Maxine Brown, Founder of AmaDablam
Specialising in handmade cashmere and Fairtrade Nepalese gifts, with profits from sales used to support Himalayan projects
In 2015, I travelled to Nepal to help what became a small international volunteer group build a school in a rural village devastated by an earthquake. Through a Facebook video I discovered that a Nepalese friend of mine, Gokul Thupa – whom I’d met in Warsaw when I used to run an independent tour operator company named Poland Your Way – had been able to hire a helicopter with the help of a client to fly over numerous mountain villages so he could drop aid.
Relieved he was safe, I wanted to participate in the relief effort so initially – along with my friend Paula Manfield – I hosted a range of Nepalese-themed events (including market stalls and a pop-up restaurant) to raise funds. Amassing more than £2,500, Paula and I then took the decision to physically travel to Nepal to give Gokul the money in person and see if there was anything more we could do.
During the three weeks we were there, we spent a week building the school in the Rasuwa District and visiting other projects; then we came home with a suitcase full of cashmere and jewellery. Our plan was to sell all of it (which we did!) and send the profits back to complete the school.
Four years later, my business – named by Gokul, which translates as ‘Necklace of Everest’ – continues to operate on this model. The jewellery is sourced from a street vendor who is a dear friend of mine and has a young daughter named Rubi, whilst the cashmere is fully produced in a small factory with excellent working conditions.
I’ve so many exciting future plans, but my short-term goals are to continue supporting Rubi with her education and to give talks at schools about the Nepalese children. The latter goal has been fuelled by a one-off project I delivered to pupils at a local primary school, where they sent postcards and gifts to the children in Semjong Village. The Nepalese pupils sent posters in return, which I found to be a really empowering experience. A beautiful connection had been made between children from other sides of the world who practise different cultures – and I would love to make that happen again.