Hope for Nepal

June 23, 2021 BY

Nepalese artisans use looms to create high-end products with supplied fibres. Photo: SUPPLIED

FORMER Torquay businesswoman Sue Ingpen is raising funds to create on-the-job training for Nepalese women as the country continues to be among the worst affected by COVID-19. With up to 9,000 daily cases of the virus reported between mid-April to mid-May, Nepalese artisans are not only facing a health crisis but a severe loss of income. Having worked and supported Nepalese families through the Fair Trade Organisation for a number of years, Ms Ingpen is calling on global assistance to help the struggling artisans get through the pandemic. As the owner of Ochre Yarn, Ms Ingpen has “spent a lifetime” manufacturing the finest natural fibres the world has to offer including Australian Merino Wool, Cashmere, Baby Bactrian Camel from Mongolia and fine Yak from Tibet. After sourcing the best fibres the products end up in the hands of talented Nepalese craftspeople who create Ms Ingpen’s high-end luxury products. “It is combining the best fibres available by using Fair Trade and handwork for manufacturing,” she said. Ms Ingpen started working with the women under Fair Trade Organisation in Nepal 10 years ago after flying over to complete some design work for the association. Creating invaluable partnerships, Ms Ingpen donated an Ashford table loom to the organisation five years ago which quickly became a treasured item for the artisans. Five years on, Ms Ingpen is hoping to donate another loom at a crucial time for Nepalese employees. “They have a lot of artisans training and only one table loom so they have asked if I could look at donating one or two more if possible and I thought I would try my best,” she said. “It is vital, I cannot tell you how little they have and they can’t get access to these things. “All of the material has to be supplied because there is just nothing there, they have to work with what they are given.” The table loom comes from Ashford in New Zealand and will need to be flown to Nepal when flights return, which is often an expensive journey. While employing mostly women, the organisation also provides opportunities for those previously forced into sex work or those living on the streets, providing them with healthcare, childcare, wages and training. Ms Ingpen said the situation in Nepal is going mostly unnoticed by fellow Australians with the extent of the crisis being revealed to her in a letter by Nepalese Fair Trade director Meera Bhattarai. “If compared in population ratio, the numbers could be worse than in India,” she wrote. “Within a month of the surge, hospitals cannot take in COVID patients due to lack of beds, oxygen, ventilators and other medical supplies. “People are dying just because of lack of oxygen supply. “With a collapsed healthcare system and inefficiency of the government to address the issue, the public have been left to fend for themselves.” The organisation, which works with numerous global companies, suffered with the rising cost of materials such as copper, cotton and wool but Ms Bhattarai said they refrained from increasing prices. “We had no cash reserves, but we managed to pay 50 per cent salary for the lockdown period,” she wrote. “Unfortunately, there was neither support nor any stimulus package of any kind from the government, even to micro or small scale or cottage enterprises.” Motivated by the state of despair of her co-workers, Ms Ingpen is looking to do what she can to help. “Because I’m a small business I don’t have a lot of funds but they have my yarn there which is great because they have material to work with so I can send them orders and a small amount of money when I can to keep them going in the lockdown,” she said. “Meera talks about mental health and how important it is for the artisans to have hope and know that people care. “It is about keeping their spirits and hopes up.”  
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