If You Build It, They Will Thank You For­ever

Wild Fibers - - NEWS -

Af­ter spend­ing my first twenty-four hours in In­dia’s High Hi­malayas col­lapsed in a hospi­tal bed, it's hard to imag­ine that I would ever go back, much less re­turn al­most an­nu­ally in the seven years since.

The Ladakh re­gion is an ex­tra­or­di­nary land that re­mains rel­a­tively un­fet­tered by the shack­les of Western ways and yet is chal­lenged with­out them. No­madic life is grad­u­ally chang­ing: the pres­i­dent of each no­madic com­mu­nity now has a satel­lite phone to use for emer­gen­cies or, as I dis­cov­ered on a trip last year, to con­tact the pres­i­dent of an­other no­madic com­mu­nity when a group of way­ward yaks needs res­cu­ing.

My de­ci­sion to build a Cash­mere Craft Cen­ter in Pan­gong Vil­lage, lo­cated along In­dia’s east­ern bor­der with China, did not come lightly. And yet, noth­ing could seem more ap­pro­pri­ate to help sup­port no­madic women and their fam­i­lies than pro­vid­ing them a warm and well-lit space where they can cre­ate val­uedadded prod­ucts from raw cash­mere.

A video de­scrib­ing the full scope of the project is on the Wild Fibers web site: www.wild­fibers­magazine.com. What the video does not de­scribe is how the idea for the project ini­tially took hold. It was dur­ing one of my first trips to the Hi­malayas with Sto­b­gais, my dear no­madic friend, that we sat un­der our tent (ac­tu­ally, it was a para­chute) and dreamed about turn­ing cash­mere into some­thing be­yond a raw ma­te­rial that was har­vested and sold for pit­tance, and mak­ing it a valu­able com­mod­ity that would pro­vide much-needed in­come for the no­madic women.

When I reread my ad­ven­ture with Sto­b­gais, de­scribed in the ar­ti­cle on the op­po­site page (ex­cerpted from the orig­i­nal ar­ti­cle which ap­peared in Wild Fibers, Fall 2008 ), it re­minds me of how far our dream has come in such a short time: we've al­ready taught more than sixty women to spin fine cash­mere and con­ducted work­shops on floor looms, and we're work­ing with an ecofriendly de­sign firm in Leh, the re­gion's largest town, to draft the Cen­ter’s floor­plan.

I hope you will en­joy a brief look back at life in Ladakh, and sup­port us as we go for­ward, build­ing In­dia’s first Cash­mere Craft

A no­madic woman out­side her home in the Chang­tang Val­ley, Ladakh, In­dia. (Photo by Linda N. Cor­tright)

El­e­va­tion draw­ing and site plans for the Cash­mere Craft Cen­ter which pro­vides space for up to sixty women (and their chil­dren) to spin and weave cash­mere.

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