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Arcadia University has always encouraged students to develop an understanding of our larger global community. I’m sure we all are familiar with Arcadia’s exceptional study abroad programs. So it’s no surprise that even many of the courses here in Glenside focus on the wider world and peoples.
One of those courses is Artist in the Community, taught by Linda Ruth. The class focuses on service through art in our upcoming volunteer work at Our Lady of Confidence, but we also discuss the role that art plays in providing livelihoods for artisans in need across the globe.
On Feb. 21, we took a field trip to Ten Thousand Villages in Chestnut Hill. Our group had the privilege to sit with Magda, the manager, at the storefront. She told us Ten Thousand Villages supports fair trade, ensuring that rural farmers and artisans in places of poverty are able to work with sustainable and equitable trade partnerships. The organization works with cohorts across the world to provide livelihoods for those craftsmen and producers in need. They also ensure that any products they sell are created ethically in safe working conditions. By purchasing from their store, you are helping to provide the financial compensation for the hard work and extreme care that go into every item carried.
Magda also explained to us the great talent and care that go into the creation of each piece. It was impressive to see what was made from common objects and things that were once trash. We were shown products like picture frames made from bike chains, chairs made from saris, and jewelry made from nut seeds. The artisans that work with Ten Thousand Villages are located around the world, in countries such as India, Uganda, Bangladesh, and many more. They are able to repurpose common items no longer used into something new and beautiful.
Ten Thousand Villages also offers other kinds of products. If you love coffee, you might be interested in the organic blends sold. Though I’m not a coffee drinker myself, the rich smell coming from the beans was still amazing. More to my tastes was the chocolate that is made with ingredients from places such as Peru, Paraguay, or Togo, also organic. My brother is the type who loves a high percentage of cacao in dark chocolate, so I made sure to get him a bar of the 85% dark chocolate, not something I can easily find from the big name brands.
But my most important takeaway was the impact that Ten Thousand Villages has on people who need the financial support. I think this experience was perfectly in line with one of Arcadia’s most important goals for students: being aware of the positive impact that we can have on global communities in need. We all came away with a greater appreciation for what we have here at home, and a greater admiration for what those in less advantageous situations around the world are able to create.
Linda Ruth tells us a lot about her experiences traveling as a photographer through places in deep poverty but rich with ingenuity and innovation, and showing us the crafted pieces she brings home. To see such a collection—and knowing how many people this little shop in Chestnut Hill supported—is heartwarming. The course has exposed me to global experiences I might have known of in a small capacity before, but now understand in a much larger sense.