Shopping for a Cause

Eau Claire Global Market offers opportunity for community members to purchase fair trade, handmade products from around the world

More stories from Alanna Huggett

Pura Vida
May 15, 2019

Photo by Gabbie Henn

Taylor Hall, pictured here, presented Global Mama’s with a variety of baskets, napkins, blankets and many more handmade objects.

Walking into the Eau Claire Global Market, visitors were greeted by an abundance of fair trade and ethically-sourced handicrafts, jewelry, textiles, pottery and ornaments.

The event featured more than 20 different vendors who represented countries from all over the world. The event took place 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday at the First Congregational United Church of Christ.

The First Congregational UCC’s youth group sold food and beverages to hungry shoppers. Proceeds primarily went toward the group’s summer 2019 immersion trip to Heifer International Ranch in Arizona. However, part of the funds generated by the food and beverage sales also went to cover Eau Global Market operational expenses, according to its flier.  

The Eau Claire Global Market is in its third year of operation. This year’s co-planners were Emily Kuhn and Tiffany Leighton-Giffey.

Ginny Close first came up with the idea of having a Global Market in Eau Claire around three and a half years ago, Leighton-Giffey said.

“She (Close) sent out an email seeing if anyone was interested in forming a committee to create this event,” Leighton-Giffey said. “I jumped at the chance and helped her get it off the ground.”

This is the first year Close has not been the leader for the Global Market, and it’s been hard for Leighton-Giffey and Kuhn to fill her shoes, Leighton-Giffey said.

“Thankfully Ginny has remained our Yoda and we have an excellent committee of people who have been involved the whole time,” Leighton-Giffey said.

Events like the Eau Claire Global Market offer an opportunity for artisans to sell their products at fair trade prices through the work of vendors, Kuhn said. Attending the event also offers an opportunity for Eau Claire community members to shop and learn about different organizations helping communities across the globe.

“You get that connection to what you’re buying,” Kuhn said.

One of the vendors at the market was Minneapolis-based Global Mamas. Taylor Hall, of Global Mamas, said the organization has been around for 15 years and works with women in Ghana. Global Mamas sells hand-batiked textiles, ornaments and jewelry. Global Mamas also uses beads made of recycled glass, Hall said.

“It’s awesome to work for a company that cares about other people and is just trying to do what we can the best we can,” Hall said.

Another vendor at the event was the English In Mind (EIM) Institute. EIM is a school in Port-Au-Prince, Haiti that teaches adults English and helps with job placement.

Bonni Knight, EIM board member and education advisor, said research has shown that adult education is one of the best ways to break the cycle of poverty.

“If you can educate their (children’s) parents then they can educate their children and it breaks the cycle in three years instead of in 20 years,” Knight said.

EIM sold Haitian metal ornaments, jewelry and hand-picked fair trade coffee that’s roasted in Red Wing, Minn., Knight said.

In addition to her role with EIM, Knight has also served on the Eau Claire Global Market Committee since it began and said she is proud and honored to be part of the event.

“It is one of the most precious events I’ve ever been involved with, in that the church doesn’t profit from this at all,” Knight said. “We take zero profit. We don’t charge the vendors and we don’t charge the people who come in.”

Looking to the future, the Eau Claire Global Market is planning to reach out to more vendors and organizations, Leighton-Giffey said. However, the market will continue to take place on a one-day basis.  

“We have no plans to extend (the market) to two days,” Leighton-Giffey said. “That would be too big of an undertaking.”

Huggett can be reached at [email protected].