December 27, 2001 - Hartford Courant: Former Peace Corps Worker sells Jewelry to Support two Causes

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By Admin1 (admin) on Friday, December 28, 2001 - 9:38 am: Edit Post

Former Peace Corps Worker sells Jewelry to Support two Causes

Read and comment on this story from the Hartford Cournat on a RPCV who is working with artists in Nepal in support of two causes at:

Former Peace Corps Worker sells Jewelry to Support two Causes*

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Former Peace Corps Worker sells Jewelry to Support two Causes

Dec 27, 2001 - Hartford Courant Author(s): Brenda Sullivan; Courant Staff Writer

A little piece of gauze held on with white tape protects the index finger she burned while working a piece of metal into an earring.

"I am still learning," said Jenipher Young-Hall.

For the past several months, Young-Hall has been experimenting with jewelry designs that she hopes will be easily reproduced by a group of artists several thousand miles away, in Nepal.

The idea is to provide them with prototypes of items that can be produced there and then shipped back to the United States for sale, along with more traditional pieces.

Jewelry design is just one of several new skills Young-Hall, a longtime Manchester resident and a former social worker, has been learning since she decided to create a new company she calls Mahila: Women Helping Women.

The company sells handcrafted Nepalese and Tibetan jewelry in support of two causes.

One is a scholarship program that sends poor Nepalese girls to a private school. The other is to help fund a mobile surgeon who works primarily with children born with cleft palate deformities. The surgeon also is training Nepalese doctors to perform the same procedure.

Some of the Mahila jewelry will be on display through the month of January at the One of a Kind Gallery at 717 Main St., along with other items in an exhibit called "Angels, Spirits and Their Nesting Places."

The jewelry is primarily sold through home parties, similar to Tupperware parties -- but with a difference. The presentations include a slide presentation about what life is like in the Peace Corps, and about the programs the jewelry sales support.

A portion of the funds raised at these parties is paid to the jewelers.

Additional funding is channeled through the Unitarian Church Society East to a missionary speech pathology therapist and a Nepalese school liaison. The money is used to pay for supplies for the surgeon, as well as for tuition, books, clothing and other living expenses for the school girls.

Young-Hall's home-based business, which began as an evening and weekend project, was launched as a full-fledged business in November 2000. It is the outgrowth of her experiences as a Peace Corps community development worker in Nepal from 1994 to 1996.

Joining the Peace Corps was the fulfillment of a long-held dream, she said. "This is something I've wanted to do since I was in high school. When my children were finally grown up, I saw the opportunity and I took it," she said. She was 52 years old at the time.

Young-Hall graduated from Boston University in 1983 with a bachelor's degree in social work and then went on to earn a master's degree in social work at St. Joseph's College.

As a social worker she was often discouraged by the short-term effects of her work. Nepal was a very different experience, she said.

"I worked in substance abuse and family counseling -- and so often I would see the things that were done, undone," she said. "In Nepal, the women are motivated -- you give them a slight edge and they take it."

During her Peace Corps term, Young-Hall developed strong ties in Surkhet, and decided to create some kind of enterprise that would allow the women to address some of the problems created by poverty.

"I went to the women and asked them what their priorities were, and they said education and health," she said.

Birth defects -- due to poor nutrition, pollution, genetics and other prenatal factors -- are very common in western Nepal. The cleft palate is the failure of the upper mouth to growth together during a fetus's development.

As for the scholarship program, only 25 percent of the country is literate and girls receive little or no formal education, particularly children of the lower classes.

The girls are chosen by a committee in Nepal to gauge their chances of successfully completing school. After graduation, some have gone on to become paid tutors and are planning to attend college.

To create the jewelry that is sold to support these programs, Young-Hall works with a small group of women artists who create designs for earrings, necklaces, bracelets, hair ornaments and other items that are produced by jewelers in Kathmandu, Nepal. A new artist recently joined the effort and is creating designs for hand-painted silk scarves.

Sales have been going very well, Young-Hall said. "We like to think we have something for everyone," she said. Prices range from $18 for a pair of earrings to upwards of $300 for more ornate items.

More information about hosting a home party is available by calling Jenipher Young-Hall at 860-643-9877.

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