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Nepal has become a significant part of Gandys, from our Himalayan knitwear collection which draws inspiration from the colourful flags that fly high on the mountain range to becoming the home of our third kids campus. But why Nepal? Although it’s a beautiful destination, it has had more than its fair share of traumatic events. In 2015, Nepal suffered one of the worst earthquakes in world history, leaving thousands of people homeless, killing 9,000 people and injuring 22,000. We felt that we had to help out in some way, as we have experienced first hand the physical and mental trauma these tragic events bring - so on the 15 year anniversary of the Boxing Day Tsunami, it was only right that we built a new campus.
When searching for a new location for our campus, we knew we had to find somewhere that was significant to us. When we heard about a secondary school that needed works to make it earthquake proof, we knew instantly that this was the place. We understand how devastating a natural disaster would have been to those who suffered as a result of the earthquake, so it was great to see how well the kids are doing and how they are moving on with their lives in a positive way. When we arrived, we were welcomed with an incredible opening ceremony and a storm of energy from all the kids. It was a truly magical moment to see, and just knowing how much they appreciated what Gandys, its UK partner ChoraChori and the Nepalese community have done for them makes what we are doing so worthwhile.
The campus is split into three sections: one secondary school building, a refuge house for girls who had been sexually abused, and a boys dormitory. The campus is run by Chora Chori, an organisation whose mission is to confront violence against children in Nepal, including child rape, managing trauma and bringing chid rapists to justice. The campus houses children who have been trafficked, sexually abused, and who have had a hard start in life. It’s devastating to hear what the kids have gone through, especially at such a young age, and that’s why it is so important to us that we raise awareness and push ourselves to help them, just like we were helped after the tsunami. The campus also houses children with disabilities. We met a young Nepalese girl who was deaf, but made the most beautiful jewellery; she was so proud that we wanted to buy some of her pieces and the smile we received in return was so heartwarming.
The boys’ hostel, funded and supported by Gandys, looks after kids that have been trafficked into slave labor, with some of the residents as young as 9 years old. They were put into situations beyond belief just so that they could survive. The refuge offers the kids somewhere to work, earn a little money and gives them a bed to sleep with two meals a day.
The secondary school offers a variety of classes where the kids can gain a wide range of skills and knowledge, aiding them to become successful in the real world after they leave the campus. Classes include: tailoring, arts and crafts, jewellery making and art. They are also taught Maths, English and Science. Therapy sessions are also offered to teach the children different coping mechanism through areas such as music, dance and sport. We were privileged to meet some of the teachers who work at the school. The majority of them are local teachers who come and volunteer, with help from international volunteers coming from all across the world. These teachers are essential in building the kids confidence and leading them into successful careers, and from what we have seen they work extremely hard to make sure the kids have all the tools necessary for building a positive life. We want to thank all the volunteers who have made this possible.
On the last day of our visit we went to an art exhibition that the kids hosted, where they were mentored by talented Colombian artist Dairo Vargas and his #TheArtListens initiative to bring awareness to mental health issues. Dairo helped the kids to bring out their creativity and channel their trauma into something positive. It was great to see the kids doing something creative as Gandys is a creative brand at the heart, so we have taken the energy from our own traumatic experience and combined it with fashion to use as a force for good. They were amazed that people were taking pictures of their paintings and congratulating them on what they had done. What they painted really hit home. The majority decided to paint a house, trying to capture the dream of a normal home life, something that we take for granted everyday.
It's amazing to see our vision coming to life, and how all our hard work has well and truly paid off. The fact that we are helping so many children have a better start in life is so rewarding and we will never stop trying to achieve our goal, to build as many kids campuses as we can all across the world. One thing is for certain - we couldn’t have done any of this without you guys! The support that everyone has given to us over the years has been phenomenal, and to see the passion you have for Gandys makes us thrive to achieve more and more each year. We cannot wait to go back and see how the kids are getting on!