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Missive from Kathmandu, By Amy Helfand 

Amy Helfand of Amy Helfand Studio has recently returned from her trip to Kathmandu where she visited GoodWeave's Hamro Ghar, among other places. She shared with us her thoughts and impressions which, with her permission, we would like to share with you.

Dear GoodWeave team,

Amy HelfandGreetings from Kathmandu! I visited the GoodWeave Nepal office and Hamro Ghar today. Lubha Neupane [Executive Director] gave me a rundown of current programs-- first tier priorities (child labor), second tier (more general bonded labor issues beyond the carpet industry), third tier (environmental) etc. It was disheartening to learn that since the earthquake and the fuel crisis, which is now in its 5th month, they have found more kids on looms than usual. I suppose that isn’t totally surprising as resources for all are in very short supply and many families are desperate.

At Hamro Ghar there were 47 kids (9 girls and 38 boys) and they were still expecting about 9 more to return post-holidays, where they’d gone back to be with their families. So, pretty crowded. Lubha had mentioned before I arrived that any gifts—art supplies, sporting things and all of that—would be appreciated, as there have not been as many visitors to Hamro Ghar since the earthquake. The children were delighted to receive these gifts, but of course I wish I could have brought more.

Amy Helfand at Hamro GharI was treated very kindly as an esteemed visitor, and despite everything, all seemed well. The kids were in lessons when we arrived, everything was very orderly and there was much enthusiasm for the work. All were bundled up (which is the case everywhere), though today was a beautiful day. Everyone says it’s colder than usual here right now.

In general, things seem to be getting back to business in Kathmandu post-earthquake, though tourism is obviously down. It is January, though, not typically a huge tourist month. Streets are lively as ever—maybe a little less traffic but bustling and LOUD, in a very little car horn type of way. I’m staying in a residential area—Jawalakhel—and restaurants and cafes are busy with locals. It does seem filthier than ever—a big layer of dust and grime on every leaf of every plant, more people than usual wearing masks, etc. Must be partially because of the piles of rubble still around and the rebuilding going on. In the city, it is happening. Slowly, but you do see some progress in places. It must be the people who are not depending on government help or insurance settlements. I know from experience that even in a first world country that can take a very long time. As you probably know, the government has only very recently appointed a head for the reconstruction authority. There are also still many areas of people living in temporary shelters in open spaces—and many slapped together “buildings” of corrugated aluminium. So, progress for some...

KathmanduRestaurants are using wood for cooking and there is basically no heat anywhere. Load shedding is up to about 14 hours a day. And there is no fuel to run generators. Did I mention it is COLD?! As they say, a good thing winter here is short, because it is hard to get anything done when you’re always cold. In terms of the carpet industry, the fuel crisis has caused manufacturers to have to use wood to fire the dye pots. Backwards on the environmental front. Wood is also in short supply…

Still, people (carpet industry and otherwise) seem to be soldiering on, because what else can they do? It is a Nepali trait, it seems. Before I came, I had a couple of friends tell me that their recent visits had been different than pre-earthquake, not just in the landscape, but in the feeling of defeat they sensed. Being here, I don’t feel that so much as there is more of an inclination to discuss how disastrous the political situation has become relative to the incredible challenges the country faces. I mean, it is a challenging place on a regular day and anyone who lives here is accustomed to daily hardship of one sort or another. Currently it is just exponentially more difficult.

Amy HelfandKathmandu, despite everything, is always full of serendipity and faith. More than one person has thanked ME for persevering and continuing to do business here because it makes a very concrete difference in weavers’ lives. I feel more motivated than ever to grow my business, because if I am more successful I will be creating more work here in Nepal. The message to my rug design colleagues needs to be that we must travel here, continue to work here and thus help the rebuilding process, both literally and figuratively. And the message to consumers should be very simply that now is an especially good time to buy rugs (GoodWeave certified, of course!) that are made in Nepal.

I’m sure there’s more, but it’s getting late and I am sitting outside where I can get some wifi, bundled up and looking forward to 10pm when the electricity comes back on and my little heater blows some warm air my way!

Magic amidst the chaos, as always.



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