Feeling the Earth Move

| 15 Jun 2015 | 05:41

Joseph Carini was hiking in the Himalayas when the earth started moving.

“I didn’t know what was happening, and then rocks came down the mountain and big clouds of dust came up,” he said.

The New York native and luxury carpet maker was on one of his regular trips to Nepal, where his Tribeca-based company, Carini Lang, manufactures hand-woven carpets, when a massive earthquake rocked the country on April 25. While some of his manufacturing facilities sustained minor damage, Carini’s business was lucky. But many of the Nepali people he employs lost homes, and lost family.

Just days before the earthquake, Carini visited a remote farmhouse where a group of women weave traditional carpets. Carini provides the women with materials and instruction from a master weaver, and buys their finished products. When he returned to their facility after the earthquake, he found their workshop destroyed, along with their homes. Like others in the area, they were living under clear plastic tents, and monsoon season, which lasts from June through September, was threatening.

Carini launched a GoFundMe campaign to finance the construction of a new studio space and temporary home for the weavers, which will protect them through the rainy months. Once the wet weather subsides, Carini hopes to finance a more permanent, and stable, home for them built from local materials, such as bamboo and clay. He is also developing a nonprofit relief fund to finance long-term projects in Nepal.

Carini was hiking at about 12,000 feet when the earthquake hit. With no planes flying out of a small airport nearby following the devastation, he and some fellow travelers rented a small bus to take them down the mountain’s rugged roads and back to Kathmandu.

“These are roads you could make action movies on,” he said of the narrow, bumpy trail which took the bus 12 hours to traverse. “It was more scary than the earthquake.”

Another day later, Carini arrived back in Kathmandu, and found the city quiet. Everything was closed. Homes were destroyed or severely damaged. Many took shelter in makeshift tents.

“I remember coming into the city and seeing clear plastic tarps in these open spaces,” he said.

Carini delivered food and water to those displaced from their homes. He also worked an overnight shift in a trauma center. But once he returned to New York, and following a second earthquake in May, he wanted to continue helping those he knows in the area.

In 19 days, Carini’s friends and clients have brought him within about $1,000 of his $7,500 GoFundMe goal. Earlier this month, he hosted a fundraising event for another relief fund in his company’s Greenwich Street showroom. Following the earthquake, friends told Carini that they wanted to contribute to relief efforts, but were unsure where their money would go if they gave to large organizations, he said.

“It’s very appealing if they can make a donation and see what’s directly happening,” Carini said. “I’m able to post photos and people feel emotionally connected to a project. They see the people that they’re helping and they feel more engaged with it.”