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To Be Loved and Cared For

Laxmi at work at PRC.

While I was in Nepal in March 2012, I had the privilege of visiting PRC for the very first time and met Laxmi. She had just returned from court that day…

 Laxmi’s Story

Laxmi grew up in a very poor family in western Nepal. At the age of 13, her father died and her mother ran off with another man, leaving Laxmi with a brother, age 6 and sister, age 8. Since her family was very poor, they lived in a very small thatch/mud house and her parents had done day labor to put food on the table. Laxmi had no means of income so she and her siblings resorted to begging for their food. A neighborhood man took note of their dire circumstances and one day came to Laxmi saying he knew of a babysitting job for a wealthy couple that she could do to bring in money to feed her family.  He said he would take her there and she would be able to come home at night. Laxmi went with him but instead of going to a rich family’s home she ended up in a room in a city in India with 17 other girls. The first night they were given injections and in the morning they woke up naked, sore and not knowing how many men had used them during the night. This went on for 3 months. During that time, the traffickers were preparing false passports for the girls.  After 3 months Laxmi was sold to Saudi Arabia. From there she was sold to Kuwait. While in the brothel in Kuwait, Laxmi became ill, so she was checked out by a doctor who did a blood test and found her to be HIV+. She was immediately kicked out of the brothel to fend for herself on the streets. An Indian man found her wandering and had pity on her. He paid for her ticket to return to India. However, when she arrived in India she still had no means to support herself so was living on the streets trying to find a way back to Nepal. A Nepali who knew about Peace Rehabilitation Center’s border monitoring office found her and made a phone call to the border office. PRC staff then went to India to bring her back to Nepal.

She was brought to PRC’s rehabilitation home outside of Kathmandu where she was given the opportunity to enter into the 6-month to 1-year program involving counseling, literacy and skills training in a family atmosphere. Laxmi still wasn’t well so she was taken to the doctor. Through blood tests they found out she WASN’T HIV+ but she was pregnant. One of the strongest aspects of PRC’s recovery program is the tender loving care shown to the girls by the staff.  PRC helped support Laxmi with this difficult situation and gave her a safe environment in which to make a decision. Over the next 7 months, their demonstrated love slowly chiseled away at Laxmi’s deep-seated anger and pain. She decided she wanted to have the baby and give it up for adoption if possible. She learned how to read and write and the skills of jewelry making and knitting.

After the baby was born, PRC staff and Laxmi traveled to her village area to testify against the neighbor who trafficked her to India. Through her testimony, the man was sent to prison. While there, she searched for her brother and sister and found out they were living with a relative in another village.

Laxmi returned to PRC’s rehab program and she started to take an interest in caring for her baby. She has come to love her baby very much and wants to be a good mother. Laxmi continues today to live at PRC. She shares that she finally knows what it means to be truly loved and cared for because of the amazing support of the PRC staff.

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Warm your head. Warm your soul.

Knitting at PRC

It’s that time of year again when we are looking forward to gift-giving. We all appreciate giving and receiving gifts. A hat is a great gift but we would like the gift to be more than just a hat. Our hand knit hats are made in Nepal. Every year in Nepal between 10,000-15,000 women and girls, most between the ages of 9 and 16, are trafficked to India. We have learned about this through our relationship with the Nepali organization Peace Rehabilitation Center (PRC). PRC is a charitable organization dedicated to fighting and preventing sexual exploitation and trafficking in Nepal. Another role that PRC plays is to help women learn a skill so they can be financially and self sustained in their community. Right now, PRC women are knitting the ‘PRC’ hat for Ambler.

Our hope for this gift-giving season is to give back to a worthy organization making change in women’s lives in Nepal. If you purchase any hat from Ambler’s website in the next two weeks (November 30th to December 14th), we will send 50% of the purchase price directly to PRC.  Here’s a chance to give a gift that not only will keep your head warm but will also impact the lives of women in Nepal.

 

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Needles in Nepal

The following is a guest post from our knit designer, Kelly McClure of BohoKnits, recounting her recent trip to Nepal to teach our producers about our Fall 2012 knitting patterns. Sounds like Kelly learned a few things of her own! (photos: Kelly McClure)

I traveled to Kathmandu to spend a week teaching knitting and crochet workshops with women who will be mass-producing my hat designs…a surreal experience to say the least. I packed everything I needed to teach knitting in my carry-on just in case my luggage was lost between Calgary, Amsterdam, Delhi and Kathmandu. I brought needles of all sizes, patterns, tiny “plane-friendly” scissors, tape measure, needle gauge, stitch markers, calculator and, of course, projects to work on while traveling.

Garlands

I design for a local company, Ambler hats, and spent the week at the Everest Fashion house and offices right in Kathmandu. Everest Fashion makes all kinds of knitted, crocheted and felted wholesale items for customers all around the world, including Ambler. Their compound is made up of about four buildings, including the house, offices, storage and production space. While the city is busy, polluted and loud, the Everest complex is quiet and spacious, with lots of vegetation and small gardens.

Workbooks

The Everest workforce is over 90% female and many of the women knit hats right from home, allowing them to make extra income for their families while still being able to care for their households and children. They are paid more than fair wages and are paid per piece to increase productivity. My main job for the week was to perfect specific designs with the “group leaders” who then go on to teach the design to 30-75 women. Although there was an obvious language barrier between us, we got by with exaggerated gestures, thumbs up signs and dramatic facial expressions. They are wonderful, genial women and I love being around their colourful, sparkly kurtas and bright smiles.

Learning a pattern at Everest Fashion

During a tour of the complex, I learned a lot about their production techniques. I watched them create pom poms in seconds, wind tangled yarn into balls from their ancient looking wire swifts, and haul massive bags of fibre around as if it was no effort at all. The compound buzzes with creative energy, greetings (Namaste), and there are mounds of brightly coloured fibre and projects everywhere.

Drying fiber

On another day I visited a home called Peace Rehabilitation Center. This is a home for girls and women who have been rescued from human trafficking (see website for more information and stories). Many of the girls come from small villages and are recruited or bought by pimps who then try to smuggle them into India. Fortunately, some of the girls are stopped at the border before they are lost forever. At PRC, the girls are taught all kinds of skills so that they can one day be independent. They learn things like gardening, jewelry making, cooking and, of course, knitting. I was warned before arriving at the home that their skills are very basic and that teaching them something new may be challenging.

at the Peace Rehabilitation Centre

To my surprise, when I arrived, there was about ten girls sitting on mats around a huge pile of yarn, all knitting away like their fingers were on fire. None of them speak English, so teaching without an interpreter would have been fairly difficult anyway, but to my embarrassment, I find that their skills at least match my own. Their technical and finishing skills are outstanding and they easily crank out a perfect fingerless mitt without batting an eye.

I have never felt so quintessentially “Western” as I did while I was in Nepal. The smog, garbage and traffic of the city is a major contrast to our open spaces and clean air in the mountains that I’m used to. While attending a full-moon festival, I was clearly the only Caucasian in a crowd of hundreds, although I was graciously accepted. While visiting with the PRC girls who had been sold by their own families, beaten by pimps and worse, I was painfully aware of my own charmed existence. Despite all these differences, I was mostly struck by the similarities between East and West. Namely, the fact that knitting provides a universal language – knits us together, so to speak. Even if you can’t communicate with words, wool is the same, knitting needles and crochet hooks are the same, and even instructions and techniques are the same. A knitted stitch is the same in Nepal as it is in Canada.

Kelly, labeling Ambler poms

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Social Design Project in Nepal

The University of Notre Dame’s Industrial Design department is doing some incredible things in Nepal. They are utilizing the skilled handicraft workers of Nepal to implement student’s designs to create products and jobs that are useful, sustainable and growing in demand.

There are some incredible things happening for the handicraft community in Nepal and we’re excited to see the world catching on to what they have to offer. This short video (really a Notre Dame commercial) touches on a few of the things these industrial design students are doing there.

(via Core77)

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