Travel Diary from GoodWeave Licensee Tania JohnsonMay 30, 2017
Longtime licensee Tania Johnson of Tania Johnson Design recently made her second visit to GoodWeave’s home for rescued children in Nepal. And this time, she brought along her whole family! Together, they spent an afternoon making masks, a fun and symbolic form of artistic expression for young children who are finding ways to reemerge from difficult pasts. Moved by the experience, Tania sent us this reflection on her trip and why it matters so much to her to be a part of GoodWeave.
During my most recent trip to Nepal, where I travel each year to meet with our manufacturer, I visited GoodWeave’s Hamro Ghar. Meaning “our home”, Hamro Ghar is a rehabilitation centre for children rescued from the rug looms. While it is illegal in Nepal for children under 14 years old to work, many are forced to do so, some as young as five. Many of the children are abused and have to work 16 hours a day, seven days a week.
This visit was my second time and no less moving than the first, when I took my then 10-year-old daughter with me. I remember on that first visit how impressed I was – the atmosphere was so peaceful and happy. I think my daughter had been quite nervous about visiting, unsure what to expect and perhaps worried she would feel very sad, but by the end, it was hard to get her to leave as she sat laughing and playing games with the children.
On this second visit I was thrilled to take not only both daughters but my husband too. Before going, we discussed at length what art project we should do with the children. From my prior visit, I knew that the children can be quite nervous initially, particularly with the language barrier. We decided on mask decorating and took a bunch of materials to decorate with.
Having arrived at Hamro Ghar traumatized, many of the children there have low self-confidence and at first some were a little shy. We started decorating the masks ourselves and that, combined with the amazing GoodWeave staff who tirelessly translated everything we said and were so enthusiastic themselves, got everyone started. My husband asked the children to choose which was better, his or our daughters’ masks, it was fairly unanimous that the girls’ designs were better although he did get a couple of sympathy votes! This seemed to spur everyone on and seeing what the children created was amazing – all so talented!
We met 51 rescued children at Hamro Ghar that afternoon, each of them is now safe and happy and 19 of them were due to be reunited with families that week. Just as the first time I visited, it was a very fun afternoon and a very moving one.
From the time I started my business, I wanted to ensure the rugs were produced ethically and to help the communities involved in their production. Being a member of GoodWeave ensures that can happen and visiting Hamro Ghar helps to remind me exactly what that means in a very real way. My daughters are the same age, even older, than many of these children were when they left their homes and were forced to work on the looms.
It is absolutely heartbreaking to look at each of those children and think of what they have suffered and what many other children are still suffering. Reading the news and seeing the atrocities that occur daily in so many places can be overwhelming and make one feel so helpless. But what you focus on at Hamro Ghar is seeing children who are happy, playing, learning and being cared for. It’s this aspect that has really resonated with me each time I have visited and I hope also what my children will have taken away with them.