My name is Frances Martinez and I started working for Ten Thousand Villages in September of 2006. I’m an Assistant Buyer, currently working with Central & South America and the Caribbean, Middle East, Pakistan, Bangladesh, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
As an Assistant Buyer, we are in charge of daily communication with our artisan groups. Through my work, I’ve developed relationships with the artisans I’ve met, and I exchange emails with some of them several times each year to share personal stories about our families and to touch base on matters outside of day-to-day work.
Ensuring that artisans maintain a good quality of life and safe working environments are some of the most important elements of fair trade, so to establish that personal relationship with each artisan group is key.
I’d like to share the stories of one artisan with whom I’ve worked for many years, and who holds a special place in my heart:
Beatriz Chavez from Intercrafts Peru. She came for Workshops in 2009, and she also participated in the annual Children’s Festival at the Ephrata, Pa store, teaching kids how to make jewelry like the Starshine Earrings.
Beatriz had a difficult childhood herself—selling candy in the streets because her mother was the sole wage-earner for her household and struggled to earn enough to support the entire family. Beatriz joined the Tika Rumi workshop when she was just 16 years old. She used the money she earned there to pay for her studies and has since put her education to good use, acting as the public relations representative for the Tika Rumi workshop.
She met her husband, Romulo, at the workshop when she was 18. They married when she
turned 25 and now have three beautiful daughters who are all going to school. When I asked what her hopes and dreams are for herself and her family, she said, “More than anything my hopes and dreams are for my daughters—that when they are adults they will be professionals, that they will study in university and that they will have a future. That I will be able to see what I have achieved in my daughters.”
During her visit, she and I bonded over the way we both balance motherhood with work. Beatrice relies on her income to support her family and at that time I was a single mom, juggling two jobs in order to provide for my daughter.
It is amazing to me that two people can come from such different places, with completely different backgrounds and upbringings yet we still manage to find things that we have so much in common.
It’s a means of providing people with the tools they need to build better lives for themselves on a long term basis.
I feel blessed to work for an organization so committed to the ethical sourcing of products. Our devotion to improving people’s lives, in turn, has a positive impact on the staff of Ten Thousand Villages. Our office is filled with a sense of fulfilment, because we all know that the work we do makes a difference in providing sustainable income to people in the developing world.
What makes fair trade so great is that it’s not charity. It’s a means of providing people with the tools they need to build better lives for themselves on a long term basis. And working with artisans like Beatriz long term has given me the opportunity to watch their families grow and succeed.