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Make a difference globally with holiday shopping

Linda Polley

Local church helps to empower artisans at 56th annual Gift Festival and Oriental Rug Event, November 8-12.

(11/2016) This November, for the 56th year in a row, the Fairfield Mennonite Church will help to provide hope and empowerment to artisans. As holiday shoppers fill their baskets with handmade gifts at the church’s annual Ten Thousand Villages Gift Festival, they provide vital income to artisans in the developing world. Textiles from India, silver jewelry from Peru, and handknotted rugs from Pakistan are only a few of the things that will be available at the festival. Ten Thousand Villages works with artisans in over 35 countries around the world.

As always, this year’s gift festival will feature an array of brand new products from talented artisans. "Nothing compares to handmade" says event coordinator Linda Polley. "I love that these products are all directly tied to a person, and that person has a story. This year, we have several new jewelry designs from Rajana Association in Cambodia. They turn bomb casings into jewelry—it’s one of my favorite stories"

Decades of war have left Cambodia’s fields littered with brass from bullet and bomb casings. Rajana Association of Cambodia chose to take these reminders of devastation and transform them into symbols of hope.

One of the artisans responsible for creating these pieces is Mr. Heng Sopheanith. Once a refugee in Thailand, he was able to travel to the Battambang province where he was trained as a silversmith and eventually was chosen to help lead the Rajana artisan group.

Taking their name from the Khmer word for "design," Rajana is committed to preserving and rebuilding Cambodia’s rich cultural traditions, including bombshell jewelry-making.

"Thank you very much for helping and supporting us. Buying our products means giving us salary. Buying continuously means supporting our sustainability to live. Our family is benefiting from all of your support."

Heng is 34 years old and married with two sons (6 and 3 years) as well as an infant daughter. When we asked him if there is anything he’d like to express to his customers, this is what he said: "This work affects my life by creating employment, giving job satisfaction and a wage that can help me support my family, send my children to school for education and provide good food to help my family have better heath, as well as feeling a part of the community."

Every piece of jewelry that is crafted from this unique material is a symbol of hope for the future. By transforming the very same material that had been used for destruction into something used for beauty, Cambodians find not only a means of supporting themselves, but also a way to heal.

The Bombshell Ring was thoughtfully designed with a modern look and the brass that had once been part of a destructive weapon holds a certain weight, literally and figuratively.

The War and Peace Earrings are stamped with the Khmer word for peace. You can wear this message proudly, knowing that the materials and process of the bombshell jewelry support peace as well.

This year, Ten Thousand Villages’ 56th Annual Gift Festival and Oriental Rug Event will be held November 8th – 12th at Fairfield Mennonite Church, 201 W. Main St, Fairfield, PA. Event hours are Tuesday – Friday 10 a.m. – 7 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m., – 5 p.m., with free coffee and chocolate tasting on Thursday and Friday evening from 5 p.m. - 7 p.m. For more information visit or call 717-796-1474.

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