Many Reasons Why…

By Barbara-Anne Mansfield


October is Fair Trade Month and Ten Thousand Villages of Austin kicked the celebration off with its 4th annual fundraiser, One Reason Why: A Fair Trade Art Show, Oct. 5, 2012, at the Heller Building. Staff, volunteers, friends, sponsors, donors and social changemakers gathered in a beautiful private space overlooking Congress Avenue and downtown Austin to experience one-of-a-kind fair trade art from around the world, as well as stories, live music, a silent auction, food, drinks and good karma.

Photo by Julia Totten

There are many reasons why this year’s event was our biggest and most successful fundraiser yet. Lots of guests came to meet Ten Thousand Villages’ national CEO Doug Dirks. Other people were curious to visit the beautiful private event space owned by Andrew and Mary Ann Heller. Many customers came to admire the exclusive artwork that our Store Manager Kitty Bird discovered on her learning tours in India and Bangladesh, items that couldn’t be found in the store on online. Some people wanted the chance to bid on experiential prizes in the silent auction.

For all these reasons and more, we ended up selling more artwork and tickets and generating more auction revenue than any of our events in previous years! Hearing the touching stories about the remarkable people who make our crafts — such as Kitty’s friend from Keya Palm and Bella, a former beggar and now manager at Bonoful Paper Products — positively inspired guests to rally around our fair trade mission and feel good doing so.

Photo by Bernie Castillo

The evening began with a private champagne reception with CEO Doug Dirks. He and volunteer docents Stacy Gauthier and Christa Young led sponsors and Board directors through a private gallery tour of the featured art, explaining who made each piece, where it came from and its unique cultural significance. Pianist Eddy Maine played a magnificent Steinway piano throughout the reception, setting a classy mood for the special guests, which included individual donors and representatives from sponsors Climb On! Products, Fresh Chefs Society, Handmade Expressions, and The Groove Realty and Investments. Word of Mouth Catering provided delectable gourmet appetizers, which were graciously served by store volunteers CeCe Cembalest, Joanie Cooksey, Taylor Foody, Rebekah Krych and Baillee Perkins.

Photo by Bernie Castillo

When the doors opened to the public, the room filled quickly with about 150 guests who were eager to view the art and bid on auction items such as a framed “Henna Hands” photograph by Turk Pipkin (courtesy of The Nobelity Project); overnight stays at Hotel Saint Cecilia, Papa’s House in Wimberley, and Travaasa; tours from Austin Duck Adventures, Austin Ghost Tours, Austin Zipline Adventures, and Live Love Paddle; spa services from Embellish Nails and Myo Massage; gift baskets from Peligroso and Republic Tequila; services from Her Side Project and TLC Lawncare; gift certificates from Alamo Drafthouse, Goorin Bros. Hat Shop and Schroeder Carpet; and tickets for the legendary Texas Rollergirl games. The funds raised from the silent auction go toward Ten Thousand Villages’ Artisan Special Needs Fund, which supports training and education, disaster recovery, technology, and general funds for our artisan groups.

Kitty and Anne Olson, Board Chair, welcomed guests and explained how their support of Ten Thousand Villages and One Reason Why directly helps provide a sustainable fair trade marketplace in central Texas, expands opportunities for artisans in developing countries, and increases our outreach locally. Anne also showed off the swag for guests to take home: gorgeous boxes handmade from sari fabrics, each one filled with gifts such as a Go Local Austin card, Putumayo World Music CD, Climb On! lip balm, Sustainable Food Center seed packet, Healthy Hound dog biscuits, Geobar, Hey Cupcake! BOGO coupon, stickers and more.

Photo by Bernie Castillo

When Doug took the stage, he prompted tears, smiles and hope from guests as he told a moving story about Bella, a woman in Bangladesh who had been a beggar on the street with her young son. Bella was illiterate, homeless and had never worked for pay — which amazingly qualified her to join a group of women making fair trade paper products for Bonoful. Today Bella owns a home, manages 12 other women, and her son is in college studying to be an engineer because of orders from Ten Thousand Villages. The fabric gift boxes that guests took home from One Reason Why were handmade by Bella and the women employed at Bonoful. Doug’s story drove home the message that buying Ten Thousand Villages products helps pay for food, education, healthcare and housing for artisans — many of them women — who would otherwise be unemployed or underemployed. Our nonprofit store, volunteers and customers keep women like Bella employed now and in the future. These are the reasons why fair trade is so critical.

Photo by Julia Totten

The rest of the evening was festive and alive with music by international fusion trio Atlas Maior. We would also like to thank our photographers, Bernie Castillo and Julia Totten, for capturing the fun and vibrancy of this amazing event, as well as event volunteers Linda Deason, Becky Garcia, Catherine Givens, Claire Lewis, Margaret Marchant, Varsha Raj, Becca Ruiz, Margaret Valenti, plus Green Gate Farms, ID Soda and Brooke McCombs of Austin Event Logistics. One Reason Why 2012 was a success due to the generous time and investments by all of our volunteers, sponsors, donors and customers. Thank you for supporting fair trade!

Were you at One Reason Why 2012? Tell us about it in comments below and share your photos on Facebook and Twitter (@AustinVillages, #ORW12)!