Working in a developing country like Nepal is forever challenging but is made all the better by the warm friendly people within the organisations that we collaborate with. It is important for us to continue to provide these small producer groups and handicraft units with work to empower the people who work there as well as help the charities and projects affiliated with these organisations.
Our Banana Yarn hand-knitted scarves are created with a non-profit independent organisation established in 1983, that supports people from socially and economically deprived communities, providing vocational training and means of income. Alongside a small orphanage, they run a free primary and nursery school for 250 children as well as providing vocational training opportunities to women and young men in hand knitting, carpet weaving and furniture making.
For our mohair and merino products made from hand-operated knitting machines, we work with a high-end knitwear factory just outside of Kathmandu. With close attention to detail, their products are handmade with care, using high quality fibres of cashmere, cotton silk, mohair and bamboo that are sourced from reliable vendors and dyed with creative hand dyeing techniques. They support their employees with some profits providing health care and education for producers and the local community.
The leather production unit in Kathmandu, run by the Nepal Leprosy Trust, provides marginalized individuals with work opportunities under fair trade work guidelines, empowering them to provide for their families through employment but also giving medical support and education allowances to their children. Some of the producers have physical disabilities and have been shunned from Nepal's caste system, and many have experienced some form of disability within their family. Laura has worked with NLT to improve the factory's facilities, tools and equipment, purchasing new equipment and small machinery, as well as helping to improve efficiency, leather craftsmanship and capacity.
For our classic leather range, we work with another family run business who run a small leather workshop providing stable income and calm work environment for employees, as well as training in leather work and traditional skills.
We work with a fair trade collective that mainly works with female producers, and employees and trains some deaf people, with staff learning sign language to communicate with them. Established with financial support from UNICEF, this collective is dedicated to promote traditional Nepalese craft skills as well as applying modern techniques in order to generate income for under-privileged craft producers.
AURA QUE works with various charities within Nepal, and is particularly involved with the Nepal Leprosy Trust (NLT). NLT oversees its own leather production unit based in Kathmandu as well as running the Lalguardh Leprosy Hospital in Janakhpur, South Nepal. Officially opening in 1996, the hospital has gone from strength to strength and now provides treatment for 30,000 patients every year, with those affected by leprosy receiving all treatment free of charge.
Laura has taken the seven hour jeep ride to the Terai area of Nepal, to visit the rural hospital and see NLT in action. The NLT runs several programs through the hospital, including the Social Economic Rehabilitation Programme, which offers support not only for leprosy patients but other marginalized people in the Terai communities. NLT's Community Development Department provides small business loans for individuals to earn an income for themselves and their family. They also establish self-help groups within communities to provide support.