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. —

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

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— 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)

Hello Fellow Fair Trade Enthusiasts

13 Mar


We’ll be getting pretty well acquainted these next few months, so let me briefly introduce myself:

I’m Daniela, the lucky new Social Media Intern for Ten Thousand Villages of Austin. I’m a third-year International Relations and Global Studies student at the University of Texas graduating in 2015 (hopefully!). I have decided to intern here for two important reasons 1) I’m a millennial who cannot get enough social media (I ask: can anyone really truly ever get enough social media?) and 2) I feel the best use of my time is in helping impoverished communities worldwide develop. I know this is my future because despite my fortunate upbringing in the Good Ol’ USA, my childhood years were spent in a far different reality.

I was born, and lived for ten years, in the beautiful Lima, Peru. Peru, while breathtaking, isn’t the wealthiest South American country. There is a devastating amount of inequality and poverty, overwhelmingly within the indigenous population of Peru (and worldwide in general). The reality you see everyday is of a struggling artisan selling their crafts on the streets of Peru. These artisans are barely making enough to survive and support their families while selling their products to the local middle-class and tourists.  It is very difficult for them to make a decent living.

Now, this is all entirely out of sight and forgotten in the manicured Texan streets where I later grew up. I’ve never worried about the artisans struggling to make ends meet. It’s easy not to know about those too far away to see their struggle. But it’s important to take notice and remember – 62% of people in Rwanda are living on $1.25 a day, only 49% of rural Haitians have access to water, and only 64% of women in Madagascar are literate. It’s up to those of us who are able to, to do something. 

Fortunately there are fair trade organizations, like Ten Thousand Villages, which make it easy (and fun!) to help. So easy and fun that all we have to do is shop! All we have to do is choose to buy goods from an organization which actively works to better the lives of those impoverished worldwide by through fair trade practices. It’s important to me that my time and money be spent in a way which will better the world whenever possible and to the best of my abilities. And I hope that over the next few months this can become an important goal for all of us.

Best Wishes,

Daniela Lam

A big “Hello!” from our new NPO Intern

13 Mar

Hello there!

I’m Ivi Brown, the new NPO Support Intern for Ten Thousand Villages of Austin.  (We may  have met already at the store,  at One Reason Why 2013, or the Volunteer Appreciation Party last month).  I was a volunteer for a bit before I became an intern here, and I must say that I AM SO EXCITED about working more in-depth with Ten Thousand Villages!!!  How wonderful it is to be a part of this organization that is powered by so many motivated, kind, and compassionate hearts.  The hard work of everyone at Villages of Austin truly fortifies the dignity of artisans around the world who might otherwise struggle in dire situations, and the many beautiful items that they sell are so wonderful!  This company is a real breath of fresh air, don’t you agree?

As for me… I am a Bachelors of Social Work student at the University of Texas with a minor in Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies. This spring semester, I am also interning at the Travis County Correctional Facility in the reentry program, helping friends with various causes locally and around the world, and working as a freelance hairstylist/makeup artist/photographer, which has been my main source of bread and butter for the better part of 9 years (website is coming soon).

No doubt, interning at Ten Thousand Villages will be a really valuable experience.  I have a vision for a social entrepreneurship that is still in the conceptual stages at the moment, and I know that being a part of Villages of Austin will offer me incredible insight about what it takes to run a successful nonprofit company.  It is apparent that they know what they are doing because of the successful 10 years that they have been growing as a functioning 501(c)3 that really does enrich the local community as well as communities of foreign lands.  I am so inspired by Ten Thousand Villages and the many people that work to support and collaborate with them.  Thanks again to everyone, and I look forward to getting to know you better!

For the most part, I will be here every Friday and Monday for sure and intermittently on either Saturdays or Sundays.  Feel free to drop by and say hi!


Volunteer Appreciation Time, Y’all!

5 Mar

Volunteers are at the heart of Ten Thousand Villages of Austin. Almost everyone helping us at our store is donating their time. Naturally, the best way to thank our volunteers was to throw them a party. So we did!

Our board of directors had a blast!

The party was hosted by our Board of Directors and Marigold – Gateway to India. There was henna art, tasty Indian food and wine, and we enjoyed delicious local beer thanks to Circle Brewing Co.!

Haleigh pretended to hula hoop for Hideout Theatre tickets!

Haleigh pretended to hula hoop for Hideout Theatre tickets!

Our volunteers had a great time playing for awesome raffle prizes graciously donated by some fantastic local businesses. We had a blast answering fair-trade trivia questions and playing games in order to earn raffle tickets. Thanks to Marigold - Gateway to India, Avant Salons & Spa - Gateway, Bicycle Sport Shop, Hideout Theatre, Uchi + Uchiko, Paramount Theatre, Malvern Books, Fonda San MiguelLangford Market, and our two board members Penny Schmidt & Chiana Torreal, our lucky winning volunteers walked away with fun prizes.

Volunteers were thrilled to learn that many generous South Congress merchants had offered special discounts exclusively to them!  A big shout out to y&i clothing boutique, Snack Bar, Jo’s Coffee, Hotel San Jose, Wet Salon, Tsunami Cycles, and St. Vincent dePaul for supporting our volunteer program.

And of course, we just can’t say it enough, a big thank you to all of our amazing volunteers without whom our success at Ten Thousand Villages would not be possible.  Thank you for dedicating your time to helping us bring fair trade to artisans worldwide. We can’t wait for another fun year of working with you!


Sandra shows off her new henna tattoo

Congrats to the following volunteers who were recognized at the party:

  • Callie Stribling, Lisa Goering, and Kathy Henderson - Legacy Award (5 years of service)
  • Lauren King, Lauren Evans, Catherine Givens, Carmen McFarlin, Leti Bueno, Miraya Alexander, and Rebecca Dull - New Lead Volunteer Award
  • Linda Rowald - Edna Ruth Byler Award (10 years of service)
  • Laura Dublino - Positivity Award
  • Haleigh Campbell - Dependability Award
  • Sue Bridges - Artisan Award
  • Donna Durbin and Nancy Knight - Customer Service Award
  • Maggie Marchant - Inventory Award
  • Alicia Choate - Visual Merchandising Award
  • DeAnn Lewis - Clutch Award
  • Allison Alvarez - Right-Hand Volunteer
  • Mandy Smith - Marketing Award
  • Ali Syed - “The Fixer”
  • Noreen Helmle - Volunteer of the Year

You can check out our Flickr for more fun pics from the party.

An Exciting New Event Support Intern Introduction

4 Mar

Hi Austin Villagers!

My name is Tori Jimenez, and I am super excited to introduce myself as this semester’s Event Support Intern. I am so blessed to have this opportunity and I can’t wait to start working hard for this awesome store!

I am originally from Texas in a small town outside of the San Antonio area. After graduating, I decided to attend St. Edward’s University, which I regard as one of my best decisions to date. I am currently a freshman striving towards a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Acting. I already have quite a background in event planning that I contribute to my work in theatre and countless organizational involvement with school activities. I love promoting great causes, and I think that events are the perfect opportunity to spread the word of a wonderful organization while having a great time. I mean, how much better can you get than that?Image

Although I am absolutely in love with theatre and everything it has to offer, I am also passionate about many other things. I am very enthusiastic about doing work that supports people in other countries, which is what initially sparked my interest in Ten Thousand Villages.

Pictured here is me with some sweet school children on a mission trip that I went on to Honduras to increase educational opportunities in Honduran schools by giving the children access to XO laptops. It was a wonderful trip, and completely transformed my outlook on the world. It is so easy to take for granted minimal things that society hardly even thinks twice about, such as clean water or a warm meal. After seeing first-hand the staples that so many people lack, I jumped at the chance to begin making a difference in my own community. As a result of this trip, I have been trying to get as involved as I can with organizations that help immigrants and people in other countries to have as many opportunities as possible.

I hope to be able to contribute exciting and innovative ideas while working here at Ten Thousand Villages, and I am looking forward to working with the amazing staff that surrounds me.



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 39 other followers

%d bloggers like this: