Aid Through Trade maintains an office/studio space in the Kathmandu Valley with a dozen full-time artisans and management staff. From that center we also coordinate training, production, and quality control with about 125 artisans working in homes and villages in Nepal. Some village artisans are as far as 400 km from the capital, Kathmandu.
Tirtha was recently married in a "love marriage" (meaning self-arranged). She rents space with her new husband who is a college student. Tirtha is the breadwinner for the family.
Tirtha comes to the office / studio each day with a smile, and is always ready to contribute to the laughter as the woman artisans work. She will willingly model a piece of jewelry. And when we leave a camera in the studio, she enjoys taking photographs.
Most all of her work is done in the office / studio, but she will bring some work home. Though almost all of the many Roll-On®s are made by woman, every once-in-awhile we’ll hear of a man helping string the beads for his wife before the knotting takes place. But in this case, Tirtha’s husband actually helps make the center part of the Roll-On®. He says it’s too hard for him to get the bracelet started, so Tirtha will start the bracelets and her husband will work on them in between his study time for college.
Lila loves to sing! Especially she likes to sing Hindu songs, but likes all kinds of music. She leaves the house every day at 7:30am in order to make singing lessons before coming to the office/studio by 10am. “This is why I am so hungry to eat our hot lunch each day at 2pm, because I leave the house so early.”
We often hear Lila singing while others listen. She also likes to use ancient proverbs as teachings and she is quick witted. The artisans will chide each other, and banter, and when Lila gets in the last sentence, it’s usually followed by a lot of laughter among the artisans.
Lila lives with her husband.
Rina’s total travel time to/fr the office each days is between 3 to 4 hours! Her home is up the slope of a mountain. She must walk the steep part. She takes two buses for the other part of her commute. In the area where she walk the mountain path is a tiger. The other artisans often tease Rina about the tiger. They say Rina will never be harmed by the tiger. They will say things like the tiger waits for her to get off the bus so he can guide her home safely. The tiger is her close friend.
Rina sews all the fabric onto buttons, start pins, fish pins etc so that the other artisans then sew beads onto them. She works seriously and with concentration. She and Tirtha are the first two artisans to arrive in the office even though she has so far to come. She is sincere and modest and there is never a problem with her highly skilled work...
She has a congenital heart valve problem and has had to have surgery and needs even more surgery to survive well. Her work in the office has been life-changing for her, as in Nepal it is very difficult to become married with a serious health problem. Remaining single in Nepal as an adult in many ways lowers your status. Further, though the caste system is outlawed, historically her family roots are from the lower ranks of the untouchable castes.
It was a great stroke of luck that she came to work for Aid Through Trade, inc.
She lives with her birth family, mother, father, brother, sister-in-law and nieces, nephews. She says the villagers are all very impressed that someone like her, who was weak as a child, and unable to attend school, has grown to support herself so well, and not be a burden to others.
Rina has been through 3 surgeries. The surgeries are very expensive and have been paid via her earnings, and what the family could gather. The community members raised money for the third one.
Sunita left school in the tenth grade and was married in a traditional arranged marriage shortly after at the age of 19.
Sunita’s journey into the group was not easy as her mother-in-law wanted her to stay home and take care of the house, chores, and her several-year-old son. Luckily her husband supported Sunita, saying, “By going to the office she will learn things and become smarter,” implying this would be better for the family and raising their son.
At first her son missed her a lot, so on the return from the office/studio she would buy and bring back a treat for him. Whenever she forgot the treat he would tease and ask, “What am I supposed to eat now, un-husked rice?” Sunita says now that he is in 8th grade every once in awhile he repeats the question to her as a joke, and they all laugh.
Sunita is very happy to work and feels good that she can use her very own money to contribute to the household without asking others: for household clothes, schools supplies, household food, general expenses. Having a job has changed her life and is now a central part of her life.
She lives with her husband, and her son, her mother-in-law, her brother-in-law and his wife, and their newborn son. This nephew brings lots of laughter to their home too.