I love markets, don’t you? I love visiting a place and finding they host a community market. From farmers’ markets to craft and ‘maker’s’ markets, I love to stroll past the stalls, and take lots of time to admire their produce. And I need lots of time to think of who I could possibly buy for, as I stop to admire everything from original jewellery, handcrafts, baby, children’s and adult clothing and hats to beautifully crafted timber pieces, furniture and home wares.
I love to engage with the stallholders and find out more about their artistry and interests that have led to them realizing their talents enough to be offering their goods for sale. In summer months, I love to buy a fresh juice drink, and any other time of the year, the coffee van is usually my first port-of-call. And that’s even before I start on the food!
In more recent times, I have found myself on the opposite side of the table, so to speak. I have become a market seller as I seek to raise much-needed funds for the mission with which I am associated that seeks to educate children and empower women in Uganda. Currently we have three women’s village co-ops, which come together to make jewellery. With much care and extreme patience, the women roll up paper strips for beads and lacquer them ahead of threading them up into a beautiful range of coloured and styled necklaces, bracelets and earrings. They sell them to local galleries and tourist outlets, but we also buy directly from the women.
We give them a fair price for their work; bring their products home to Australia, and then we proceed to sell them at conventions and markets wherever we can. Our stall is always bright and colourful, as it is decorated with stuffed animals, aprons, pot holders, fruit bowls and a variety of bags made by some of our ladies. These provide much colour and interest around our stall.
My ageing little Corolla is now well used to me folding down the back seats, packing in bags, boxes and a hat-stand on the night before a market as it’s usually an early start on market day itself. When we arrive, I love meeting other stallholders as we set up to be ready for the day. Then it’s time to meet the people; visitors who like to browse through markets to see what is on offer. As a charitable organization, we have an interesting story to share, and that is what we especially love to do as we engage with the wide range of market goers we meet throughout the day.
A few people pass our stall, look at our wares and pass on without speaking, despite our best attempts to engage with them. But these folks constitute a decided minority, as most people are interested to hear about Uganda, and how a few Aussie locals like us are working to lift groups of women there out of poverty, and to educate their children. They love to hear that we actually visit Uganda regularly, and that we work totally as volunteers. In other words, all of our proceeds on market days will go straight back to Uganda, most likely to help pay school fees.
So we love a chat, and really appreciate peoples’ interest when they purchase something, no matter how small from us. But even if they don’t buy anything on that day, we still value that interaction, for we never know how or when God might speak into their lives of the importance at the very least, of caring for those in need, especially children – and in parts of the world where education is needed so urgently, yet still costs such a large proportion of a family’s income. If indeed they have one… And at the end of the day, it is the encounters we have had with people that has blessed us as much as any sales we receive.
So, from a marketer who has experienced life on both sides of the table, let me encourage you to explore community markets, to engage with stallholders and tell them how much you admire and appreciate their work, even if you don’t buy on that day. And as a stallholder, let me encourage you to keep smiling and share your story in a friendly non-pushy way and you just never know when or how often people return to you. God has blessed people everywhere with creative and artistic abilities and markets are a wonderful place for us all to appreciate and encourage each other in our respective ventures.
Glynis Dickins is the Pastoral Care Pastor at Rosanna Baptist Church, in the North-Eastern suburbs of Melbourne. She is passionate for writing about the wonderful people she has connected with throughout many years of ministry. She also writes short stories and published her first novel in 2014 through Ark House, who have just published her next novel.