Edna Ruth Byler of Akron, Pennsylvania, traveled to Puerto Rico where she met women struggling to feed
their families. She saw the items of fine embroidery they created, brought pieces home to sell to her
neighbors and watched the demand grow for the beautiful textiles. The Mennonite Central Committee, an
aid and relief agency, saw the long term value that sustainable incomes would bring to impoverished
Erna Klippenstein of Calgary, Alberta searched for a way to reach out to disadvantaged artisans in
developing communities. Erna and her family had owned and operated a tool rental business at 220
Crowchild Trail and made this location available to initiate the Self-help Crafts of the World Program of the
Mennonite Central Committee. In October Global Village Crafts opened its doors. Erna told the stories
about the artisans - those without healthcare, safe drinking water, sanitation, food and educational
opportunities. She believed deeply in the rights of the producers and their children to live lives of dignity,
and she felt it was her responsibility to tell their stories.
The store name changed to Ten Thousand Villages. The mission was to market the crafts of artisans living
in poverty and to tell their stories with the aim of providing long term sustainable incomes. The Crowchild
Trail store grew from one room manned entirely by volunteers using handwritten receipts to the current
two floors of beautiful handcrafted gifts from around the world.
Under a new name, Villages Calgary continues to operate with a passionate belief in the fair trade
movement and the value of providing sustainable incomes to marginalized people. The store is
independently owned and operated through the non-profit Global Village Crafts Society and is governed
by a board of passionate members that employs a manager to run the store and oversee the work of 60
dedicated volunteers. Villages Calgary is committed to empowering the marginalized, to supporting fair
trade values and environmentally sustainable practices, and to providing a place full of beautiful, functional
items to customers. The commitment of Villages Calgary to these values is just as strong as when the
store opened in 1984.