Welcoming all GreenHeart Friends to the new site!
February 08, 2023
All TerraKlay’s products are named after the amazing artisans who craft them and we can’t wait to expand to include all the talented women at Himalayan Naari. Join us for an interview with Kathleen Bollerud, the founder of this fair trade, non-profit organization that has been dedicated to improving the lives of women and girls in Northern India for the last 13 years.
They say everything happens for a reason, and I believe that is true. One trip to India changed my life. After traveling with a tour guide, we ventured north to a timeshare we had been told about and discovered the beautiful villages and scenery of the Himalayas. It quickly became apparent that the lives in this region was quite difficult, especially for women and girls. There was limited education and few prospects them. We decided to help and through the Himalayan Education Foundation (HEF) began providing scholarships for girls from remote rural villages. Over the years, we were able to bring many girls to our school and they have done very well.
Around 2012, one of the student's mothers asked “What will you do for the women?” I was completely floored; we had not thought about it. In meeting with the women, it quickly became obvious the sacrifices these mothers were making to send their children to school in the hope of a better life.
They lived in one room with their children, away from their home farms, with no gardens, animals, or income. These women desperately wanted to be able to provide for themselves. As we were meeting, we noticed that all the women were knitting. Through HEF, we agreed to provide the women with good quality wool and try and sell their knitting in the USA. This was the birth of Himalayan Naari.
The first challenge we faced was getting to the villages in the first place. We didn’t know about the wet monsoon season and most of the roads had been washed away and were dangerous to drive on.
We decided to walk as we saw many other Indian’s doing and that is how we met some Kumaon women carrying heavy loads down the trails.
Along this journey, there have been many challenges to overcome. It has been amazing, but we believe that when you need help, people will come. We have found and worked with so many wonderful people along the way, who have helped us set up and teach a variety of skills such as computer science, dairy farming, and sewing reusable sanitary products.
The first bundle of knitting brought to the USA was knit well but the finishing was not good enough for the western market. We spend 9 months of training to upskill the artisans. Now, their products are exquisitely finished every time. We, then, began to making hats and mittens, which are still some of our more popular items today.
After discovering the lonely and isolated lives of the mothers in Chakouri, we brought them together to create Himalayan Naari. After renting a place for them to meet, they quickly realized that they needed a Women’s Center to develop their own community.
In 2013 women from the northern village of Munsiyari asked to join the project. They are weavers and create stunning handwoven blankets and products. Their craft was dying out without a means to sell their products. By selling their products in the US, Himalayan Naari has given them back economic independence, which is our main goal.
In 2022 the women's group had expanded to 57 knitters, 4 employees. We have almost eliminated anemia through our nutrition project and have just secured free medical, dental, and vision tests for 2023 for all artisans.
The women's group outgrew their first building after a few years. Since then, we have built a large women’s center with assistance from Himalayan InterCollege (HIC), the local school. We now have a local store for selling products, a workshop, a kitchen, and wool storage area. Our goal is to teach women how to become entrepreneurs and create their own financial stability.
We have also been given 6 acres of land by HIC which contained a tea plantation. The women farm this land, growing vegetables and selling them to the school. This collaboration provides income for the women and helps to improve diets and eradicate malnutrition. Each year we also receive assistance through grants and donations to help us continue to grow.
Wherever possible we use natural materials and dyes. Wool is sourced from shepherds whose sheep graze in the Himalayan mountains between Tibet and Nepal. The wool is handspun and of high quality.
We also use cotton, fine wool, and dye fibers with natural plant dyes, to help look after our environment. Some people cannot tolerate wool; we do make products of high quality blends that are manufactured according the highest environmental standards.
We are excited to partner with Manvee Vaid and TerraKlay. Manvee brings a strong business sense and more experience in retail and design. We have known her for several years and hope she will continue with us on our journey. With the TerraKlay partnership, we hope to increase the entrepreneurism of Naari members and continue to grow the number of women artisans.
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