Welcome to this new feature! We’re excited to help readers get to know our volunteers better over the months to come. We can think of no better person to kick off the feature than our long-time volunteer Jan Toledo. If you frequent the Marketplace often or attend off-sites, you’ll recognize Jan. With Dunia the past seven years, Jan is an accomplished local artist. In fact, you may have caught her piece in this year’s Valentines for Aids at The Flying M. A full-time canvasser for Artfaire, Jan helps raise funds to bring art classes and supplies to low-income children. Jan’s passion for art is clear – from her handcrafted clothing to her decoupaged shadowboxes, Jan is a seasoned arts advocate. Says Jan, “I hate the term ‘starving artist.’ Artists in this country shouldn’t have to starve – in other countries, artists can just do their art. They’re taken care of by their families. We need to learn that lesson here!”

Jan thinks of herself as an advocate for Dunia Marketplace as well. You might hear her tell a customer, “You’re not just paying for art; you’re supporting an artist and a community in a better quality of life – from schooling, to water quality to having a sustainable livelihood.” And Jan digs the fact that Dunia offers wares from global and local artisans. “What’s cool to me – even if you don’t speak the language, you’ve always got the language of Art.”

A seasoned traveler, Jan spent over two decades crisscrossing the country working and enjoying the road. “We’d travel a circuit, washing windows and staying in National Parks and hot springs along the way. People would become friends, looking forward to our return, and we got to live in nature and enjoy the country.” So how did she get here? Jan had summered in Stanley, Idaho when her two daughters were growing up. She found herself settling in the area after her now-grown daughters chose to live in Stanley. When she’s not volunteering or championing the art cause, Jan enjoys sharing time with her girls, taking in Idaho’s beauty and hanging with her peeps in Boise.

I asked Jan for any final thoughts about why Dunia Marketplace is so special. With a soft smile, she reflected, “its universal love, I guess. People will come in and say, “You look so familiar to me.” I just smile and say, ‘Yes, I am’ – because I believe that idea that we really are all one. At Dunia, there are no strangers, just friends we haven’t met yet.”