Supporting Lily's Leaves through The Big Give

Written by Philip Holmes on Thursday 22nd April 2021

Supporting Lily's Leaves through The Big Give

One of the best ways to make a charitable gift to Nepal is through a Big Give appeal, whereby your gift can automatically double in value. Basically, a Big Give appeal can allow online donations (i.e. using a credit or debit card) made between certain dates to potentially double in value on a first-come, first-served basis. In other words, the minimum possible online donation of £5 can automatically become £10. 

This miraculous transformation is made possible through matching pledges that we secure in advance of the appeal from generous major donors, grant-making Foundations, clubs (such as Rotary International, Inner Wheel or Soroptimist International) and corporates. The minimum pledge is £100 with nothing payable until after the Appeal ends on the 28th June. The good news for pledgers is that, unlike the online donations, pledges can be made by bank transfer or cheque. This is a method more appropriate to organisational financial transactions. Therefore, through pledging an organisation will be making an investment rather than a grant, with the potential for the gift to double in value through incentivised public donations.

On the 8th June we will be launch a special Big Give appeal to raise £50,000 in vital funds for the Lily's Leaves social enterprise that we helped set up in October 2020 and are committed to support for its first three years of operation. This is your chance to make a really meaningful charity gift to Nepal that can transform the prospects of women who are the margins of Nepalese society, turning them into role models and leaders. And you can donate in any major currency, from wherever you live in the world.

But what's Lily's Leaves all about?

Lily Katuwal (left) and Hashana Shrestha

Lily's Leaves was set up by two dynamic young Nepalese women, Lily Katuwal and Hashana Shrestha, as an offshoot from a previous NGO partner, where Lily had been in charge of all the organisation's vocational training and clinical psychologist Hashana had been responsible for counselling child abuse victims. The vision was to supplement training by producing goods for sale that would allow self-sustainability and develop an income for support to mental health programmes. 

The trainees are derived from two sources. The major group consists of women from impoverished and marginalised rural communities in Province 2 (southeast Nepal). In this patriarchal society women have little say and no prospects; instead girls face the ordeal of child marriage and a continuation of the cycle of poverty. This group is trained in tailoring skills. The second group consists of young deaf women from Kathmandu itself. Deaf people are highly stigmatised in Nepal; they are cruelly nicknamed "lato" which means "stupid". This stigma alongside their physical limitations means that they have no job prospects in a country where able-bodied people struggle to find employment. Lily's Leaves teaches these women the skills required for silver jewellery manufacture. In our experience, they make outstanding jewellers, perhaps through having a greater focus because of the lack of aural distractions.

As the name suggests, Lily's Leaves has strong green credentials. Our Aim is that, in due course, Lily's Leaves will be developing products that arise from the community forests of south Nepal - forests that we are currently helping to restore - and draw upon local craft skills. This will provide livelihoods to marginalised people from "untouchable" castes and minority ethnic groups. Lily and Hashana have already been exploring such possibilities through field visits. During these trips, Hashana has been meeting rape survivors and engaging with other organisations to develop a support network that can combine psychosocial counselling support with training options as part of a rehabilitation process. Meanwhile, Lily has been exploring local crafts woven from forest products.

This month, and as a joint venture with our partner UK charity Our Sansar, we opened a new 20-bed capacity girls' refuge in Janakpur, the capital of Province 2. This will provide protection and a range of rehabilitation services to abuse victims. Hashana has been tasked with providing staff training and supervision to the newly appointed junior counsellor. It is feasible that, after the necessary rehabilitation has been completed locally, a young woman could return to her family or join the skills training at the Lily's Leaves centre in Kathmandu.

Training and production complementing one another

Trainee Rojina Thapa Magar with a prototype schoolbag

Lily's Leaves conducts six-month long tailoring courses at basic and advanced levels. Trainees have the option of completing basic training and returning home with a sewing machine and table as a gift from Pipal Tree to help graduates get set up in their own small business. Or, they may enrol in a further six-month long advanced training course that could lead to good employment in Kathmandu. Young women may come from the local area or from Province 2. For the latter group, Lily's Leaves provides accommodation at its girls' hostel. While on the course, all training (and accommodation) is free of charge and the young women receive a basic training allowance which equates to "pocket money". During the course of this year, 40 young women will take part in training, 30 of these at basic level and 10 at advanced.

In this way, we provide skills for life and hope for the future based upon providing the opportunity for young women to lift themselves out of poverty. But there is more to it than that. We are working to make Lily's Leaves self-sustaining through sale of goods rather than relying entirely upon grants - and future Big Gives! To this end we are collaborating with UK registered charity Fashion with Heart Creations to develop tailoring products. 

Clearly, this is a challenging time in retail, so in the short term we are developing products that overlap with our other projects and that may be funded through charitable grants or by public appeals. Specifically, the women who are learning tailoring are producing schoolbags as bulk orders that can be sold to private schools in Nepal and delivered free to under-resourced state and community schools for the benefit of the poorest children and prioritising the needs of girls. A first consignment of 200 bags will be made for the children at the school for untouchable children that we will be supporting in a five year programme from June. See this link

The other approach that we are adopting is to identify bulk orders (that can be wholesale) which is a more cost-effective and productive approach that making individual items for our own online store - but that day will come too! The deaf women will soon be making "treecelets" (a combination of tree and bracelet!) made from Pipal seeds with a silver Pipal Tree logo and clasp that can be sold on the basis of each sale funding the planting of a tree in our reforestation programme.

A treecelet prototype

Sujita's story

It has been a major, brave, step - a leap of faith - for young women to leave the (superficial) security of their home villages in southeast Nepal and travel up to Kathmandu, a very alien city that none have seen before. They leave behind homes that are little more than mud huts to stay in a city that is a Lego-like mass of brick-built two and three storey houses. Only 7% of people in their home District speak Nepali as their first language, so, these Maithili-speaking trainees will need to learn the national language as well. This, of course, is a further invaluable life-skill for the future. But the biggest impact must be in how their horizons are broadened and the realisation that life need not be confined to the endless cycle of poverty that accompanies the small world of village life.

Here is one young woman's story: Last November, we recorded Dev Narayan Mandal, Executive Chairman and Founder of the Mithila Wildlife Trust, interviewing Sujita Sada (pictured) just before she left her village home in Dhanusha District for the bright lights of Kathmandu. See the film below in which Sujita explained her hopes and expectations from the training. 

Yesterday, I received this little update from Sujita which I am publishing in its original form and with her ready agreement:

Sujita in training

"My name is Sujita Kumari Sada, 18 years old, and I live with my brother and sister in law. My father and mother died when I was a child. From then onwards my brother took care of me. He is now in Qatar. As we know going to the work in Gulf countries is not easy and not safe. As they force to do a lot of work whereas salary is given less and if we try to go against them then they just murder us. Since we were not financially stable, he could not help me to raise or educate me. I have studied up to grade 8. Our only source of income is my brother's earning. We are facing a hard time financially. The whole world revolves around money. Life was and is hard. 

I was brought to Lily's Leaves for giving training of tailoring. It gave me hope and happiness. I felt like at least I will be learning some kind of skills. So I decided to join here thinking of tomorrow. At least I will be able to open tailor shop and work accordingly and earn money. It will help me to work on my own and help me to create a source of income for myself. 

So, I am thankful for giving such a wonderful opportunity for girls and women like us. Being here always encourages me to learn hard so I will be securing my future. After being somehow, financially stable, I will be going school as well for taking my higher education. I have a dream of being nurse so will be following my instincts in future. After I go to my village, learning this training, I would like to aware other girls like me to be self-dependent.

Recently, only two days before, I have returned from hospital after a surgery. Water sac was developed on my front neck that eventually grew bigger. Doctor suggested for surgery and I was worried about financial costing needed for it. In financial support of my very good sister-in-law from my village and Lily's Leaves, surgery is completed. It went well and I am happy for this." 

How you can help:

  1. If you or an organisation are in a position to make a pledge, please do so now using this online form, so that we can build momentum for the June Appeal and inspire others to do likewise. It only takes a minute to complete and, if you prefer, you can do so anonymously. If you are a member of Rotary, Inner Wheel or a Soroptimist, this is a great way for your club or District to support us.
  2. If you can't help with a pledge but would like to be sent a reminder when the Appeal goes live, then just ask Philip to add your name to our supporters.
  3. If you would like to donate a specific item to the workshop then that would be very welcome - for example, a sewing machine that a graduate receives on completion of training costs £90. This could be made as a virtual gift to a friend - we are very happy to let your friend know. If interested, again ask Philip and we can explore this and other possibilities.
  4. Would you be able to help us identify a bulk order? For instance, a customer for 20 aprons, 40 bags or 200 face-masks? We can discuss your suggestions for an order that would be time and cost-effective.
  5. If you would like to purchase some schoolbags as a charitable gift or know a potential outlet for treecelets then do get in touch.
  6. If none of these apply just now, that's fine, but please take a moment to join the Pipal Tree community. We send out e-updates, usually monthly, and Philip hosts short monthly Zoom update meetings that make for great listening. All Philip requires is your name and email address. Contact him here.

As ever, many thanks!

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