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Since 1984, we have been supplying shops and retail customers in North America with high quality, handcrafted clothing, jewelry, textiles, and paper. We import directly from small cottage industries in Nepal, including development projects working to improve the lives of Tibetan refugees and women. We have worked with many of our producer groups for over 25 years. Our goal has always been to support work that enhances people’s lives and traditions. We work directly with the producers as a team, expanding each others’ talents and ideas. It is rewarding to work with such skilled artisans who enjoy what they do and to know that they realize a fair return for their work.
In 1984 when we first started Ganesh Himal Trading we decided to seek out producer groups in Nepal that worked with marginalized people, particularly women and Tibetan refugees, so they could gain access to trading relationships that allowed them to lead dignified lives. We have never asked that anyone belong to a certain type of organization (i.e. religious, non-profit, collective, women only, refugee only etc). Instead we chose those who were interested in partnering with a small western importer to explore ways to create systems that would benefit their culture, their families, their traditional craft work and help those who otherwise don’t benefit (and are often exploited) from trade relations with the “developed” countries. As a result we found a very diverse and wonderful grouping of people to work with. These groups range from a very structured non-profit that focuses on empowering women, to businesses started by struggling Tibetan refugee families who wanted to send their children to school to become “ambassadors for Tibet”, to a business started to bring good wages to traditional tailors while using sustainable and recycled materials from Nepal. Each group brings their own unique perspective and sense of itself to our mix. We have loved this diversity of producer groups because we feel it reflects the diversity of a culture and of ways of doing business. We have always felt that for profit businesses can be as good at modeling “fair trade” as non-profit businesses and so have tried to incorporate that diversity in our own model of who we partner with.
When we chose our partners in Nepal there was no “Fair Trade Federation” and no “Fair Trade criteria”. We knew however what we perceived as fair working partnerships and as the “Fair Trade” movement grew we were thrilled to see that our model fit within the guidelines of what others perceived as fair. We have taken the concept of long term partnerships very seriously and for that reason we have committed ourselves to the families, businesses and projects that we originally started working with so long ago and we do not add new partnerships until we feel that we have provided enough work for those that we have existing relationships with. Since many of the groups we started working with in the 90’s have grown right along with us that means that we have not had room to add new groups except to a very limited extent.
We are a long standing member of the Fair Trade Federation, an organization dedicated to promoting respect and fair interaction, at all levels, between producers and consumers. We are also members of Green America. Denise is a past board member of the Fair Trade Resource Network, which worked to educate North American’s about the benefits of fair trade. We are also co-founders, with Sita Gurung, of the Baseri Health Clinic, in Baseri, Nepal which was completed in February of 2010 and served an average of 10 people/day in this remote area. In 2014 we founded the Conscious Connections Foundation. CCF is a 501c3 dedicated to facilitating the advancement of marginalized individuals in Nepal and around the world, by promoting access to education, health-care, skills development and facilities improvement so that people can create strong, vibrant, economically viable communities. CCF’s main projects have been promoting girls education in Nepal through our Power of 5 program, providing continued staffing for the Baseri Clinic and developing a menstrual pad project. Then on April 25, 2015 after a 7.9 magnitude earthquake destroyed the Baseri clinic and many of the villages of producers in Nepal the focus of CCF quickly changed to disaster relief. This disaster relief will be ongoing as we stand beside our many friends in Nepal and help them to rebuild their lives.
Our engagement with Nepal has not always been easy but it has always been rewarding. Everyone there is family to us and has shared with us their talents, traditions, beautiful country and incredible love for life. It has been an amazingly rewarding life path. Thank you for walking it with us.