Say ‘Namaste’ to Maya. May is a street-seller in Thamel, the tourist area of Kathmandu. We met her many years ago when she approached us with her armfuls of brightly coloured purses and bags. The first time, like all tourists do, and sellers expect, we haggled and bought just a few bags for our own family. When we got home these were so happily received we called them ‘Happy Bags’ and decided to buy more the next time we went and bring them back you sell to make funds for our children’s home in Kathmandu. (We had ‘adopted’ the small orphanage of 22 children when we first went to Nepal in 2009 on a medical programme with Health Partnership Nepal and we go back (at our own expense) each Spring and Autumn to see and work with them.) We got to know Maya talking to her almost every day and found out she supported herself and her two young girls, Priti and Ktiti. We told her we would buy many bags at ‘top price’ no haggling every time and in this way we would help support her put her two girls into school.
Every time we went back and met Maya we would hug her. At first she found this very unsettling. ‘No, I am low caste, I cannot be friends.’ ‘Of course you can’, we told her, and she was then pleased to be hugged each and every time we meet her during our usually month long visits, and even join us for tea and cake in our hotel which is where she is in this picture. When we started the Freedom Kit Bags programme we immediately thought of Maya and her two girls. When she has her period Maya cannot work and so cannot make an income for her family. She was absolutely thrilled to receive them and told the other female street-sellers all about them ... so, obviously, they came … and, suddenly, surprisingly, we had begun our Freedom Kit Bags ‘street-sellers’ progamme.