Sky McLaugllin is not only hoping to raise awareness of the plight of people in Afghanistan but also help them through her latest endeavour.
McLaughlin has dedicated a portion of her career to developing international education programs. In 2007 she accepted a position with the USAID funded Afghanistan Higher Education Program to develop the capacity of the Afghan higher education system. Her latest endeavour allows her to contribute to the rebuilding of Afghanistan.
This Saturday, November 14, McLaughlin will be at the Ramada Conference Room from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. More than just novelty imports, these are handcrafted works from the people.
“During my two years in Kabul I had the opportunity to travel throughout the country and learn about the history, culture and traditions of the Afghan people. They have suffered decades of conflict and extreme poverty, but have a beauty and resilience I have not seen elsewhere. They are a people of spirit, faith and warmth,” she said.
“I wanted to continue to contribute to the rebuilding of Afghanistan. One way that I could do that was to support, in a small way, the economic development of the country by importing a range of unique, traditional, hand-crafted items from across Afghanistan. In so doing, my company Gandhara Designs provides access to the Canadian market for women, refugees and artisans. This activity is a form of direct aid - supporting individuals to reclaim traditional skills, earn an income by receiving fair wages for their labour and feed and educate their families.”
“I have been working in industry and working with people getting their goals and ideas off the ground for more than 10 years,” she said.
“Obviously my goal is to support the people in Afghanistan but it is viable for Canada as well. I think people are looking for a more ethical, more sustainable way of giving that they can focus their financial resources on, and they are interested in buying from smaller corporations knowing their efforts are making a direct impact on the quality of people’s lives.”
McLaughlin has roots in the valley. Her family were homesteaders in the area. Her great grandparents Lorne and Annie Tario, and Bill and Pauline Ritchie (nee Martin) settled in the Michichi area. Her mother Wendy Tario is from Drumheller.
“The reason I picked Drumheller is I’m looking to come home. I’ve been away for a very long time and I have lived in very large cities and around the world, but my spirit has always been here,” she said.
Another reason for her launch in Drumheller has to do with the people of the area.
“People in small towns have that natural affinity to these kind of things because Albertans come from a rural economy, and Afghans come from a rural economy, agriculture is what sustains them.”
“The Canadian debate about Afghanistan focuses on whether or not our military should remain engaged in Kandahar. From my perspective, there are many other issues Canadians could be debating. One of those is how to develop an Afghan economy so that there are real changes in the daily life of the most impoverished - changes that bring food to the hungry, education to the illiterate and employment to widows and refugees,” she said.
Her display at the Ramada this Saturday will be more than a great chance for people to come and check out some interesting items in time for Christmas shopping.
Beyond that, she could see a relationship between Drumheller and a community in Afghanistan.
“Ideally in the long term there is possibilities of some twinning between Drumheller and a village or small city in Afghanistan. There is so much expertise in Drumheller in terms of agriculture, environmental conservation and water conservation.”