It’s a Little World after all | TheUnion.com

It’s a Little World after all

Laurie Porter
Special to The Union

Despite hard times, Nevada County businesses are reaching out in friendship to a country halfway around the world: Pakistan.

At California Organics in Nevada City’s Seven Hills District, a wall display is devoted to colorful, hand-embroidered note cards bearing images of flowers, leaves, swirls and abstract designs. At Yabobo downtown, a rack on the counter near the cash register has more.

Nine businesses in western Nevada County are carrying the cards, imported by Nevada City home builder Greg Zaller to support the nonprofit educational group Little World Community Organization. Four more stores out of the area also carry them.

But none of the small, family-owned businesses make any money on the cards.

“People react with emotion to both the loveliness of the cards and the developing of peace through creativity and beauty,” said Andrea Baruch de la Pardo of Mowen Solinsky Gallery on Broad Street.

The cards are embroidered by Pakistani women to support their schools – and in many cases, their own education. All proceeds from card sales go back to them.

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Zaller went to Pakistan as a volunteer to build houses after the 2005 earthquake, and he saw firsthand the dismal state of education in many small villages.

According to HighBeam Research, the literacy rate in Pakistan is the lowest among the south and west Asian countries. In some villages, literacy rates for women are less than 3 percent.

Zaller and a passionate young Pakistani volunteer, Aneel Mushtaq, founded Little World Community Organization in 2008 to provide schools to villages that want them. Through Little World, women are learning to read and write – and often going home and teaching their husbands.

The all-volunteer organization has grown to more than 30 schools with more than 3,000 students. Requests for more schools keep coming in.

To fund their schools, the students came up with the idea of embroidering cloth and setting the designs into greeting cards; women learned to embroider for this project.

Cards cost $5 – and the entire amount is returned directly into the hands of local committees of embroiderers who use the cash to pay the expenses of their schools. They also are funding new schools.

What can $5 buy? Tuition for one student for one year at a Little World school, where students learn useful skills in addition to academics.

What does it cost to open a new school? $200.

California Organics was the first business that offered to display the Little World cards.

“It adds back to us to connect to the community and the wider world,” Manager Tristan McLarty said. “We’re all about supporting good things that enrich all of our lives.”

The wall display in the restaurant is not practical for most small stores, so volunteer Douglas Raglin worked with Zaller to fashion point-of-purchase displays out of materials bought at Staples.

Then Raglin, who has a background in marketing, offered to visit stores and ask owners to carry the cards.

“It was surprisingly easy,” Raglin said. “Probably 70 percent of the stores I approached offered to carry the cards, even though all of the money from their sale in donated back to LWCO.”

All the teachers and support personnel in Pakistan volunteer their time, as does everyone who helps in the United States.

Little World student Ambreen Gull recently wrote to volunteers in the United States: “We had never even imagined that people from a far, far country would help us and let us be a part of their lives. Their help means we are not alone.”

Nevada City resident and high school teacher Laurie Porter is married to Greg Zaller.

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