On the third day of our trip we meet with Anjila and Indu. Anjila’s Princess Beads was the first product family in the Store of Hope collection. The story of Store of Hope began when Eeva Valopaasi met Anjila while working with an NGO in Kathmandu. The NGO ran a safe house in Kathmandu for women who had been made homeless because of problems like drug abuse, prostitution, or an illegitimate child.
The NGO and the safe house wanted to help the women find jobs and start new lives. They started making macramé jewelry that Eeva then began importing to Finland in collaboration with the Dream Driven project. Years passed, the women had children, their lives became busier than before, and the women at the safe house were no longer able to make the jewelry. As a result, Anjila acquired the business and started making the jewelry with her mother and a few other women.
The earthquake of 2015 did not just destroy roads and houses. It still haunts people’s lives, causing them nightmares and fears. Understandably, it is not easy to be creative in such a difficult situation, which is why we are here to help Anjila and Indu design their jewelry. We spend the whole day in Anjila’s pink living room, designing keyholders, jewelry, and earrings for our Nordic customers. The house if full of laughter. Anjila whips up a delicious lunch, and with our bodies and souls nourished, we continue our journey towards our final destination.
On the last day of our trip, we meet the representatives of a company that is completely new to us. During the seemingly never-ending taxi journey along bumpy roads it feels like finding the right address will be impossible and that we might as well give up. We can only hope that we are heading in the right direction – in Nepal, there are no house numbers and not all the streets have names. At last, an American woman called Monica waves her hand to us, gesturing us to stop.
We are now much further away from the center of Kathmandu. Colorful houses adorn the beautiful green hills, and in this village walking is much more common than driving. It is easier to breathe here in the mountains, and as we climb higher each of the temples we see is more beautiful than the last. It is Saturday, a day off in Nepal, and children run up to us, curious to see who we are. Each of them greets us in turn, saying “Hello, Madame!”, before going back to playing their games.
A company called The White Yak has its premises on the second floor of a white stone house. Established only this year, the company manufactures bags from vegetable-tanned leather. The bags are decorated using traditional Himalayan pangden fabrics, and there are pictures of weaver women on the walls. Monica knows the women by name and tells us long stories about their families and background. These stories are truly inspiring. When Monica tells us that the hides used in the products come from animals that have died of natural causes, I see Eeva and Anna’s eyes light up in excitement. Could this be a new product family to complement the Store of Hope collection?
We spend a long time talking to Monica. We want to make sure that the local peoples are fine with their fabrics and patterns being used. And who tans the hides? How are they transported? How much are the artisans paid?
Eeva and Anna are clearly excited about the new products. Towards the end of our meeting Eeva wonders aloud whether Monica might know someone who could supply them with leather labels for their cashmere products. After some serious googling, drawing and logo designing, the three of them reach a consensus: The leather labels for Store of Hope could be the product that enables The White Yak to hire a new full-time employee. This way, the company could make good use of the leather offcuts from their bags. In addition, the worker would learn to process leather while making the labels, which would help them to learn to make bags in the future.
That night, we talk about the past week. What has been the worst, the saddest, or the most inspiring? Together, we conclude that the daily insights into how Store of Hope really makes a difference have been the best part of the trip. Every manufacturer and every meeting has put a smile on our faces and reinforced our faith in the positive impact we can have on the lives of the Nepalese.
On our journey home, our heads are buzzing with ideas. What more could we do? How could we make an even bigger difference?
But that is a whole other story.