Selling Stories and Livelihood Through Fair Trade

In addition to selling colorful products, Global Village educates the community and enriches people’s lives around the globe.

by Reema Abi-Akar
Global Village
Sigrid Rogers and Mika Bertsche are two of Global Village’s dedicated volunteers.

Not many local businesses can say they make a direct impact on marginalized individuals around the world. However, Global Village, a modest yet unique store tucked in Peoria Heights, does just that at its 1308 E. Seiberling Avenue location. “It’s a happy store—it’s colorful,” says Sigrid Rogers, one of the shop’s volunteer coordinators. “It’s rewarding in my mind to think that we’re helping people.”

A Network of Help
A nonprofit member of the Fair Trade Federation, Global Village continues to live by its mission and goal of not only supporting individuals from around the world in a sustainable, dignified manner, but also educating the Peoria-area community about the benefits of fair trade. The Fair Trade Federation and its global networks ensure that workers are safe, empowered and given a living wage. “There is no slave labor; there is no child labor,” Rogers explains.

Now in its 17th year, Global Village sells a variety of colorful, handmade wares—from jewelry and clothing to chocolate, coffee, spices, knickknacks and even small musical instruments. Because they are handcrafted, every item in the store is truly unique. “A lot of our stuff has a little story,” Rogers says, noting that an item’s tag often profiles the individual who crafted that particular piece. “[It] will say things like, ‘Ever since I’ve worked in this co-op spinning this wool, I’ve been able to send my five children to school.’” In fact, many of the crafts are made by women, who are then able to support their families. 

“We here in the United States are so blessed in terms of what and how we do things,” adds Emiel Michelet, treasurer of Global Village. “It’s hard to fathom what [other] people have to go through. It’s made me more aware of… the hardships that many people suffer.”

Global Village is fully volunteer-run by a dedicated group of community members—and always welcoming others who are interested. Holly Ward, window designer and landscaper for the nonprofit, enjoys being part of a wider, global initiative. “It’s so much different than anything offered in Peoria,” she explains. “It’s great because it’s a large network of people working to help—and the fair trade world is pretty big.”

Global Village
Mission: Global Village is a fair trade organization which supports low-income farmers, artisans, and small handcraft production communities in developing countries and the U.S. Its goal is to stimulate trade without exploitation and help the poor live in dignity. 

Local & Global Impact
Along with its brick-and-mortar store, Global Village often sets up at events around the community, such as the annual Moss Avenue Sale. In May, the shop hosted guest speaker Amy Ahiga of the Grain of Rice Project, a Kenya-based nonprofit and one of numerous international organizations whose products comprise Global Village’s inventory. “We all get something out of it twice, because the satisfaction that we’re helping someone and also the items are nice,” Rogers notes. 

While selling these products makes a difference internationally, Global Village also strives to make an impact locally. The shop will soon house a pollinator garden outside, overseen by Ward, and it continues to educate the community about the benefits of fair trade.

Fair trade networks not only ensure safe conditions and living wages for workers, they focus on long-term quality-of-life improvement in poor, rural or otherwise marginalized areas around the world. A fair-trade coffee producer, for example, will ensure that the entire production process—from the workers who pick the coffee beans to those who roast and package them—is an equitable environment for everyone involved. “Where you spend your money does make a difference,” Ward declares. 

“You can’t help everybody; you can’t do everything,” Michelet adds. “But you can do a little bit. So whatever little bit you can do is helpful.” PM

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