Last year I spent two weeks in Nepal volunteering in Pokhara with Go Kiwi Go, about 200km west of Kathmandu.
The volunteer organisation is part of AFS New Zealand, but is aimed at all ages of people from 18+ who want to get involved with projects around the world. I chose Nepal, partly because it was a country I had never been to and partly because of the work available: construction (my favourite), child care, teaching English.
You can read more about my day to day volunteering here >> but on my time off I enjoyed wandering around the shops of Pokhara, meeting the people, having coffee (you can get a better flat white here than in the States!) and having a massage at Helping Hands with deaf masseurs.
I had had a massage from a blind woman in Hong Kong and thought this might be the same. Plus I liked the concept of providing work for people with physical disabilities.
I actually had to laugh though when it was over and took a selfie of the shambles that he’d left me in. Due to his deafness he never heard me wince as he pressed down on my vertebra so hard, over and over, that I thought I’m either going to catch on fire or be paralysed. So, I would’n’t recommend it. Or at least my therapist needs a few more lessons!
But about an hour later, as I was browsing along the many shops side by side along Lakeside in Pokhara I saw the same company name, Helping Hands, this time at a cashmere shop. In I went and lost myself in the layers and layers of folded scarves, pashminas and blankets.
I met some of the staff and was shown out the back to where three young people (I say young people, they were probably in their 20s) were working on the looms making blankets.
Then I sat down with the manager after choosing a few blankets, scarves and ponchos to bring back for my Travel Store and learned more about Helping Hands, a business that exists purely to employ deaf and partially sighted young people from all around Nepal. They teach them how work the looms to spin the beautifully soft and fine local cashmere into scarves, throws and ponchos.
It’s hard living with a disability in Nepal as their families tend to work outdoors in agricultural jobs and they are unable to help much to contribute and become another mouth to feed. At Helping Hands they come to work, earn money and also have accommodation provided as they find meaningful work and respect. All the profits from the sales of these exquisite high quality garments goes back into investing into the deaf and blind community.
I’m thrilled to say that first range of cashmere sold quickly as Kiwis soon found they loved them as much as I do and now I have just received my third shipment and am really pleased that together we can continue to partner with Helping Hands and give something back while enjoying their top quality product.
If you’d like to browse through the ponchos, scarves and blankets at the Travel Store, jump on this link