From the founder. New Delhi, India
I arrived a day late in Kabul so we only had four days to accomplish what we needed to do. It went amazingly well and we felt like we were finished with what we needed to do when our partner left to fly to his home and I came to New Delhi to visit a friend on my way to Nepal.
Our biggest challenge was convincing FedEx to continue to ship our goods for us. Even though they had shipped for us in the past, they had been refusing to do so since May. We went to the FedEx office directly from the airport on my arrival and as many things are in developing countries and especially those in conflict, all it took was for me to show up personally in the office. We were assured that we could ship with no problem. On Saturday we took four large boxes that left for the U.S. on Sunday. Watch our website for photos of these fantastic carpets that were shipped and many more.
The rest of our time was spent with follow-up to my visit in May…refining some of the products that are in development. It sounds like it should be easy, but developing products in Afghanistan is far from easy. Especially since I can’t go and meet with the women myself (something I hope to do next spring.) It’s a matter of figuring out what their skills are and then trying to develop that into a marketable product rather trying to teach them a skill they are unfamiliar with. The women in our village do have very fine carpet weaving skills and we continue to try and develop patterns that will be appreciated in the west. We also want to develop some products that will help women in the village that do not make carpets…especially the young girls. Our partner brought samples of some of the embroidery that the girls (age 14 to 16) make…one of the most extraordinary skills I have EVER seen anywhere in the world.
This exquisite embroidery is solid minute stitching with silk thread. Girls learn to do this when they are very young because they must make the front of a tunic shirt solid with this embroidery for their future husbands. Machine embroidery is now replacing much of it, but the skill these girls possess can never be matched by a machine. Watch our website and blog for new products that are developed with this embroidery…bookmarks, Christmas ornaments, pot-pourri bags and cell phone cases.
Two very exciting prospects came up while we were in Kabul. We discovered that one of the finest cashmere (kork) wool comes from the area where our project is located. (BTW: a very famous designer who shall remain nameless is using this cashmere in her products!!) Our partner is going to pursue the option of getting the necessary spinning wheels and train women to knit this amazing fiber into products. Older women do the spinning and younger women knit. The spinning is second nature to the women in our village because they are nomadic women that have always processed wool from their sheep and goats. This is a perfect fit for them.
Our second new development came through my friends John and Jan Bradley who were in Kabul at the same time. They established the Lamia Foundation which builds schools in Afghanistan, but because of Jan’s amazing networking skills she has a donor in the U.S. who wants to furnish fabric and sewing supplies for sewing centers in Afghanistan. We hope to be able to open 3 of these in our village and in the city where our partner lives. Money has also been provided to purchase the hand crank sewing machines that will be needed for the projects. All we will have to do is find sponsors who will pay for the trainers. This is very exciting for these women!