Think Globally, Buy Locally

Eau Claire Global Market will boost multitude of international projects

by Bonni Knight

SEW GOOD. A woman in Tanzania produces textiles as part of the It Can Be Done project, which supports access to safe water in Africa.
SEW GOOD. A woman in Tanzania produces textiles as part of the It Can Be Done project, which supports access to safe water in Africa.

Fifty years ago, Ginny Close was assigned to a small village in Turkey as a Peace Corps volunteer. She recalls being struck by the beautiful tatting (lace-making) the women in her village were doing and wondering if there was any way those women could earn money through their crafts. These people lived in poverty. Close pointed out, “There was no sewer system, running water, or electricity, but they could create such beautiful things!” However, such an endeavor would be almost impossible. The world was too big for such a tiny project.

Twelve years ago, Tiffany Leighton-Giffey was in the Peace Corps in a small village in Bulgaria. It was tough – a period she half-jokingly refers to as a “growing experience.” But she, too, came out of it with an intense passion for global aid.

Eventually, both women ended up landing in Eau Claire, their Peace Corps experiences and desire to help the world still intact. So they joined forces, and together they’re working on a way to help people in need around the world, right here in Eau Claire.

“Through their purchases, customers will know they have had a hand in building a piece of a school in Haiti, drilled part of a clean water well in Tanzania, or help saved a child from human trafficking.” – Ginny Close, co-organizer, Eau Claire Global Market

The inaugural Eau Claire Global Market–Hand-Crafted Gifts With a Mission will feature clothing, jewelry, art, coffee, home décor, Christmas decorations, and more from around the world. In addition to gifts and clothing, ethnic foods will be available, including delicious curries from Nepal and Hmong egg rolls. The proceeds will support artisans as well as numerous health, education, and sustainable development projects. The market will be held Saturday, Nov. 12, from 9am to 3pm at First Congregational Church UCC, 310 Broadway St., Eau Claire. Proceeds go to artisans and organizations around the world.

For the last 15 years, First Congregational has been holding a popular sale featuring a variety of fair trade items before Christmas. However, organizers had a bigger vision and this year the group, led by Close and Leighton-Giffey, agreed to host a larger event and open it up to the public. The result is the Eau Claire Global Market, which is modeled after similar markets in other parts of the country. The two women hope that the sales will allow the participating organizations to bring some much-needed relief to people around the globe.

Approximately 25 organizations will bring goods representing artisans and projects from a minimum of 30 to 40 countries. Vendors are coming from across Wisconsin and Minnesota, and organizers are hoping for a large turnout.

One vendor, Sandra McKinney, is excited to showcase wares from Tanzania. McKinney, a pastor at Unity Church in Eau Claire, is a volunteer with It Can Be Done, an organization that supports access to safe water in Africa. In many parts of the continent, women spend up to five hours a day hauling water that is often contaminated. It Can Be Done drills boreholes and provides pumps for villages. With less time spent carrying water, women have more time for income-producing activities, and a small textile industry was born. McKinney will be selling clothing, beautiful fabric, and jewelry, all made by women in Tanzania. When asked what inspires her, McKinney cited the famous quote attributed to Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

But beyond just the shopping opportunities, customers will be able to talk to informed vendors and learn about some of the wonderful projects taking place around the world through these organizations’ efforts. As Close points out, “Through their purchases, customers will know they have had a hand in building a piece of a school in Haiti, drilled part of a clean water well in Tanzania, or help saved a child from human trafficking.” They’ll be able to shop locally and help globally.

In 2016, it seems like political strife is tearing apart whole regions of the world. And when you also consider the devastating effects of Hurricane Matthew, typhoons in Asia, earthquakes, tsunamis, and droughts, there is more need around the globe than ever before. With the Internet and increased international travel, the world feels a bit smaller than it did 50 years ago, and Close’s dream of bringing crafts from a small village to an international market are coming true. Now all you have to do is go to the Eau Claire Global Market, where your local purchase will do a world of good.

For more information, visit facebook.com/eauclaireglobalmarket/ or email to ecglobalmarketgifts@gmail.com

Full Disclosure: The writer, a retired French teacher, is currently the education advisor for English in Mind Institute, a non-profit adult English school in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She will be participating in the Eau Claire Global Market as a vendor of Haitian crafts.

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