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In 1946 Edna Ruth Byler of Akron, Pennsylvania, travelled to Puerto Rico as a missionary with the Mennonite Central Committee. It was there during her missionary work that she met women struggling to feed their families. She saw the beautiful embroidered textiles that the women were making and in an effort to properly compensate the women for their labour, Edna Ruth purchased the items at a fair price and brought them back to sell in North America.
Edna Ruth began by selling the women’s wares from the trunk of her car. As word spread she moved her store into the basement of her home, where she continued to sell fair trade products for over two decades. It was from these humble beginnings the North American fair trade movement was born.
In 1965, Edna Ruth’s work expanded from the U.S. and into Canada when the Canadian Overseas Needlework and Crafts Project launched in Saskatchewan. In 1972, the first Ten Thousand Villages store opened in Altona, Manitoba.
In 1990 Ten Thousand Villages Brandon (then known as Global Crafts) opened its doors in the heart of downtown Brandon, Manitoba. The store’s name changed to Ten Thousand Villages in 1996, but the mission to continue working with communities through fair and ethical business practices remains the same.
In 2020 MCC announced the closure of its Canadian Corporate Operations. Four stores across Canada continue to operate as Ten Thousand Villages through a licensing agreement with MCC, our location included. Three legacy stores have also remained open but have chosen to operate under different names.
Ten Thousand Villages Brandon is operated by a board of directors and a group of 20+ volunteers dedicated to promoting the values of fair trade. We continue to offer fair trade items from over thirty countries around the world and adhere to the ten principles of fair trade set out by the World Fair Trade Organization (of which Ten Thousand Villages is a founding member).
Ten Thousand Villages Brandon is proud to continue offering fair trade items to customers across Manitoba. What began as a few shelves in the Brandon MCC Thrift Store has grown into an independent fair trade store, operating for the past 30 years.