I was fortunate enough to visit Nepal in December 1999 with a high school adventure group. We trekked the Annapurna Circuit, volunteered in Tserok (a Tibetan refugee settlement) and spent some time in Kathmandu and Pokhara. The beauty of Nepal has to be seen to be believed. The incredible Himalayan backdrops, the warmth of the people and the serenity of Buddhist temples will stay with me forever. But what struck me most as a white, privileged seventeen-year-old girl from Sydney was the resilience I saw on display every day. Men and women (and unfortunately many children) worked incredibly hard to provide food and shelter for their family. Women and girls fought for the right to education and health care, and kids and adults with disability begged on the streets for food.
Tragically, Nepal made worldwide headlines in April 2015 when a huge earthquake killed and injured thousands of people in both Kathmandu and outlying rural villages. In the days and weeks that followed, in the midst of the aftershocks, we saw people being forced to live in makeshift tent villages in freezing temperatures, and painstakingly slow rescue attempts from beneath the rubble.
While recovering from a large-scale natural disaster is a challenge for any country, it is particularly difficult in a place like Nepal. Its infrastructure before the earthquake was weak, its government dysfunctional and the capital Kathmandu was already experiencing a large influx of rural migrants in search of jobs. These challenges were only worsened in the weeks and months following the earthquake - many of the buildings in these photos don't exist anymore. But resilience has prevailed.
So rather than share with you the alarming statistics about poverty and inequality that persist in Nepal, we have chosen to showcase businesses that value the skills and resources of the Nepali people, which are central to its long-term recovery. By supporting businesses that respect and nurture Nepali skills and traditions, providing people with dignified work and a better future, we can contribute to rebuilding Nepal. Its a long road but it will be made slightly easier if we're all in it together.
And if you ever get the opportunity to visit Nepal, its a great way to directly support their economy. There are so many incredible experiences - trekking for days with nothing but the Himalayas to look at, getting lost in the backstreets of Kathmandu or just speaking to the local people. While I know they're not reading this, thank you to everyone who opened their homes to a group of teenage girls from Sydney dressed head-to-toe in polar fleece. We were all changed for the better by your gentle and generous spirits.
Est Wst Collective textiles are handwoven in Nepal, products are stitched at a socially and environmentally certified production facility and 10% of profits are invested in community- based projects. They are committed to using natural fibres and recycled materials in all of their products. The aptly-named Kathmandu City Backpack is made from bamboo-cotton with vegan leather details. Check out the rest of their range at www.estwstcollective.com.
Photo: Est Wst Collective
Synergy Organic Clothing pays all their employees in Nepal a living wage and offer significant yearly bonuses. They are empowering a group of over 150 women to rise above poverty by giving them the opportunity to work from home and support their families. The Synergy range is made from 100% organic cotton and other eco-friendly fibres, including bamboo. We love their yoga range and their gorgeous dresses! You can shop online at www.synergyclothing.com.
Photo: Synergy Clothing