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November 18, 2009

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Handicrafts fair benefits the disabled

AS December approaches, Christmas bazaars are popping up around the city. This weekend international schools Concordia and Shanghai Community International School will host their yearly bazaars, with more schools and private companies specializing in a range of goodies from yoghurt to children's toys.

But this Saturday's Ifair stands out for its charitable intentions and interesting gift ideas.

The monthly fair features only vendors with innovative, handmade or second-hand products, and all stall rental goes toward helping the local Xinzha Road community center for mentally challenged people. Many vendors also donate their profits to the cause.

Items sold range from textiles and clothing to specially designed notebooks and lifestyle products.

The volunteer organizers, mostly young Chinese white-collar workers, are keen to attract expat vendors and customers to give the market variety and raise more money.

One successful example in the past involves an expat who used to work in the airlines industry, who sold his collection of airplane memorabilia at the market.

Set up by local restaurant owner Yi An in August last year, the more able clients of the community center also make products for the fair, and have their own stall to sell their handicrafts. This month they are making handmade bags - in the past they have made origami and mooncakes.

The idea first came to Yi when she was volunteering at the community center two years ago. With some spare plates from her restaurant, she organized a plate painting session at the center, and sold the products at a market during Spring Festival.

The proceeds then went back to funding more activities such as outings, tree planting and performances.

"I really wanted to help these people. They don't often get to interact with new people without a sense of discrimination and I found they really wanted to reach out," she says.

"They also have the ability to create nice handicrafts, and doing so made them happy."

Some proceeds from Ifair, around 20 percent, also go partly toward organizing fun activities for more active members. The majority of funds, which have recently reached around 4,000 yuan (US$586) from each market, goes toward medical bills, live-in nurses and other life help for the more severely affected.

Starting with just a few vendors, the market has grown to attract more than 60 stalls in the past few months. Stall rental is 20 yuan and anyone is welcome to get involved. But no mass-produced and overly commercial items are allowed - the market wants to attract small-scale, handmade and creative items full of character and the personal touch of the vendor. Second-hand stalls are also welcome.

"We are just a small group of normal people, who like to make creative things and also make a difference," says Yi.

Date: Third Saturday of each month (next is November 21), 10:30am?4pm

Address: 359 Xinzha Rd

Tel: 6281-3695


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