In March, I had the extreme joy and honor of traveling to Kathmandu, Nepal with our friends from DharmaShop.com to capture the stories of the artisans who create incredible handmade products. I slept under the stars only a few miles from the Himalayan mountain range, filmed fabulously talented artisans, met wonderful friends and experienced first-hand the beautiful Nepalese culture (and probably said "Namaste" 5,000 times).
My heart ached when we all learned of the massive earthquake that struck Nepal, leaving the region—and many of the friends I had made on the trip—devastated. The 7.8 magnitude quake on April 25 killed almost 9,000 people, destroyed nearly half a million houses and left thousands in need of food, clean water and shelter.
It’s hard for us to envision the full scope of this, because in America, we have infrastructure for disaster. We have the means and abilities to quickly clean the rubble, sort out the wreckage and search for the lost souls. In Kathmandu, it’s a totally different situation. Most people don’t even have access to garbage pickup—trash just accumulates on the side of the road and rubble from abandoned projects is omnipresent.
Already one of the poorest countries in the world, Nepal's economy relies heavily on tourism and the products they export. Peak tourist season is from late-September through November and typically brings in $1.6 bln annually.
Following the earthquakes, however, the FCO is still advising against all but essential travel to several regions across the country, which means bookings are down for adventure travel companies and hotels remain empty. A recently published post-disaster report commissioned by the government shows tourist numbers fell by 90% after the quake.
Despite all of this, our friends remain in good spirits and hopeful there will be a recovery.
I sent my friend Prajwol (Prashwall) a message on Facebook recently and asked if there was anything I could do to help. He told me the best thing I can do is to share the videos that we’ve created for DharmaShop and encourage people to buy Nepalese products, as this gives them a much needed cashflow and maybe more importantly, a job to do.
So that's why I'm sharing this. Check out DharmaShop.com, a Michigan-based, values-driven online retailer of Nepalese goods that you can shop confidently knowing they have a direct line in supporting Nepalese and Tibetan artists.
Thanks and "Namaste" (Nah-mah-stay),
Prajwol buying a banana from a street vendor: