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Badin Hall hosts Conscious Christmas sale to support rural Nepalese

| Friday, December 1, 2017

For the past nine years, Badin Hall’s signature event Conscious Christmas has supported the rural population of Nepal through HOPE Initiative, a charity founded by their faculty fellow, anthropology professor Ann-Marie Conrado. The fair trade sale will take place Friday from noon until 6 p.m. in the ballroom of LaFortune Student Center and features unique crafts from baskets to jewelry made by Nepalese artisans.

“We [in the HOPE Initiative] basically work in education in some sense — how do we expand and create educational opportunities?” Conrado said. “Some of those are in the area of working with handicraft artisans, which is where the sale comes in.”

Photo courtesy of Ann-Marie Conrado

Students purchase fair trade goods from Nepal as part of Badin Hall’s Conscious Christmas event.

Each summer for the past ten years, Conrado has brought Notre Dame design students to Nepal, where they work side-by-side with local artisans to create marketable products. Many of those products will be featured in the fair trade sale, Conrado said.

“Art and design students here [at Notre Dame] travel there, work with the artisans, start to understand the kinds of techniques they use, how they make products and then they actually develop things that are much more attractive and appealing to people here or in Europe,” she said.

The direct contact the women of Badin have with HOPE Initiative provides them with a unique opportunity to see the tangible effects of their work, Conrado said.

“We founded this organization back in 2003, and it’s small — it’s grassroots — but I think it also provides a way for Badin to have such an immediate connection because there’s not a lot of middlemen, it’s not this big bloated organization,” she said. “They raise funds, and they see something happen with it.”

Last year, Conrado said, the sale raised nearly $13,000, which went to building a playground at an impoverished school, now known as the “Badin Playground.” The HOPE Initiative seeks to remedy the issues and factors that keep children out of school, she said. Making school appealing is one of those challenges.

“A lot of the problems are that for kids, there’s nothing stimulating and there’s nothing fun about school, and they really dread going to it,” Conrado said. “With funding from Badin and their support, we actually built a playground — and that’s incredible to me that that dorm and the ladies of that dorm and all their hard work now have a very physical presence in world.”

HOPE Initiative also runs HOPE House, a small orphanage in Kathmandu that seeks to provide orphaned children with the love and support they would not otherwise receive in a country with no social safety net.

“It’s small because we are really family-oriented, we are dedicated to this group of kids, and we are trying to give them a very different educational experience,” Conrado said.

Previously held in Badin’s common space, Conscious Christmas will be held in the LaFun Ballroom this year due to the ongoing renovation in Badin. Though they initially saw the switch as a challenge, sophomores and signature events commissioners Alice Felker and Jackie O’Brien now view the location change as an improvement.

“We’re hoping that because it’s in [the] LaFun ballroom we can get the average student who’s stopping by Starbucks to come upstairs, learn a bit about HOPE Initiative, shop around, grab some free chai,” O’Brien said. “It’s also giving more exposure to HOPE Initiative as an organization.”

Felker and O’Brien said the sale is their most successful fundraiser every year. Felker attributed its popularity to the high-quality, unique gift opportunities.

“The reason why we do it this time of year is so that students can buy presents for siblings or parents. And it will be doing two things: You’re giving to someone you love, and you’re also giving to these kids you don’t know — but who really need your support in a lot of different ways,” Felker said. “It’s a really great event in that sense — you’re giving twice, essentially.”

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