Spotlight on Carmen Williams, From Devoted Patron to Passionate Volunteer

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