As I sat in the dark, damp room, I heard chattering voices and the shuffle of paper all around me. I looked up to watch as razor blades were exchanged for rulers and a tub of glue was being passed around with a toothbrush in it for putting the glue on the paper’s seams.

The five Nepalese women I was working with were busily creasing, gluing and cutting their lokta paper. In a few short hours they had quickly picked up the ability to make several sizes of paper bags. As I taught them where to measure, cut and glue the paper, they followed along with me. Although I was the one who showed them how to make the bags, my output was steadily falling behind the number of bags that they were creating with their dexterous fingers and sharp eyes.

My name is Jessica and I am a senior high school student living in Singapore. For the past two years my family and I have gone to Nangi, Nepal, for a few weeks over the summer. The first year we went, we installed two solar water heaters so that the village can raise money for their school by charging hikers for taking showers when they trek through and stay at the new campground. Then this past summer, we helped to install a solar electric panel and battery system for the village’s new medical clinic. The clinic has medical and dental equipment , as well as a computer that has been set up to video conference with larger medical facilities. Since electricity in Nangi is not always reliable, having this source of energy will ensure that the clinic has a steady supply of electricity. Now Lila, Rupa, and Chitra will have the electricity that they need to take care of any illness or injury, no matter the circumstances.

Also this past year, as a more personal project, I taught several of the women in Nangi to make paper bags out of the lokta paper that they produce in the village. During our first trip in 2010, we noticed that the women made lots of beautiful paper, but, other than small journal books, there did not seem to be any other finished products to sell. At our home in Singapore, my mother and I sat and brainstormed ways to make their craftwork more easily sellable. One of our first ideas was to make paper bags. I figured out how to put a paper bag together from a piece of paper we had bought while in Nangi the previous summer, and after looking at the finished product, we knew that we had found just what we were looking for.

Over the summer, the women from Nangi and I made over 500 bags, which my family and I are now selling. We are selling them at the Singapore American School, where my siblings and I go to school. We are also looking into selling them on ebay. If anyone is interested in buying these bags (they would be great for holiday and birthday gifts!), please email me at scubadivingrl@yahoo.com. We intend to donate all of the money we raise to the school in Nangi.

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