Therapy at Hand Wild Earth Nepal

Festival Issue 102 Jul, 2010
Text by Nandita Rana / Photo: ECS Media

Bal Mandir, which has been in existence since 1964, is home to many homeless and orphaned infants, children and teenagers. A palace turned into an orphanage in Naxal, Kathmandu, the cries and peals of children’s laughter resuscitate its ageing walls into a nurturing sanctuary.

Wild Earth Nepal (WEN) is an organization that has touched the lives of many children living here. As part of its social outreach initiative, WEN’s Baby Massage is led by Shashi Nakarmi whose extensive repertoire includes Newari Baby Massage.

Carroll Dunham, founder of WEN, is a graduate in cultural anthropology from Princeton University. She has lived the past quarter century in Kathmandu and is a lover of wilderness, traditional medicinal plants and healers. Leading National Geographic expeditions throughout the Himalayas and Mongolia, she has authored several books and also helped produce over a dozen documentaries on the Himalayas for PBS, BBC, CBC and National Geographic.

Carroll elaborates on WEN and its activities:

How did you come to envision WEN?
Wild Earth arose out of a very real and genuine desire to create a sustainable enterprise, utilizing Nepal’s rich herbal legacy, made by women. I lived among rural communities in Humla when in my twenties, helping women
manure fields. I was struck by the hardship of their lives. When I asked women from Bargaon village what I could possibly do to benefit them, they said, “Help us make money for our kids’ school fees, food (during food-deficit months), for medicine.”

It struck me then how women-earning has a great impact on the entire community and especially children’s wellbeing. That’s really what started WEN—the simple riddle of how to bring some kind of benefit directly to rural women.

What are WEN products all about?
Wild Earth products are based both on sustainably harvested wild crafted and cultivated herbs. We are limited by what we can make with our hands. We work with over 47 different herbs coming from throughout the country. We start by listening and research—just as I began 25 years ago in Humla—listening to women (midwives), documenting not only their herbal knowledge, but also their hand knowledge—literacy of understanding touch and how to use it therapeutically.

Your sources of inspiration?
I worked closely with Anita Roddick, founder of a company called The Body Shop, which she started from scratch. She was the first in the bodycare industry to refuse to test on animals, the first to set up a fair trade department in a bodycare company, and the first to hire an anthropologist. My job was to research the rites and rituals of bodycare around the world, research indigenous ingredients used for skin and haircare throughout the world and help develop product ranges.

I worked with Ayurvedic doctors and learnt that there was a subtle science to scent and how it was used for healing benefits, not unlike what is known as aromatherapy.

Proud memories for WEN?
Working with master masseuse, Joanna Claire and Amchi Sherab Barma, developing Himalayan treatments for the five-star global hotel chain, Shangri-La, and winning the Asia Spa Crystal Baccarat awards for “Best Spa Treatment” for tsampa rub. WEN was involved in developing SWAN-Spa and Wellness Association of Nepal.

Is WEN coming up with anything new?
We are coming out with a new range of Fresh! products. As they contain no harmful preservatives, they offer the very best for your skin. And WEN is excited about its new range of trek products. It will be offering a month-long Trek foot and head massage training beginning July 1, and Himalayan Therapies training beginning October 1. To offer new opportunities to rural communities, WEN hopes to spark small rural micro enterprises providing trekkers with dignified head and foot massage therapies.