Shopping with a conscience at Global Gifts 

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click to enlarge Simon and Sam inside Global Gifts - KRISTEN PUGH

What to know before holiday shopping

"I came back feeling so relaxed," Sam says. "You have this different pace of life in Peru - I didn't have that sense of rush, rush, rush. I was on this high [when I returned], but I'm kind of back to my old ways. It's a different culture. There's not so much go, go, go."

Operating a nonprofit often necessitates a "go, go, go" mentality. Global Gifts depends on more than 100 volunteers to maintain their operation. It's hard work - but every volunteer I've spoken to seems to consider their time at Global Gifts a gift to themselves.

"[It's rewarding] knowing we are helping women send their children to school, knowing we are helping families put food on the table, knowing women have status in communities they would otherwise not have status in simply because they can bring in money to the household," says founding member and current board member Liechty.

Volunteers and board members like Liechty have spent the last several weeks preparing for the holiday rush; the stores are flush with shoppers ready to find the perfect gift for their mothers, teachers, siblings, friends, loved ones. It's the perfect place to find something special.

"I wish people knew that fair trade is just as fashionable and affordable as Target or any other big box store nine times out of 10," volunteer Beth Sturiano says. "It's so easy these days to get handmade, beautiful and unique gifts that also come with an amazing back story - that's fair trade in 2012."

Sturiano found volunteering at Global Gifts a way to continue helping people in developing countries after finishing her term in the Peace Corps.

"Though I'm living in the U.S., volunteering at Global Gifts makes me feel like I'm making a contribution, even if it's a small one, to help people out of poverty - even to teach our Indy customers about the rest of the world. I think that's what Global Gifts does for the world and for Indy: It promotes cross-cultural education," says Sturiano.

click to enlarge Global gifts, from left to right, top to bottom: Chulucanas ceramic birds from Peru, $13; beaded bracelets from Kenya, $8; cat friends ornament from Indonesia, $8; inspirational heart rocks from Kenya, $3.50; contemporary ceramic nativity from Peru, $98; butterfly bracelet from Peru, $170 - KRISTEN PUGH
  • Global gifts, from left to right, top to bottom: Chulucanas ceramic birds from Peru, $13; beaded bracelets from Kenya, $8; cat friends ornament from Indonesia, $8; inspirational heart rocks from Kenya, $3.50; contemporary ceramic nativity from Peru, $98; butterfly bracelet from Peru, $170
  • Kristen Pugh

"I think Global Gifts can teach people to shop with a conscience," says volunteer Maribeth Ables. "There's nothing wrong with wanting to buy pretty things, but why not help someone sustain a living while doing so?"

Sam and Alison know big things are coming for the store and their family. Sam hints at the opening of a fourth Global Gifts location in Indiana in 2014. One of Alison's goals is to maintain her Spanish skills, not just for her own benefit, but to preserve Simon's burgeoning bilingualism. And they'll try to discover ways Global Gifts can work even more closely with the artisans they met in Peru and others like them around the world.

Back in Peru

In the end, it all comes back to Fermín Vilcapoma, the Peruvian artisan.

"How amazing that Fermín was in Indiana and saw his products displayed and sold at [our] store, and a year later [we are] at his workshop, seeing where the products he sells originate and how they are created," Sam wrote days after meeting Vilcapoma and discovering their connection. "It felt like finding the missing link of a riddle I had forgotten to solve."

*Details on Manos Amigas provided by SERRV, a nonprofit worldwide trade and development organization.

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