My trip to Ikh Nart was amazingly successful. It seemed like all the stars aligned for my three days of meetings with the women who want to start a crafts cooperative.
It’s going to take a bit to sort it all out and write it down coherently, but the punchline is that they got the word out, fourteen women took a five day felt workshop a month or so ago, and, when they showed up at the research camp (a half hour early), their new Director, Boloroo, handed me a fourteen page proposal and the ladies spread almost two dozen felt craft items out on the tables we’d set up.
To say that we were off and running would be a major understatement. The ladies even had a name for their group- “Ikh Nart Is Our Future”- ready for my approval. I approved. Immediately.
I had purchased four meters of felt in UB to give them and, in three days, all of that was turned into slippers, purses, a large rug and a variety of other things.
I also brought the fabric for them to make del for my husband and I. They finished both of them, fully lined and all the fastenings made by hand, sewn on manual sewing machines and ironed with old irons heated on a propane stove, in three days.
The next step will be to work out the details of the $800 loan that they have requested to buy a felt press, since their intention is to make the felt themselves, not buy factory-made.
Gana Wingard, the biologist who made the trip with me as translator and liaison, was as blown away as I was at how much effort they had put into this. We were going to go out early and late to look for argali and ibex, but never had the time. The schedule and pace was set by the women and it was non-stop. I did see and photograph some argali on the way into the reserve and on the way out.
To Jeff Whiting and everyone at AFC- I can absolutely guarantee you that you have gotten your money’s worth and then some for awarding me this grant. There are single mothers and poor families who will be benefiting for years to come because you made it possible for me to go to Ikh Nart.
Here’s a few photos: