If You Build It, They Will Thank You Forever
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.