Sharing Fair, run by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, sells handmade, tax-free crafts made by women in developing countries. Christmas-themed items are currently available for sale. Photo by Ruane Remy

A Box of Hope gives more than gifts

By 
  • December 20, 2013

The Sisters of the Good Shepherd Toronto are inviting students to help better the lives of women in developing countries this Christmas and beyond.

The nuns run Sharing Fair, a partnership with their sister convents around the world that teach and aid talented women from South America, Asia and Africa to create handmade items for sale. One way the products are sold is through Box of Hope, a program that invites students to sell these crafts while learning the values that inspire the project. These values include social justice, the worth of every person, caring for others and living with dignity. The students also gain awareness of the socio-economic realities of the developing world. And the sisters say Box of Hope can be integrated into students’ academic lives through subjects such as religious studies, multiculturalism, social studies and family studies.

Decorations and other Christmas-themed crafts are currently available for sale at the sister’s convent in Toronto.

“We have items from 18 countries and 27 centres,” said Sr. Felicita Thuraisingham. “Students can get involved by doing some volunteer work here at Good Shepherd Court or through the school by hosting an event in their school with the help of a teacher.”

Items are sold tax-free and earnings go directly to those in need thanks to the work of volunteers and the sisters.

At the convent, the Sharing Fair showroom is stocked with religious Christmas cards, Christmas place mats and aprons, Star of Bethlehem and sheep ornaments, angel serviette holders, wall hangers that say “Joy” and “Peace” (“Love” has sold out) and more. Some of the cards are made by villagers living with HIV/AIDS in Nongkhai, Thailand.

For Christmas, “we try to promote the meaning of the season,” said Sr. Gilda Fernando, administrator for Toronto’s Sisters of the Good Shepherd. She adds that many of the holiday-themed items available for sale in stores are too commercial and have no connection to religion.

Referring to the animal Christmas decorations, Fernando says, “The lamb and sheep have a special place in our heart as Good Shepherd Sisters because we look for the lost sheep.”

At the convent, an abundance of other items are available year round, such as patchwork silk bags, rosaries, purses, hats, scarfs and mittens for babies, and much more. Materials used are reusable, washable and light. Prices range from under $10 to about $100.

The products are made by women from Colombia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Madagascar, Mexico, Myanmar, Paraguay, Peru, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam, who “spend this money for their children’s education, food and clothing,” said Thuraisingham.

The creators of the crafts vow to pray for those who receive their items, and the sisters ask the purchasers to return the favour.

For more information on purchasing Sharing Fair items or selling items through a community group, e-mail sharing_fair@rogers.com.

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