2017-11-22 / Front Page

Fair trade shop supports Guatemala projects

by Trish Rudder

Itty Bitty Global Gift Shop owner Mary Joan Ferrara Marsland holds a handmade wreath crafted by Guatemalan women. photo by Trish Rudder Itty Bitty Global Gift Shop owner Mary Joan Ferrara Marsland holds a handmade wreath crafted by Guatemalan women. photo by Trish Rudder The Itty Bitty Global Gift Shop in Berkeley Springs is one of three fair trade shops in West Virginia.

Shop owner Mary Joan Ferrara Marsland, the U.S. director for UPAVIM Crafts from Guatemala, opened the shop in April 2016, and has been working in fair trade for the past 20 years.

Fair trade is where fair prices are paid to producers in developing countries to increase their incomes to help reduce poverty.

No child labor is involved, environmental practices are in place, and long-lasting relationships with the producers are developed, Marsland said.

Located at 155-B Independence Street (the northeast corner building on Mercer and Independence), the Itty Bitty Global Gift Shop offers fair trade gifts from around the world.

UPAVIM is the acronym for Unidas Para Vivir Mejor, which translates to “United for a Better Life.”

Marsland said she works with more than 80 Guatemalan women who make the crafts.

“I work directly for the women,” Marsland said.

UPAVIM’s goal is to provide opportunities for women to develop their talents with a space and structure.

The shop supports UPAVIM and its artisans through its sales that, in turn provides employment, education and healthcare to the Guatemala community.

Through UPAVIM craft sales and donations, “the women saved their community in Guatemala City, “she said.

For example, she said, “the 80 plus productive women” used to live in cardboard houses and now have concrete block ones.

Through donations and sales, the women have helped to provide improvements to their community, including a medical center, a library, a bakery, a daycare center, a Ksix Montessori-based school, a scholarship program to help defray the cost of school supplies and school uniforms, and a tutoring program to help the students after school.

Keeping children safe

The four-story building in Guatemala where the women make the crafts, also has a facility where soy-based food such as milk, ice cream and cheese are produced and sold to the community. These increase the protein intake for the children, said Marsland.

Guatemala has had its share of destruction, including earthquakes, a civil war, a volcano eruption and tropical storm Agatha – the last two in the same year.

Gangs and gun violence, Marsland said, plague the area. The latest project is to complete a rooftop playground on the top of the building for the kids to play safely. It is nearly finished, she said.

The women’s efforts “impact the whole community,” said Theresa deSouza, who works with Marsland.

“These women are role models and it raises their self esteem,” she said.

Marsland said she became aware of the importance of fair trade when she started as a Peace Corp volunteer in Africa.

“A lot of those volunteers are part of the Fair Trade Federation,” she said.

Marsland began selling the crafts wholesale online before moving to Berkeley Springs from the Frederick, Md. area.

This is her first retail shop and people are receptive to the Itty Bitty Global Gift Shop and like the fact that the sales are helping people have a better life, she said.

The shop’s retail and online sales are good but the online wholesale sales are even better, she said.

“I represent artisans from all over the world in fair trade,” said Marsland.

Contact information and hours: Itty Bitty Global Gift Shop, 155-B Independence Street, Berkeley Springs, 304-500-2633.

The shop is open Monday through Friday from 9:30- 5ish; Saturday 11-5ish and Sunday 11-3ish.

Extended hours are 10-7 on Friday and Saturday, November 24 and 25.

The shop will close on Sundays for the winter beginning in January.

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