VALPARAISO | Christmas shopping has just begun, but some might already begin to wonder what to get that person who has everything.
Most likely, that hard-to-buy-for individual probably does not have a handmade beaded handbag from Pakistan, a personally crafted wooden jewelry box from India, hand-knit mittens from Nepal, a pound of Haitian coffee, or a bar of West African chocolate.
All these items, and hundreds more, were offered for sale at the Valparaiso International Center’s Fair Trade Holiday Bazaar Saturday.
“Fair trade seeks to cut out as many middle men as possible and to create a relationship between the producer of the items and the buyers of the item,” said Duane Davison, VIC executive director. “The idea is not to go to a store and buy the cheapest thing you can and not care how it was made, where it came from, how it got here and who is behind it.”
Items displayed at the bazaar are handmade by individuals in developing countries who are supported and empowered by organizations such as Singing Rooster for coffee growers Haiti, Fields of Dreams and Bead for Life in Uganda, and Grain of Rice Project in Kenya.
VIC board member Minakshi Ghuman said shoppers can “have fun expanding their horizons” at the bazaar.
“They can learn something about other cultures and at the same time, help others,” Ghuman said. “They are giving twice — once as a gift and at the same time helping a nonprofit.”
Karyl Van Dyke, of Kouts, had never been to the VIC, but the “Free Trade” sign on the sidewalk drew her in like a magnet.
Van Dyke participates each year in a gift exchange with her sisters, her aunts and her mom. Each year, the exchange has a theme, and this year, the theme was “free trade.”
“It was perfect,” said Van Dyke, who eyed the small beaded purses made in India and paper bead bracelets made in Uganda.
Jan Mueller, of Valparaiso, shopped for Christmas ornaments, as she gives each family member a new one every year.
“I always do my Christmas shopping here,” said Jan Mueller, of Valparaiso. “I like homemade stuff and I support this type of trade.”
Davison said that traditional Christmas shopping has become a “sport” that belies the “intent of gift-giving.”
“This kind of takes all that away,” Davison said. “Not everyone cares about fair trade, and I understand that. But there is a growing population that does care about those things. I think we are becoming more responsible consumers.”
The VIC Holiday Bazaar continues Friday, Dec. 5 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturday, Dec. 6, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the center at 309 E Lincolnway.