About Third World Tienda
Bus stop, Otavalo
In 2003, I traveled to Ecuador with my wife, Janet, and our two kids for a month of rafting, biking, trekking and cultural immersion. The geographical diversity, a vibrant culture and the warmth and gracious charm of the Ecuadorian people were compelling and led us to many subsequent visits.
During a visit in 2005 I met Marianne Fry, who was retiring as director of the South American Explorers Club in Quito. She was returning to the Pacific coast to resume her endeavors in exporting high quality, crafted Tagua (Palm Ivory) products that are produced under the true principals of fair trade. Remarkably, we soon discovered that we were both former US Peace Corps Volunteers (she in Ecuador, and I in Honduras) and both of us graduated from Melbourne High School (Florida).
Thus began a relationship between she and I that was based upon the economic, social and cultural well-being of the artisans and their families. Marianne has lived in Ecuador since 1997 and continues to work directly with her Tagua artisans. I travel to Ecuador frequently for the expressed purpose of meeting and spending time with all the Tagua and textile artisans and their families. We carry to Ecuador school supplies and clothes as a humble gesture of our appreciation for the imagination and creativity that is manifested in the arts and crafts they produce.
We believe that each hand-made design they create, from the dazzling embroidery to the intricate, precise Tagua sculpture has a story. A saga of endless struggle and oppression has been long endured. However, a legacy of deeply ingrained social and cultural traditions has served as a wellspring of hope, courage and kindness within their collective hearts and souls.
Our Business Model
We only sell products that we have personally traced back to the origin of both design and production. A personal history of this nature engenders an appreciation for each sweater/hat design, storybook illustration, or embroidery pattern.
The artisans who produce our products work within the cottage industry context. Their work is not factory based. Their small scale production is home-based, which is an alternative production model that respects and reinforces the family structure through economic empowerment.
Few alternatives exist. Rural to urban relocation can lead to abusive, dehumanizing work in factory sweatshops which manufacture brand name products for Big Box stores. Fragmented families, traditions and customs are the detritus of migration to large cities in the undeveloped world.
Home based work provides safe, secure working conditions for developing handmade crafts, combining creative talents with traditions. Families working at their own pace, caring for their children, and becoming economically productive instills a sense of positive change and hope for a better tomorrow. Consumer demand and patronage for their products are essential for their survival as a third world cottage industry. We believe all third world artisans deserve the right to prosper and live in dignity.