Valparaiso | Felt Christmas stockings and warm woolen mittens made in Nepal graced the window of the Valparaiso International Center at the facility’s annual Holiday Bazaar Saturday.
One-of-a-kind fair trade gifts from all over the world enticed early holiday shoppers who were looking for something a little different.
Buying fair trade items provides artisans in developing countries a fair and livable income and sustainable employment, and boosts the local economy, said Duane Davison, VIC founder and board member.
“Fair trade means you’re cutting out as many middle men as possible and buying directly from the producer of the product,” Davison said. “It’s not about buying the cheapest possible thing and not caring about environmental and fair labor concerns.”
Unique food items included Singing Rooster coffee from Haiti and chai and lemongrass Rishi tea from Sri Lanka and India. Thai floor lamps made from sustainable wood, hand-painted Mexican roof tiles, Vietnamese pottery, and Indian hand towels, placemats and table coverings were just a few of the home decor items available. Other featured gifts were Peruvian chain necklaces, beaded bracelets from Africa and tunics, silk scarves, and sequined handbags from India.
One alcove of the bazaar featured potholders, baskets, handbags, clothing and jewelry from the Grain of Rice Project in Kenya.
“These are made by men and women who live in the biggest slum east of Nairobi,” Davison said. “The goal is to provide a retail outlet for the artisans to help them support their families.”
On her first visit to the center and the bazaar, Shari Nelson was intrigued by the variety of products.
“I like to shop in places that have unusual things,” said Nelson, of Valparaiso. “And if I can help someone in the process, that’s even better.”
The event also called visitors’ attention to the VIC’s other programs, including its summer World Cultural Festival, international film viewings, and 4th Friday Speaker Series.
Clutching brightly colored Nepalese hand towels, a necklace, and a beaded zippered pouch, Ann Carlson shopped for Christmas gifts.
“I want to support artisans and support the International center,” said Carlson, of Valparaiso. “And I just like the stuff.”