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Darien Market Helps Empower Poor Women

DARIEN, Conn. – Women all over the world are struggling to feed their families, and the Darien Nature Center is trying to help these women make enough money to support themselves. To that end, handcrafted goods from women in impoverished countries are on sale this week at the Center's Fair Trade Holiday Market.

The market is filled with clothing, toys, accessories and decorations provided by Handcrafting Justice , a non-governmental organization that tries to help women from South America, India, Indonesia, Africa, Mexico and South Korea improve their financial situations.

"Our mission is to educate children about the environment, and we feel that this is a natural extension of that," said Lynn Hamlen, executive director of the Nature Center. "Handcrafting Justice is caring for women in developing countries who are using natural products to survive."

Because many of the women can't afford to purchase materials, they make their crafts from whatever they can find. Some of the handbags from the Philippines are made out of discarded phone books. There are also bracelets made from recycled magazines and bags made out of candy wrappers.

Handcrafting Justice is run by nuns all over the world. Hamlen first met Sister Maureen McGowan when the center was hosting its In the Bag exhibit , featuring art made out of plastic bags. McGowan encouraged her to come to the warehouse in Queens, which houses thousands of products made by women in third-world countries, Hamlen said.

The market's items would be much more expensive if they were made by big-name designers, Hamlen said.

Purses that would cost hundreds in a shop in New York City cost only $20 at the Fair Trade Market. All the products tested and certified to ensure that they contain safe, natural ingredients.

The market is open Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

What do you think of the work done by the Nature Center and Handcrafting Justice? Tell us in the comments below.

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