Designing for House With Heart's felt-training program
Changing Livelihoods refers to both directing design students and design education from the for-profit to non-profit sector, and connecting young designers with organizations and projects who engage in training and support of Making communities that promote independent livelihoods.
In 2019 three Parsons Product Design students, traveled to Katmandu, Nepal, to work for House with a Heart, an orphanage for abandoned Nepalese children, founded by Beverly Bronson in 2001.
In addition, Beverly set up a women’s tailoring and felt-making program, aiming to give training and instruction to community women so they could provide income to support their families and address address the leading cause of child-abandonment: lack of money.
This skills-building support is vital: as the economist Jeffrey Sachs points out, “When impoverished families bear many children, it can have tragic results: as the families cannot afford to invest in the nutrition, health and education of each child, they may send only one child - a son - to school. High fertility rates in one generation, tend to lead to impoverishment of the children and to high fertility rates in the following generation”.
Offering women jobs and skills-building opportunities enhances their children’s chances at education and health services, and is a first step out of the poverty trap.
The women in the felt-program create a range of skillfully made products, including slippers, scarves, toys and Christmas ornaments. Our aim was threefold: introduce new felt-product ideas, utilize an abundant stack of donated cashmere scarfs for new potential products, and to photograph and put together an easily updatable product-catalogue.
In addition we began researching alternative plant-based materials in which the women could use in prospective projects such as Nettle fiber, and were able to meet with a Bamboo crafting community in the outskirts of Kathmandu, arranged by Adhikari Shankar, Forest Officer at the REDD Implementation Centre, Nepal Ministry of Forests and Environment. Mr. Shankar also introduced us to Mr. Pashupati Koirala, the Undersecretary at Ministry of Forests and Environment and at the forefront of Nepal’s Leasehold Forestry Program, who generously showed us around the handicraft trade-show which displayed regional crafts made from a variety of plant-based resources - including products created in the program.
We were in Nepal for three weeks, and individually fundraised for the event through Go Fund Me.
This is as an on-going project.