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DreamWeavers: Phase II, Day I

· Ashlynne Ray

Dreamweavers’ First Day!

They have arrived! Ten girls dressed in beautiful red, yellow, blue, gold kurtas were introduced to the company at Sarawagi’s office. After a long, winding journey through the mountains from the villages of Dang and Bardia, they joined us after a much needed rest. Wide-eyed and shy, they all held on to each other, shuffling in as a single unit. I mustered up my best Nepali introduction, my head buzzing with excitement. We sat at the long wooden desk in the meeting room and Bimala, who is spearheading the program, gave a wonderful presentation to the attentive girls.

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We listened to the deep but friendly voice of Dev Sarawagi, the company’s founder and CEO, as he showed the girls the process of bringing a rug to life. Shally implored them with questions; most of the women nodded, yes, it was their first time in Kathmandu. They were excited to embark on a new opportunity, having come from small villages where they do not have the chance to make something of themselves.

It was their first time in Kathmandu

By the end of the meeting we finally got some quiet giggles out of them, and we all gathered to take pictures with the rugs and each other. I can’t even begin to describe the happiness I felt knowing that these women were as glad to meet me as I was to meet them.

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We took up most of the tables in a small café and Bimala looked so full of joy as she got to know the girls over lunch and appreciate the success of the program that she is bringing to life. When Shally asked what the girls would like to do, it was a unanimous vote to see the factory.

We crossed the dusty road, dodging trucks, motorbikes, and rickshaws, and squeezed into a bus. When we arrived, we walked through the gates to find a community of such beautiful and mesmerizing organized chaos.

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There were small children running around, playing with toys, rocks, sticks, and anything that could be made into a fun tool. Older children in their school uniforms who had just come home from school curiously watched the newcomers.

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Out on the covered patio were women and men spinning colorful balls of wool and silk, which were taken inside to be used by the men and women who sat under tall looms, weaving large, beautiful pieces of art. Pranathi, an architect from Banglore, India, laughed as she was taught how to spin. We are happy to have her as an honorary DreamWeaver; she has a keen eye for design and we welcome her insight and enthusiasm.

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Here, the girls seemed to forget that they were shy altogether and they quickly dispersed, asking the skilled weavers questions and testing their hand at the craft. They laughed as they tried, failed, and tried again to get the knot pattern correctly.

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I was lucky to learn from Nirmala, one of the three recently graduated DreamWeavers. Although she could not speak English and I could not speak Nepali, Nirmala and I communicated through smiles and laughter as she showed me how to knot the wool on the loom. It was both a meditative and empowering practice: it's incredible that such intricate and beautiful pieces of art are created with steadfast finger work, knot by knot. I left the weaving up to the professional and instead took up my camera, capturing the quick movements of her hands and a shy smile when I knelt down beside her.

It was both a meditative and empowering practice

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By the end of the day my cheeks were sore from smiling and we were all exhausted.

What now?

Currently, the women are staying in Kathmandu and are eager to begin their training. With practice, they should become weavers themselves by July. I can’t wait to watch these girls grow, learn alongside them, and see the capable women they become as they master the skill of a new craft.