Get to Know Nepal

  • Feb082018
    nepal moutains

    6 Reasons We Love Nepal

    Nepal is a small and beautiful country with different kinds of scenery, languages, cultures, traditions, and much more. Even the small places of Nepal define the country. There are many reasons to love this place, but here are just a few of ours.

    1.Diversity

    The natural diversity is something we love because all life depends upon it. From the flat lands to the mountains, it all works together to sustain life.

    2. Natural beauty

    One of the things we love the most about Nepal is the natural beauty. Describing the hills can be difficult because they contain different kinds of trees, animals, birds, rivers, and fresh air which makes it an amazing place. The Himalayan mountains are what Nepal is famous for, their white color gives views that are breathtakingly beautiful. The mountains are home to a lot of rivers which give water in generating hydroelectricity.

    3. Animals

    Nepal has a lot of diversity of animals. There are numbers of birds and mammals which helps to add to the beauty of Nepal.

    4. Food

    Due to the different terrain in Nepal, we have a lot of different kinds of fruits and vegetables throughout the country.

    5. Activities

    Nepal is one of the most visited countries of the world because there are so many activities to do in nature; mountains to climb, rivers to fish, hills for hiking, and so much more. The natural places have a deep connection with human beings.

    6. People

    The Nepalese people are hardworking with kind and giving hearts. In reality, if you want to live a life, you have to live in Nepal. We choose to live in Nepal because we love the lives that we have here.

     

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  • Jan192018
    Sustainability & Recycling Training

    Recycling in Kathmandu with Social Business Doko

    Recently we discovered a local social enterprise trying to tackle the enormous task of cleaning up Kathmandu. Doko Recyclers (which means basket in Nepali) are a young team of social entrepreneurs dedicated to sorting out Kathmandu’s waste management system. Doko was born out of a desire to manage the tall garbage heaps and overflowing landfills of Kathmandu. Not only do they offer a service to collect recycling, they also pay for the waste that they collect.

    It’s impossible to ignore the high levels of pollution and lack of proper waste management in Kathmandu. The Bagmati River which run through the heart of Kathmandu, is one of the most polluted rivers in the world and the city’s pollution is a public health risk that affects the day to day lives of everyone of Purnaa.

     

     

    At Purnaa we strive to be sustainable and eco-conscious in every part of our company. After looking into a number of different recycling solutions, we were delighted to hear about Doko. So one cold Kathmandu morning Shivani Saria, Doko’s Relationship Manager, came to Purnaa’s offices to conduct an awareness workshop on recycling and the environment.

    Explaining how the waste management system here works and how huge local landfills are, you could see visibly shocked faces around the room. Confronted with the images and statistics of how Kathmandu’s waste effects the city’s health and communities, many staff looked deeply affected. Shivani’s excellent and impactful training concluded by showing our whole team how to correctly separate and recycle waste. The training has motivated the whole factory to do their part and separate recycling. Some employees even decided to start bringing their own from home!

     

     

    At Purnaa none of our textile waste goes to landfill, we sell leftovers to local scrap collectors who use it as stuffing for mattresses and other home wear. We do however, create a lot of plastic and paper waste. This is mainly from the packaging that fabric is wrapped in and pattern making paper. Since Shivani’s training, Doko has been collecting our recyclable waste twice a week, which has helped us significantly reduce the waste we send to landfill. Not only that, but Doko provide continuous impact reports through our online account, where we can track the waste we are producing.

    Learning about Doko and their mission has had a huge impact on Purnaa. Not only are we more aware of our carbon footprint, but we can now take active steps to reduce it. Doko offers domestic collection for free and offers services for businesses of any size. For any companies or individuals looking for a way to recycle their waste in Kathmandu, Doko is a great solution!

     

     

     

    To order eco-friendly, ethically-made merchandise visit: www.purnaa.store

    To find out more about recycling check out the following links:

    https://www.dokorecyclers.com/

    http://www.newtimes.co.rw/section/read/227735/

    https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2018/jan/09/three-ways-to-eco-proof-your-work-bag

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/recycling

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  • Aug142017

    Taboo but Important

    For our monthly staff life-skills training, Purnaa invited Kanchan Shrestha from Kalyani Nepal, to come and share about women’s health and hygiene and to de-mystify and address some of the misconceptions that abound throughout Nepal about women’s menstruation.

     

    Recently, Nepal has been in the international news after multiple girls died during “Chaupadi”, a time when women are ostracized and considered “unclean”.  The New York Times reported:

    “Puberty starts a monthly exile. An entrenched, superstitious practice linked to Hinduism, Chaupadi, considers menstruating women impure and bad luck, rendering them untouchables. Menstruating women are banished, often to forests where they sleep in crude, cubby-like sheds or caves, braving extreme weather and lurking predators, from snakes to rapists.”

     

    The recent deaths were caused by  animal attacks or other factors such as fire from trying to keep themselves warm. During Chaupadi, women on their periods are not allowed to come into the kitchen, sometimes the whole house, or touch other members of the family. At night they are forced to sleep in a shed-type building outside of the home, usually in unsanitary conditions.

     

    In Kathmandu, the practice of sending women outside to sleep is not as common, but women can still be treated differently during their menstrual cycles and are often not allowed to be in the kitchen or to touch others.

     

    Since these deaths, Nepal has passed a new law banning the practice of Chaupadi. The BBC reported:

    “The new law, passed on Wednesday, states that menstruating women or those who have just given birth should not be ‘kept in chaupadi or treated with any kind of similar discrimination or untouchable and inhuman behaviour’. Under the law anyone who makes a woman observe the custom faces a three-month jail sentence and a $30 (£23) fine.”

    Here at Purnaa we want everyone to know how valuable women are and how menstruation a normal part of being female. Shrestha taught about the importance of treating women and young girls with respect while on their period. She was very open and encouraged everyone, men and women, to ask questions. The responses were very positive with many engaged in the discussion.

     

    Shrestha’s organization, Kalyani Nepal, promotes re-usable feminine products. She taught the importance of maintaining good hygiene while on your period and how to care for the re-usable menstrual products that she passed out to each of the women. Since Purnaa has a high value on sustainability, these reusable products were very well-received.

     

    Although the views of menstruation will not be changed overnight, at Purnaa, we want to promote an accurate understanding of women’s health and respect women in all aspects of their lives.

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  • Jun022016

    The Poor’s Purchasing Power

    Reports about purchasing power have been circulating (like this one that looks at what $100 buys you in each USA state, or this one looking at US housing costs). Richard Faber, one of Purnaa’s owners, recently crunched some numbers comparing the purchasing power of Nepal’s minimum wage to the USA’s.

     

    For example, the average cost of boneless chicken breasts in the USA is $3.42/lb. A person working a minimum wage job ($7.25/hr) would have to work just 31 minutes to buy that pound of chicken. In Nepal, the cost of a pound of chicken breasts is about $2.25/lb. However, the minimum wage is just $0.53/hr. So a person working a minimum wage job in Nepal would have to work 4 hours and 14 minutes for that same pound of chicken.

     

    If the purchasing power of minimum wage earners was the same in the US as in Nepal, US buyers would pay $30.78/lb of chicken!

     

    Below is a table that I put together to show how much items would cost in the US, if purchasing power were equal to that of minimum wage earners in Nepal. This should give you a “feel” for how expensive items are for the people in Nepal.

    For those of you that like equations and want to know how the prices were determined, its very simple: Price = (Price in Nepal / Nepal Hourly Minimum Wage) x USA Federal Hourly Minimum Wage.All prices are in US dollars.

     

    It was really enlightening for me to make this table. No wonder most of our neighbors live in a single room with family, walk to work, don’t use toilet paper, and consider milk tea a special treat!

     

    (This was excerpted, with permission, from Richard’s personal blog.)

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  • May232016

    Sourcing Water

    Water is needed for survival and the effort people expend to get it varies drastically around the world.

     

    In some countries you just turn on the faucet and your water is there. Here in Nepal that’s not always the case. According to Water Aid Nepal, “Over 3 million people in Nepal have no choice but to get water from wherever they can.”  Sometimes, the water is from a stream or river, sometimes from a spring, sometimes from a community water tap, like the one shown above.

     

    Many people do not have water systems in their house. Usually it is the job of a girl or woman to walk to a water source to fill up jugs for their families to use. They do this every day, carrying the heavy jugs full of water back to their homes.  The women of Nepal are so resilient and strong!

    The water they get is not usually ready to drink and needs to be boiled or filtered first. “In the rural lowlands and the mountains, the distance to water sources is great and water supplies are often polluted with naturally occurring arsenic. Open defecation also spreads diseases across living environments.” –Water Aid Nepal. According to The Water Project, “Children under the age of five are the most affected with an estimated 44,000 children dying every year in Nepal from waterborne diseases.”

    Some of the Purnaa employees walk every day before work to get water for their families.

     

    At Purnaa, we get two water deliveries each week.  The water truck fills up at a spring in the mountains and then delivers to our tank 3 times a week.

     

    Multiple times a day, we turn on a pump to get water up to a tank on the roof so that we have enough pressure for water to flow through our office.

     

    In the kitchen we’ve installed a Reverse Osmosis, UV-ray filter for our drinking and cooking water.  It is common to see employees filling up their water bottles at work!

    Purnaa Store
  • Apr252016

    Two Anniversaries: Earthquake and Fashion Revolution

    One year ago yesterday, by the Nepal calendar, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck central Nepal. We at Purnaa remember the more than 9,000 people who lost their lives and pray for healing and restoration for the more than 21,000 injured and 650,000 families who lost their homes.

     

    As I think back through this year, I realize that the earthquake was just the start of a long list of challenges for Nepal. International financial aid was slow to arrive and government assistance for those who lost their homes continues to languish. Additionally, the earthquake caused a poor summer growing season as farmers were disrupted from primary planting time.

     

    As the weather turned cold, Nepal endured the vindictive scorn of its powerful neighbor, India, who protested Nepal’s new constitution by blocking the import of essential goods, especially fuel. For more than 4 months, Nepali people scrounged for cooking, vehicle, and heating fuel. The shortage caused dozens of incidences of people freezing to death. The financial impact of the blockade was larger than that of the earthquake, causing the loss of more than 400,000 jobs and closing more than 2,000 factories and resulting in the worst growth rate for Nepal in 6 years.

     

    Now Nepal is facing drought and its largest forest-fires in history. And through this long year, much of the population existed in a subdued state of shell shock, as they endured more than 30,000 aftershocks.

     

    It’s been a challenging year for our little country. But one year on, I think about how Purnaa staff responded in the midst of a disaster with true compassion, strength, and resilience.

     

    Purnaa staff created a group tent near our offices for the week following the quake for those with damaged homes or too scared to sleep indoors as the aftershocks kept coming. Everybody pitched in with supplies: tarps, blankets, mats, and food.

     

    Jitendra, one of our sample makers, used first aid training he learned at Purnaa to treat 6 injured people. He pulled one from a building that was falling, bound up a head wound, made slings for broken arms and assisted injured people to hospitals.

     

    Pawana, Purnaa’s HR Officer, cared for a missing Purnaa staff member’s 5-year-old daughter into her home for more than a month, keeping her until her mom was miraculously found weeks later.

     

     

    Bikash, our sourcing manager, provided shelter and food to an orphanage near his home after it was abandoned by its staff. He and his family cared for the kids until aid and supervision arrived from an NGO.

     

     

    Fortunately, none of our staff were seriously injured, but many lost loved ones in villages around Nepal and many had to relocate due to damage to their homes. Of all the factories we know in the Kathmandu area, Purnaa was the first to begin work after the earthquake, largely because the staff cared for each other like family.

    We are grateful to those who raised funds to empower us to use our business to work with aid-partners to give to those in need. Within a month of the disaster, we made over 1,100 t-shirts, 500 mosquito nets, and 200 tents that were distributed by relief and development partners. And this winter we made over 3,300 cold weather ponchos to distribute to those in high-altitude areas struggling in the rough winter and fuel shortages. In both cases, Purnaa staff set new production efficiency records, proud to use their skills to help their country.

     

     

    Purnaa staff faithfully worked through the blockade, starting fires to cook their breakfasts, riding on top of crowded buses to get to work and then walking because most public transportation had stopped running. They waited months and stood in line for days at a time to get gas. Now they wait patiently for water which is scarce.

     

    One year later, we remember the anniversary of the Earthquake, but also the anniversary of another tragedy. Yesterday was Fashion Revolution Day, which marks the 3 year anniversary of the Rana Plaza collapse in Bangladesh that killed more than 1,130 garment workers. Fashion Revolution encourages consumers to ask “Who made my clothes?”  At Purnaa we know who made your clothes, and they are all absolutely amazing!

     

    Here are a few of their thoughts remembering the earthquake one year later…

     

    Saru – “There are people still going through a hardship because they have lost everything. It’s not just about property; they’ve lost family members too. There are still people who are frightened to go into their homes. I’ve seen people who’ve lost everything and I feel blessed. Sometimes I ask God, “How have I survived?” I feel very blessed. After the earthquake I’ve gotten a new life. I got the job at Purnaa after the earthquake and I’ve been in contact with my children since then as well. It’s a new life.”

    Bikash – “My home also got destroyed but we didn’t wait for the government to help us rebuild. They provided compensation for what happened but the process is so long we didn’t want to wait. Most people have tried to rebuild their own, but there are a few who are so poor that they still have to wait for the government’s help. I got my home rebuilt about five or six months after the earthquake happened. Now I’m not so scared because we have made our home in such a way that it is strong.”
    Binu – “People are living in a hardship today because although they have a temporary house, it is not very strong. It is very difficult for those people. I have seen on the news that people are still living in these temporary houses and it makes
    me sad.”
    Dadhi – “During the earthquake I was not with my wife, she was at home and I was gone. After the earthquake the telephones did not work so I could not call her. After about half an hour I was able to go home and found my family was all safe.”
    Rebecca – “Physically I am not worried, but mentally it is in my head. If I don’t think about it, I do pretty good. When I hear that an aftershock is there, my mind responds quickly and my heart beats so quickly and I am alert. It’s not just myself I am worried about. I am worried about my mother who is 72 years old, she can’t walk or run that quickly. During the earthquake it was hard for her to move quickly out of the house, so that affects my mind. I get worried about her.”
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  • Feb242016

    Cold Weather Gear for Earthquake Survivors

    In a joint effort to provide aid to earthquake stricken villagers and to bolster Nepal’s economy, Purnaa partnered with the American-based organization Baptist Medical and Dental Mission International (BMDMI), manufacturing 2,500 ponchos to distribute to the surrounding villages and impacted communities. The ponchos were designed in-house at Purnaa as a solution for the victims impacted during the harsh winter.  An additional 300 ponchos were distributed through the Mukti Network thanks to generous donations from KICC and other private gifts and a further 300 ponchos were distributed by Mountain Child.

    It’s been nine months since the devastating 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal and the country is still feeling the effects of it. Combined with the impact of the blockade this winter, Nepal was hit especially hard in the past year.  Many villagers are still without proper housing, fearful to start construction without government approval and aid. Consequently, many of the mountain villages have suffered deaths due to inadequate shelter from the freezing winter temperatures (read more about the situation here).

     

    The 3,000-piece order kept all three Purnaa teams in operation, and added four temporary employees to assist in the final production of the ponchos. Not only did our teams feel a sense of nationalism and pride in their work but they were also inspired to work diligently, breaking our in-house production records and completing production a full 8 days ahead of schedule. “Knowing we were helping people in need inspired us to work harder and faster than ever,” commented several Purnaa employees. “And it was fun to do work really fast and well!”

    The first batch of 700 ponchos were flown up 8,000 ft by helicopter to the village of Thulo Haku in Rasuwa, Nepal. The village here experienced 64 deaths from the earthquake and a loss of all structures. The ponchos were distributed among 250 families, totaling 1,470 people, and were well-received with grateful smiles and lifted spirits. Check out BMDMI’s pictures of the poncho delivery in action on their facebook page!

    BMDMI is an organization designed to assist developing nations and provide medical and dental expertise through short and long-term trips abroad. Nepal is a recent addition to their two primary countries of service. Read more about the organization and follow their activities on their website.

    We are happy to have partnered with BMDMI, MuktiKICC and Mountain Child on this local relief project. It’s encouraging to see international organizations continue to help Nepal both with short-term aid and long-term employment solutions. Our partnership has helped Purnaa remain in business and empower our employees with full-time salaries and the knowledge that they are making a difference in their home country.

    Thank you, BMDMI, Mukti, KICC and Mountain Child for your partnerships and for changing lives in Nepal!

     

    Purnaa Store
  • Nov092013

    Elections and Hope

    Elections in Nepal are only 9 days away. I struggle to keep up with all of the major players…120 parties on the ballot is a lot to track. Yesterday, I read this excellent article in the NY Times, which gives a great overview of what Nepal is facing in the upcoming elections.
    Considering that we just got our new production unit up and running, the section of the article about how the Maoist party extorts money stood out:
    If they refuse to pay — required donations range from $1,000 to $5,000, depending on the size of the business — they are told they will suffer serious vandalism or violence, they said.
    “The consequence is as simple as it is dramatic,” said one top Nepali businessman who asked to remain anonymous for fear of spurring further violence. “They will disrupt your business, damage your property and perhaps do violence to you and your employees. They’re fairly open about it when they need to be.”
    We’ve heard these reports before, seen the closed down factories, and talked to the businessmen that moved their companies elsewhere. Today was a bandh, which means roving gangs from the 33-party alliance harassed businesses that opened and vehicles that ventured onto the roads…it shut down nearly all commerce around the nation. The rest of the week until elections all public transportation will be similarly shut down, which means that we the PURNAA founders will be personally playing motorcycle taxis for our employees to be able to come to work (many of whom are single moms that live a fair distance from our office.)
    This situation is not something that would typically give hope for a new business. So, I was surprised by the comment from the local merchant about needing to have hope:
    But Gopal Tamkakar, a 58-year-old merchant, said he was optimistic. “Things will be calmer once they draft a constitution,” he said. “You have to have hope.”
    Hope seems to be something rare here these days. I personally don’t know many Nepalis who have bothered to register to vote. Most have seen too much corruption to believe in the system anymore.
    We founded PURNAA believing that business can transform society, that we can both create hope for people who come from exploited backgrounds and benefit a struggling nation. Good jobs can break many of the detrimental effects of poverty. I was encouraged recently reading “Poor Economics” about how a factory can change the whole future of a community. Steady income for one family member eases the enormous risk carried by most small business owners and farmers, results in productive savings, children in school, and better nutrition.
    So, in many ways, we agree with Gopal Tamkahar. We hope not only for things to be calmer, but for these elections to lead to a better Nepal, and for PURNAA to create hope for many many people who have lived without it for far too long.
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  • Oct092013

    Adventures in sourcing…

    This past month we have done a lot of work searching for fabric, which is not an easy task in Nepal. There is very little domestic textile manufacturing and most imported material fairly low quality, intended for small scale local tailors. Given that Nepal is the second poorest nation in Asia, for Nepali buyers, price is usually the biggest factor in purchase decisions; quality is a distant second and sustainability usually is not considered.
    So we brave the crazy traffic and crowded markets in search of good quality options here in Kathmandu. We also travel to India to look for cost effective ways to import high quality and sustainable material.
    At PURNAA, we want to produce beautiful products, that last a long time, and are made of sustainable materials. We believe that to create a great quality, sustainable garment, we need to start by taking care of the people making it. There were riots among garment sewers recently in Bangladesh, where workers were protesting the $38 per month pay. Not many people will choose to care very much about quality or the environment when they don’t make enough money to take care of their family.
    A friend recently said to me, “When you find something really cheap back home in America, somebody paid for that.” We’re learning that this is absolutely true in the garment industry. Sometimes we stumble upon great deals in the jungles of the Asian fabric markets, but we often ask ourselves, “What is the true cost? Who or what got short-changed so the price could be this low?” Was it the cotton farmers who received unfair prices at market, was it the environment that suffered under cheap but destructive farming practices, was it the workers in textile mills losing their hearing from the loud machines as they sweat in a building with no windows, a dirt floor, and tin roof for lousy pay, or maybe it was the local water supply polluted by unsafe dying practices.
    We are only one step in the long production process of the garments you wear. For now, we’ll keep tackling the crazy markets of South Asia to explore new ways to source sustainable fabrics at fair prices. But we hope that in treating our employees fairly and with dignity, we can inspire others in the supply chain to do the same. And when there is a hopeful future for the lives of textile and garment workers throughout this process, we believe the environmental sustainability will follow.
    Purnaa Store
  • Aug172013

    Jobs Program?

    A couple days ago, I had just finished registering PURNAA for Nepal VAT (Value Added Tax) and met this kid near the line of motorcycles outside the tax office. I couldn’t help but laugh at his T-shirt. I lived for almost a year in Delhi in 2010-2011, and I guess I sympathize with his message.

    True numbers for unemployment are difficult to find, but most sources put Nepal’s unemployment at more than 40% and it’s GPD per capita at $1300 (just above Afghanistan’s and roughly equal to Haiti’s.) Is it any wonder that nearly every young person I meet in Nepal wants to leave the country? They all pay exorbitant school fees in hopes that they can build a resume that is capable of landing a job or scholarship somewhere else.

    Unfortunately, the paradise dream in other countries usually doesn’t materialize; and Nepalis, desperate to find ANY work, settle for whatever is available (hence the t-shirt about Delhi.) Many go to India, the Middle East, Korea, and South East Asia. 1 in 6 Nepalis have already left their country. This means nearly every family has a member somewhere else. I used to think military deployment schedules were hard on families, but knowing your spouse, brother, dad, sister is working hard labor in the blistering heat in the Middle East and won’t come home again for 3 years because plane tickets are too expensive is hard for families.

    Even harder, is that many Nepali’s are duped into terrible work environments and cannot leave. It is common for workers to have their papers confiscated (“for safe keeping”) by work foremen. This effectively scares employees into believing they cannot leave a worksite for fear of being arrested as an illegal alien (a very serious crime in some countries in Asia.) A few weeks back, Saudi Arabia offer amnesty to workers trapped in just such a situation; 13,000 Nepalis applied for the amnesty program within the first week. They work in terrible conditions, to send money home, so their kids can get an education and perhaps escape Nepal to someplace better.

    PURNAA is not a “jobs program.” We are simply a business that believes in doing the right thing, especially for those that work within our company.  But our hope is that the more business we do in Nepal, the fewer Nepalis will feel the need to go somewhere else.

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  • Jul212013

    Lessons Learned– Guest Blog by Alex (PURNAA 2013 Summer Volunteer)

    By

    When I arrived in Kathmandu in early June, it did not take long to recognize how much I had to learn about Nepal. Corban picked me up at the airport, and as we approached his car in the parking lot, we both angled toward the right side. “Other side,” Corban said with a smile. “It’s British-style driving here.” Barely ten minutes into my trip, I was already realizing that everything in Nepal—from the language to the roads, laws, and food—was going to be a new experience.

    Over the course of a month, I conducted research for Purnaa on the exploitation of workers in the brick kiln industry. Bricks are big business in Nepal, and while the brick kilns that dot Kathmandu Valley and the rest of the country are huge enterprises collectively employing hundreds of thousands of people, there has been almost no systematic research into the labor situation in kilns, nor any concentrated effort to address the needs of the country’s brick kiln workers. Anecdotes and unproven statistics abound about the prevalence of child and bonded labor in the kilns; the average wage is unknown; and the cycles of employment and production are poorly understood. As I learned over the course of my research, there are a number of NGOs and individuals doing difficult, admirable work in the kilns, bringing sanitation and education to workers who work and live in squalor.

    I came to Kathmandu to help Purnaa understand the situation in the kilns, and the ways in which a social enterprise company could contribute could provide better opportunities for the brick industry’s exploited workers. I worked closely with the Purnaa team, and was fortunate enough to stay with Corban, Katrina, and their family for the duration of my trip.

    My most important research finding was the conspicuous void—of both understanding and action—that surrounds the country’s brick kiln workers. Through interviews with NGO leaders and researchers, as well as independent research, I found that there have been only a small handful of studies into the country’s brick kilns; even the exact number of kilns in the country is uncertain. While child labor has become a point of focus in recent years, other forms of exploitation—including forms of debt bondage—are harder to recognize and attract considerably less attention from watchdog groups and the government. Research into the motivations, needs, and status of adult brick workers is sparse.

    Purnaa’s goal is to provide opportunities for alternative employment to some of these workers, and to contribute to larger-scale, industry-wide change by working with other groups to pressure brick kiln owners to improve working conditions and decrease the kilns’ negative environmental impact. There is no company doing anything like this in Nepal—more than once during my interviews with NGO workers, my interviewees either did not understand why a company like Purnaa would think of anything other than its own profits, or they laughed at the very idea. What Purnaa aims to do with Nepal’s brick workers will be truly revolutionary.

    In addition my research work, I found that every day in Kathmandu was its own adventure. Even the simplest things—driving, getting groceries, using running water—could be challenging, a realization which only increased my admiration for the commitment of the Purnaa team to working in Nepal.

    But those same challenges also created unexpected moments of joy. The city’s small fruit and vegetable vendors were always wonderfully kind and helpful, and everyone I met, from taxi drivers to gym employees, did their best to make me feel welcome and at home. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that Nepalis were delighted to meet an American—a rare reaction abroad. Corban, Katrina, Presten, and Marjam took care of me like I was a member of their own family, and I had the privilege to goof around and play with their children, who always provided some fun and perspective when things felt frustrating or overwhelming.

    Getting out of Kathmandu and visiting a remote village in north Nepal that has been seriously affected by human trafficking was a particular highlight. The mountains are even more verdant, lush, and beautiful than I had imagined, and even in the smallest villages I felt at home. The trek was an opportunity to see the impact of human trafficking first-hand—the missing daughters, the villages struggling to survive, the foreign currency making its way into cash registers—and it made Purnaa’s work real and pressing in a way that will never leave me.

    By the time Corban and I left for the airport early one morning a month after my arrival, I had learned much more than which side of the car to sit on. I had learned about the beautiful, fascinating (and occasionally difficult) country of Nepal; I had learned about the hardships faced by workers in the brick kiln industry and the absence of organizations working on their behalf; and I had learned how to act nonchalant as a personal trainer at a run-down gym videotapes you working out with his iPad (that’s another story). But most of all I had learned to be thankful that there are people like Corban, Katrina, Presten, and Marjam at Purnaa doing incredible work for the people of Nepal.

    Purnaa Store
  • Jul022013

    Practical Ways to Fight Human Trafficking

    Working in Nepal to help exploited people, we are frequently asked about human trafficking. Nepal became well known as a source region for trafficking thanks to the 2010 CNN hero of the year award to Anuradha Koirala the founder of Maiti Nepal and a subsequent documentary hosted by Demi Moore and featuring Ms. Koirala’s work. These media and many other recent reports, films, and books, have been very effective in educating people about the horror of human trafficking. Unfortunately, in such a challenging issues, it is often difficult to know how to get involved. Several months ago, I ran across this wonderful list of ways to fight human trafficking compiled by “Passion 2013,” and I’d like to share it here. (Unfortunately, it’s rather US centric and we know we have many readers in other countries, but perhaps it will still be useful for creating ideas about how to engage.)
    Passion 2013 – 27 Ways to do more
    You can find the original list here: http://268generation.com/passion2013/action/

    1. Take the Slavery Footprint Survey and learn how many slaves work for you – based on the things you purchase, wear, eat, use and purchase on a daily basis. SlaveryFootprint.org

    2. Be a conscious consumer. Download and use the Free World App to let brands know that you care where they source items from for their products. itunes.apple.com/us/app/free-world/id466979649?mt=8

    3. Demand that your senators, representatives, and government officials make fighting slavery a top priority.

    · Here’s how you can contact them:

    · Senator: www.senate.gov/reference/common/faq/How_to_contact_senators.htm

    · Representative: WriteRep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml

    · Other: hq-org2.DemocracyInAction.org/o/5417/getLocal.jsp

    4. Do research. Dig online, read books and articles, and watch films to learn as much as you can about the slavery issue.

    5. Be aware. If you suspect trafficking call the National Trafficking Hotline. Plug the number in your phone: 1-888-3737-888

    6. Start an International Justice Mission Chapter on your campus and rally a generation to fight for freedom. IJM.org/itmatters

    7. Get trained to fight slavery. Attend one of the Not For Sale Abolitionist Academy’s to learn more about how you can identify and fight slavery. NFSAcademy.org

    8. Stop viewing pornography and encourage your friends to stop. Human Trafficking and pornography are closely linked. When you consume pornography you are supporting trafficking. Stop.

    9. Challenge airlines to provide training for all flight attendants on how to identify and watch for victims being trafficked. InnocentsAtRisk.org

    10. Adopt, foster children, or become an orphan advocate. Orphans and risk children are more likely to become victims of trafficking, slavery, and sexual exploitation.

    11. Breathe life and words of encouragement to girls who have been rescued from trafficking situations by writing letters to them. thea21campaign.org/write-a-letter.php

    12. Read books about slavery, pass along the book or start a book club. Decide as a group how to take action. Suggested book list available at 268generation.com/passion2013/learn/

    13. Get educated and learn the facts. Then, boldly use social media and opportunities in your community and sphere of influence to speak up.

    14. Become an intern at an organization fighting slavery and/or trafficking on a local, nation, and/or global scale. Use your gifts, talents, and time to make a difference.

    15. Act local. Get your church, friends, or group involved in fundraising, volunteering with, and serving a local organization caring for women and children who have been sexually exploited.

    16. Fight slavery in the checkout line by learning about and refraining from purchasing items often produced by forced labor. Learn more by reading the Department of Labor’s List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor. dol.gov/ilab/programs/ocft/PDF/2011TVPRA.pdf

    17. Eat Fair Trade chocolate and tell leaders in the chocolate industry to stop using child slave labor and institute labor standards among their suppliers.

    18. Be creative. Use your gifts to raise awareness and fight for freedom right where you are. Write articles, make films, host events, go – the options are endless.

    19. Engage with the CNN Freedom Project as they use their media influence to highlight slavery stories and help set captives free. TheCNNFreedomProject.blogs.cnn.com/

    20. Challenge tourism suppliers such as hotels and airlines to sign and participate in the Tourism Child-Protection Code of Conduct. TheCode.org

    21. Connect and/or support a local ministry working in your town that is reaching out to strip clubs and massage parlors to identify trafficking and offer alternative options for girls who want to escape.

    22. Help report, document, and track cases of trafficking in your community and around the globe. slaverymap.org/

    23. Buy goods and support organizations that are helping those rescued from slavery, trafficking, and sexual exploitation begin a new future.

    24. Use your investments to fight slavery, not feed slavery. Learn more and take action to ensure slavery free investments: FreeTheSlaves.net/Page.aspx?pid=379

    25. Demand companies to define and root out forced labor from their supply chains. chainstorereaction.com

    26. Volunteer, teach a life skill class, be an academic mentor, or participate in home improvement project to help restore the women at Wellspring Living recovery shelter in Atlanta, GA. wellspringleague.org/?page_id=163

    27. Teach young people that slavery still exists and challenge them to get involved. Parents, educators, youth and college pastors can help raise up the next generation of abolitionist. Parent and Educator Discussion Guide: cnn.com/2011/US/studentnews/04/04/freedomproject.teacher.guide/index.html

    Also, we would add #28 to the list: Volunteer with PURNAA in beautiful Nepal!

    Purnaa Store
  • Jun212013

    First Impressions of Nepal– Guest Blog by Jess (PURNAA 2013 Summer Volunteer)

    I’ve been in Nepal for almost a week and wanted to take some time to share my initial thoughts on being in this country and serving the people who live here. I did not know what to expect before I made the 31 hour trip that took me literally halfway around the world.

     

    Immediately upon landing, I was struck by the lack of development. The drive to Corban and Katrina’s home was like nothing I’ve ever seen. There is one traffic light in Kathmandu. Driving is so chaotic, as motorcycles pass you on all sides, people walk in the traffic lanes beside the cars, buses and motorcycles, vehicles pull into the road without warning, and most roads are unpaved and so narrow that getting around oncoming cars is accomplished with no more than an inch or two to spare.

    I was amazed to learn that there is no home-delivered mail service because there are no addresses. Nepal and Afghanistan are the two poorest countries in Asia—the income per capita in Nepal is $1300. Roughly a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line and unemployment rises above 40%.

     

    Given this landscape, I found myself thinking… if I was born into this environment, would I know that a different way of living even existed? Would this way of life be normal to me? One of the first and most salient lessons I have learned from Nepal is to be thankful for what I have. I have even found myself appreciating Interstate-25 during my visit here!

     

    I think it is important to recognize and value differences between cultures, and with that comes an appreciation for how resilient the Nepali people are. The children are happy and many smile and say ‘hi’ in my language when I pass them on the street. In response to an email I sent to family discussing cultural differences I’ve observed during my stay here, my wise younger sister reminded me that we are often burdened by all of our possessions and technology and gadgets. I appreciate the reminder and the invitation to witness new and different ways of living life here in Nepal.

     

    Captain Jessica Schroeder is a PURNAA 2013 Summer Volunteer, helping our leadership team create HR processes and brainstorm about ethical principles in organizational behavior and motivation theory. Jess teaches in the Department of Management at the US Air Force Academy. She holds a BS in Systems Engineering Management from the US Air Force Academy and a Masters in Public Policy from the Harvard JFK School of Government.

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