyone feels better, I know I do. I feel calm, I feel good… This is so cool!”


Hosting these types of events allows Ten Thousand Villages to tell artisans’ stories to a broader audience while evoking a sense of community and togetherness. Click here to view a video of last year’s event.

While the event was an amazing success, the record was not met so Ten Thousand Villages of Austin is doing it again this year! Join us at the Texas State Capitol on July 12th, 2014 at 9 am to ‘ring in the Dalai Lama’s birthday and set the Guinness World Record for most singing bowls simultaneously rung!

There are beautiful handcrafted bowls available for purchase at the store or you can bring your own!


Singing Bowl Delicate

Delicate Song Singing Bowl from New SADLE

New SADLE, meaning “New Skill and Development Learning Experience is a not-for-profit training and employment program in Nepal for artisans who have leprosy, polio, or other disabilities. New SADLE not only provides a way for workers to make a living but also provides free medical treatment for artisans, rent and child allowances, free daycare, and schooling. Ten Thousand Villages has been purchasing from New SADLE since 2001.


Singing Bowl Ashtamangal

Ashtamangal Singing Bowl

Mahaguthi artisans create bronze-casted singing bowls. Mahaguthi works with more than 1,000 artisans; most of whom are women who live in remote areas and are able to work from home. Mahaguthi has been marketing handicrafts since 1984 to support women and children. The organizations provides medical and education allowances, paid leave, and maternity leave for their workers. Ten Thousand Villages has been purchasing from Mahaguthi since 2000.


Singing Bowl Lotus

Silver Lotus Singing Bowl

Created from copper, zinc and tin this bowl is created by a nonprofit export organization in Kathmandu called Sana Hastakala which means “small handicraft.” Sana Hastakala focuses on preserving the skill and traditions of artisans and develops staff welfare and development programs. Ten Thousand Villages has been purchasing from Sana Hastakala since 2001.

*Note: Tenzin Gyatso, the current and 14th Dalai Lama’s actual birthday is July 6th and he will be 79 this year.

For more information on this and other events please visit www.tenthousandvillages.com/austin.

Being The Change I Wish To See In The World

25 Jun



     Let me start off by saying Hello! My name is Jackie Busch and I am the Event Planning Intern for this summer. I will be a sophomore this upcoming fall at Baylor University where I plan on studying international business and minoring in Leadership. I was born and raised in Austin and I am a true Austinite at heart, though I love my Wacoan home. Fun Fact about myself, I was a Girl Scout for 12 years and after hard work, sweat and a lot of cookies I was able to earn my bronze award. I don’t really have “favorites”, I am more equal opportunity. Except when it comes to movies, my favorite movie is Pride and Prejudice hands down. Because who can pass up Mr. Darcy?


One of the things I am most known for among my friends is for being the “mom” of our group. As much as I know that can be annoying it is only because I care immensely about their happiness and future. I am one of those people who feels pain when another feels pain, and joy when another feels joy. However, the good news is I am also a very good problem solver. Which is where the “mom” nickname comes in, because my advice very much mimics a mom’s guidance. When it comes down to it though, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I utilize my strengths to the best of my ability and by doing that I hope to bring out my friends strengths and help make them into the best version of themselves they can be. -Mom example number one ;) I also give out hugs if you ever need a pick me up :) Another attribute that my friends would probably say I have is that I truly want to make a difference in the world and in peoples lives. Since I was about eleven and learned about Gandhi in my English class my favorite quote has been “Be the change you wish to see in the world,” and I am ready to start being that.

free hugs

In high school I lead a service organization called the JOY project, and our mission was to find needs in the immediate Austin area and fulfill them. Through that I was able to experience and witness firsthand what making a difference in somebody’s life looks life. My favorite project was when we coordinated a service day that was themed around Valentine’s Day, because love comes in many different forms and we had plenty to give. My team went to over 10 houses that were members of our congregation that could no longer get around to do house or yard work. This one house in particular was a very good friend of our youth director’s who happened to be diagnosed with cancer. We sent over our crew and cleaned up his yard, because since his diagnosis no one had been able to take care of that part of the house. We brought over lunch so his wife could take an afternoon off and enjoy her time with her husband. While I am very proud of the work we did there, I am more proud of our volunteers taking the time to stop and listen to his many incredible stories. Before they left his wife told our volunteers that she had never seen him tell that many stories and was very appreciative. A few weeks later, he passed away and his wife made contact with us again and let us know how much us coming to her house had meant to her and her husband. I knew we had made a difference for their family -  although it was a small deed, it had a big impact.


     Going forward I hope to make the same kind of impact at Ten Thousand Villages. I have worked with my immediate community and now I want to have a different experience by making an impact in a person’s life that I will never have the privilege to meet. Love comes in different forms and I am ready  to bring my caring mom-love to people across the world and be the change I wish to see in the world.

       ghandhi reflection

Our Favorite Fair Trade Challenge Photos

18 May

Ten Thousand Villages’ Fair Trade Challenge is an annual event encouraging folks to eat, drink, use, or wear fair trade products each day then shout it from all corners of social media.  This year’s Fair Trade Challenge really showed how fun and creative fair trade supporters can be!  In honor of Austin Villages’ 10th birthday this year we are sharing our Top 10 photos from this year’s Challenge and why our Challengers say they support fair trade:

1. Flower Garland & Candleholder, Laura D.Laura used got creative with these fair trade pieces to decorate her dinner table on Cinco de Mayo.

“I support fair trade because the right to a fair wage has always been important to me. Being compensated fairly for your talent and work supports human dignity, boosts self esteem, and rewards dreamers who have put their dreams into action and encourages them to continue dreaming! Fair trade is a way to allow people to be the best version of themselves.” ~Laura D.

2. Bangles, Alice May B.Amay banglesThese silver bangles from India are some of Alice May’s favorites.  Ours too!

“Everyone on this planet deserves to make a living by earning a fair wage. So much pride results from work well done.” ~Alice May B.

3. Pencil Sharpener, Lisa G.LisaThe Fair Trade Challenge this year coincided with the end of the semester so St. Ed’s professor Lisa got a lot of use out of this lil’ guy.

“It provides HOPE!” ~Lisa G.

4. Earrings, Sarah D.Sarah StickerWe knew Sarah would be a great Challenger once we learned that her New Year’s resolution was to opt for sweatshop-free clothing whenever possible.  This pic is very powerful considering that artisans’ stories are a big part of the fair trade movement!

“I realized in 2013 after doing a lot of research and soul searching- the only reason I wasn’t fair trade was because I was, put very simply, selfish. I wanted my faith in to change not only what I believed but the way I shopped- and so I have made it my 2014 New Year’s Resolution to wear Sweatshop Free clothes, shoes, and accessories (I am allowing thrift stores to be a viable option as well). The more I have learned and researched Fair Trade, the more it becomes important to me and the more it has changed me!”

5. Spiced Chili Dark Chocolate, Aerin P.AerinReally, who can resist eating a few pieces of chocolate, even for the sake of a photo?  This entry demonstrates the sweet side of fair trade ;)

“Knowing that my actions allow others near and far to receive fair compensation and a living wage for their work is a noble cause!” ~Aerin P.

6. Ginger Tea, Becca H.BeccaWe love this fun photo because it demonstrates how fair trade can delight the senses.

“Fair trade helps people all over the world, not just in third-world countries — it spreads fairness and cultural understanding.” ~Becca H.

7. Cat Wall Hooks with Necklaces, Becca R.Becca CatsWow, so much fair trade!  Not only is Becca’s jewelry holder made of fair trade cut metal from Haiti, but she proudly displays her amazing fair trade necklaces on it.  Our hats off to you Becca.

“I support fair trade not only because it is empowering to artisans, farmers, and producers world-wide, but also empowering to us- the consumers. Realizing how much of a difference where and how you spend your money helped me to understand how connected we all our in the modern global economy… In fair trade, we see that as a beautiful thing- celebrating the intimacy between producers and consumers, and bridging that gap with stories, photos, videos and beautiful products.” ~Becca R

8. Dress, Rebecca D.Rebecca DRebecca is seriously rockin’ some fair trade style!  We love her smile in this pic.

“I support fair trade because it empowers people to improve their lives.” ~Rebecca D.

9. Coffee, Mary H.MaryLooks like Mary is going all french press with her fair trade caffeine fix – we want some!

“It’s the right thing to do” ~Mary H.

10. Mirror, Anne O.AnneAnne’s created a stunning composition for this pic, a perfect match for the beauty of the her reverse-painted glass mirror.

“Fair trade gives a voice to the voiceless and empowers people to be creative and successful!” ~Anne O.

And there you have it, our Fair Trade Challenge 2014 winners!  A big thanks to all of our Challengers who made this fun campaign happen!!  See ya next year :)



Fair Trade Challenge Time!

6 May

Every year Ten Thousand Villages of Austin puts on a Fair Trade Challenge. The challenge is easy (and fun)- take a picture of yourself wearing/eating/using a fair trade item each week of the challenge and post it on our Facebook, Twitter @austinvillages, or Instagram @austinvillages. Each day we’ll pick our favorites and share them- then announce winners at the end of the week. I know, wearing/eating/using fair trade sounds a little hard, but it’s really not! I’ve rounded up some of my very favorite fair trade items, things you probably already use everyday.



You can’t be a part of a fair trade challenge without some coffee, that’s just a fact of life.

So Cute!

So Cute!

You can’t have a good cup of coffee without a cute mug because then what will you Instagram?

Because how can you have a good day without chocolate?

Because chocolate

There’s no such thing as a perfect fair trade day without some delicious chocolate.



I can’t be the only one who makes WAY too much pasta every time. This handy eggplant is key in helping me make just the right amount of pasta for one!

Don’t let the word challenge throw you off, this is NOT all work and no play. On Saturday May 10th we’ll be throwing you, and all of our other fair trade enthusiasts, a party!

Some of our activities will include: 
*10:00am – 12:00pm – Iced Equal Exchange Coffee Bar in Store
*12:00pm – 8pm – In house chocolate tasting – Come and get a taste of your favorite chocolate for free! 
*12:00pm – 2:00pm – Live African Music 
*3:00pm – 6:00pm – Iced Fair Trade Tulsi Tea – Sweet and Unsweetened available in store 
*3:00pm – 5:00pm – Block Stamping – Make something sweet for Mother’s Day! 
*6:00pm – 8:00pm – Newspaper Bead Bracelets – an easy and fun activity for the whole family to enjoy! 

More activities to be added soon…check out our Facebook to stay in the know! 

Can’t wait to see all of y’all’s awesome fair trade pictures!

Beautiful, Beautiful Spring!

10 Apr

I don’t know about you, but the early days of spring always remind me how much I love bright, beautiful colors and how much I enjoy cartwheels. Spring makes me crave any and all outside activities. But, in all honesty, more than outside activities spring makes me crave cute, bright accessories.

Do we even need to discuss how beautiful these colors are?

Do we even need to discuss how beautiful these colors are?

Like these colorful sarongs from Nepal! I know, sarongs usually scream beach- but hear me out: Think of picnics at Zilker, snacking on delicious strawberries and fresh-squeezed juice. And, since this is my daydream, let’s go ahead and add a cute little dog running around. Or throwing one on top of your bed for a quick pop of color. Such an easy way to update your room and add some warmth after this long, cold winter. Or you can go for a fabulous everyday look. Like this!

So cute!

So cute!

Despite the (hopefully!) beautiful weather that comes with spring, so does the rain. Those days best spent curling up on the couch watching Netflix can be exponentially improved* by kitting. This awesome knitting pack from Nepal comes with everything you need for those cute knitted headbands that will keep your ears warm next cold-season. Now, I know it’s a little early to start knitting for winter, but if you’re anything like me, it’ll take six to eight months to get it done so it’s important to get started early. Most importantly, I can’t stop thinking of how cute that bowl will look sitting in my living room and how fabulous I’ll sound when I tell my friends I’m ‘working on my knitting.’ *scientifically proven fact

How many scented soaps are too many scented soaps?

How many scented soaps are too many scented soaps?

After this unusually cold and long winter, we need to be pampered. We need to feel like we didn’t have to brave the cold and rain and frozen roads (because Texans are not built for cold and rain and frozen roads, we are built for year round Snow Cones!). A good way to get back in touch with our warm-weather roots is through little luxuries. Little luxuries like soft, scented soaps. All of these soaps were handcrafted by Indian artisans without any pesky, harmful chemicals. If a long, awesome bath with lavender soap doesn’t leave you feeling ready for pool days and wandering amongst the bluebonnets, nothing will*. *scientifically proven fact

Yes, that is the world's cutest giant dragonfly.

Yes, that is the world’s cutest giant dragonfly.

Do I even need to explain why I’m in love with this bird house? It’s made of wool, it’s environmentally friendly, and it’s going to make my balcony look precious. If anyone needs any more explanation please refer them to the precious giant dragonlfy —–>   Most importantly, not only is this bird home and everything else fantastic, they’re also all fair trade items. They were all handmade by artisans in developing countries and they were all paid living wages which will allow them to sustain themselves and their families. It’s nice to own cute things, but it’s even nicer to know that these cute things have helped a community, rather than contribute to worldwide poverty. **Pretty positive none of the scientifically proven facts I gave y’all are actually based on scientific studies. But there’s definitely an argument to be made with those soaps.

Enjoy spring!

Spotlight on Carmen Williams, From Devoted Patron to Passionate Volunteer

3 Apr

Carmen Williams has been growing with us ever since we first opened our Austin location in 2004!

Thank you Carmen!  Glad to have you on board!

Carmen has been a long-time supporter of fair wages for hard-working, impoverished individuals. Soon after Ten Thousand Villages opened it’s doors here in Austin, Carmen made efforts to collaborate through her work at St. Catherine’s Parish.  She taught her church about the often exploitative practices involved in the coffee industry and led them to commit to fair trade purchases.  As a teacher, she promoted and educated her high school students as well as co-workers about the importance of supporting ethical and humane treatment of workers.  In fact, Carmen always makes a point to buy fair trade items whenever it is possible.  Her commitment to equality and fair treatment for all has brought us a wonderful volunteer, a truly passionate individual who has been a dear advocate and friend since the beginning.

We couldn’t rightfully celebrate our ten year anniversary without also saluting Carmen; so we stopped her for a brief chat and this is what she said:

How did you learn of Ten Thousand Villages?

In 2001, I participated in a social justice program called JUST FAITH.  I became aware of fair trade products through this program as we worked to provide fair trade coffee at our church gatherings.

Had you shopped at a 100% fair trade store before coming into Ten Thousand Villages?

Ten Thousand Villages of Austin is my store of choice—I’ve also shopped  at Ten Thousand Villages online as well as other online fair trade organizations such as SERRV.

What was your impression of the store when you walked in for the first time?

Lovely, fun, and odd hours (early on, they were only open on certain days).

Did Ten Thousand Villages’ mission to support fair trade play a role in your continued patronage?  Why?

Yes.  I believe that all working people should be paid fair wages for their labor, especially the working poor.

What are some of your favorite items that you have purchased from Ten Thousand Villages?

Jewelry… and wall hangings, and anything that will work as a wedding, birthday, or Christmas gift.

Is there a particular country that you have a special affinity for that has items in our store?

No—I like them all.

Have you received any compliments on some of the items that you purchased from here?  What are the items?

Always.  Gifts are unique, and the fair trade concept makes them even more special!

Have you ever told others about Ten Thousand Villages? Who?

Everyone—my friends, coworkers, parish, family members…

What led you to start volunteering with us?

My retirement from teaching.

What is your favorite part about being a volunteer at Ten Thousand Villages?

I love the artisans!  Holding a gift by them in my hands makes me feel so connected!

Wow!  Thanks Carmen!  We are truly lucky to have you with us!

Fair trade seeks to transform the lives of poor producers in the developing world by enabling them to use their skills and resources to trade their way out of poverty. It seeks to challenge injustices in trading structures and practices that so often lead to the exploitation and marginalization of poor people. —Tradeasone.com

If you would also like to volunteer here at Ten Thousand Villages and help make a difference for fair trade, contact us here at the store by visiting or call (512)440-0440.  Ask for our volunteer coordinator, Jessica Uramkin!  Or you can email her at volunteers.austin@tenthousandvillages.com.

International Women’s Day Awards 2014

3 Apr

Ten Thousand Villages of Austin hosted the 6th Annual International Women’s Day Awards on Friday March 7th of this year.

As a volunteer at Ten Thousand Villages, I often hand customers an Artisan Story about their purchase and tell them, “The story is the best part.” The same is true for International Women’s Day. The best part of this event is hearing the inspiring stories about how the work of these wonderful women has changed the lives of so many people and enriched the world.

Sara Hickman, Austin musician, and two-time winner of the International Women’s Day Award, emceed the event for the second year in a row. Sara’s charming wit on the microphone mixed with her intense passion for social issues is a great addition to the evening.


Let’s take a look at this year’s honorable mentions, finalists and winners…


Honorable Mention: Vanessa Stone founded the Amala Foundation in 2001 and has been serving as leader, spokesperson, facilitator, and teacher. The Amala Foundation works with a number of local, national, and international humanitarian service projects to provide programs for refugee and immigrant youths.

Finalist: Laura Donnelly is the co-founder of Latinitas, based in Austin and El Paso, TX. Established in 2002, Latinitas, whose mission is to empower young Latinas through media and technology, has been a vital part of young Latinas’ lives through after school programs, teen internships, Saturday and summer camps, conferences, and the very first digital magazine made for and by young Latinas—www.latinitasmagazine.org. The bilingual magazine provides a vehicle whereby these girls and young women not only see themselves positively reflected, but are also a part of the production.

Laura Donnelly thanked Austin for being open to her work. Latinas, especially women are underrepresented in the media and stereotyped. Her goal is to give Latina girls the tools needed to break down societal barriers and succeed.

Finalist: Sharon Lowe has been the Executive Director of Foundation for the Homeless for over 6 years; managing 11 staff members and more than 3,000 volunteers to provide services for thousands of homeless single adults and families. Sharon partners homeless children and adults with faith and community groups, and facilitates the donations of goods, facilities, and services.

Winner: Caroline Boudreaux founded The Miracle Foundation on Mother’s Day of 2000. She works to improve the standard of living for orphans living in rural India, because they are the some of the poorest and most under-served people of the country. Caroline lives not only to end their pain and suffering but to ensure they have access to clean water, nutritious food, healthcare, a quality education and a stable and loving home. The Miracle Foundation has evolved since it’s founding as an adoption agency to building orphanages to an innovative nonprofit that partners with existing orphanages to offer financial and training support.

Caroline was not able to attend because she was in India working with the orphanages; Heather Shaw accepted for her. In her speech Heather told attendees how children at the orphanages are given Room Mothers to care for them. She told us the children were asked what they liked best about their Room Mothers. One child said, “She loves us, just like a real mother would,” the other children enthusiastically agreed with him. Moments like that are why Caroline and The Miracle Foundation work as hard as they do.



Honorable Mention: Elizabeth Walsh has worked as a part of the Core Leadership Team of East Feast 2022 and as a Community Advocate for the Holly Shores/Edward Rendon Sr. Park Master Plan. She has worked with members of her neighborhood and the broader community to design a timeless, productive “food forest” in a new park redevelopment of Holly Shores in East Austin in an effort to provide Austin residents with access to healthy, local food.

Finalist: Sarah Richards is the Executive Director of the Colorado River Alliance and has helped conserve thousands of gallons of Texas Colorado River water. She has designed hands-on, outdoor water science field trips to teach elementary-aged children how to conserve water and why it is important. Sarah also conceived the plans for the Colorado River Alliance’s upcoming mobile water science classroom to educate middle school students on the importance of the Colorado River.

Sarah thanked all of her volunteers, including our wonderful Ten Thousand Villages Volunteer Coordinator, Jessica Uramkin. Sarah explained that all of our drinking water here in Austin comes from the Colorado River and even shared a few quick conservation tips.

Finalist: Lisa Jeffrey was the Lead Volunteer and Volunteer Coordinator for the 2013 Austin Community Tree Program. Through Lisa’s efforts more than 911 trees were distributed and planted in the Dove Springs neighborhood. She has helped to build community and encourage participation by speaking Spanish at public meetings and encouraging the use of Spanish language materials in the program.

Lisa was not able to attend, Ten Thousand Villages Volunteer and Program Manager of the ACT Program, Margaret Valenti accepted on her behalf. Margaret’s words overflowed with passion and enthusiasm as she told the crowd how hard Lisa works.

Winner: Robin Rather is the Founder of Collective Strength; a market research, strategy, and communications firm aimed at promoting environmental sustainability. Robin also serves on the Board of the Sustainable Food Center and is the Co-Founder of Envision Central Texas. Robin specializes in gathering community input and rephrasing environmental issues as economic and social ones to get a greater buy-in.

Robin not able to attend the event because she was with her son in Iceland where climate change is already having drastic effects on the ecosystem and economy.


Animal Welfare

Honorable Mention: Suzy Swingle is a volunteer at Bastrop Animal Shelter, Austin Animal CenterAustin Animal Services,  Animal Trustees of Austin, Blue Dog Rescue, and Lizzy’s Hospice House Rescue. In the words of Sara Hickman, “That makes her a super-duper animal advocate!” Suzy’s work even has a phrase coined after it; when someone adopts an animal at her prodding, the workers at the shelter affectionately say they have been “Swingled.”

Finalist: Dr. Diane Crowe, Founder of Crowe’s Nest Farm, has cared for, rescued, rehabilitated, and provided sanctuary for thousands of orphaned, abused, injured, and neglected farm animals and Texas Wildlife for the past 31 years. Crowe also teaches children of central Texas the value of all living things through hands-on, life science educational experiences.

Dr. Crowe told the crowd that over 1 million children have been to her farm. She said, “We teach the children so they can go home and teach the parents.” She got a laugh from the audience when she told us, “All we do is feed and clean.”

Finalist: Michelle Stoeffler is the Board President, Dog Intake Coordinator and Rescue Coordinator of Pug Rescue Austin. She fosters pugs, screens adoption applications, writes policies and manages events. Michelle has greatly reduced the number of stray and homeless pugs in Austin and beyond through her development of networks to transport homeless pugs and her work to educate the public about spaying, neutering, and rescue.

Michelle thanked Kitty Bird, our Ten Thousand Villages store manager for hosting adoption events at the store. These events have resulted in more than 175 adoptions of pugs and mixes!

Winner: Missy McCullough is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Animal Trustees of Austin and Leader in the Wellness Clinic. In an effort to end animal homelessness and overpopulation the Spay/Neuter clinic has safely performed over 100,000 surgeries and their Wellness Clinic has provided services to over 212,000 animals whose owners would not have otherwise been able to afford them.

Missy told attendees in her acceptance speech that she is in her 21st year at Animal Trustees of Austin and it has been a labor of love since the beginning. She told the crowd the best part of her job is getting to say yes to people who cannot afford healthcare for their animal. People feel devastated, desperate and hopeless that they cannot care for their pets and Missy is able to take that pain away by saying, “Yes, we can help you.”

Missy also thanked Suzy Swingle for her tireless work to help animals and be a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves. “Suzy will do anything; she’ll pick up any animal any time day or night.”


Sara closed out the evening performing a song titled “Hopeful” that she wrote for a young man who had recently attempted suicide. She wanted him to know that there is hope and played the song for all of the women creating such diverse and intense hope for the planet and their communities.

International Women’s Day Awards is one of my favorite events to participate in with Ten Thousand Villages. Being in the same room with so many passionate and driven change makers is inspiring, humbling, and exhilarating. I’m grateful to be able to meet such amazing women and look forward to next year’s 7th Annual International Women’s Day Awards.  You can see all the pictures from this year’s event on Ten Thousand Villages of Austin’s Flickr page.


~Rebecca Dull (Lead Volunteer)


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