A North Shore couple has figured out the secret to being stylish, cozy and charitable this holiday season.
Elizabeth Leboe and Lenard Reid recently founded Jackets for Jasper: Heartwarming Down Jackets, a small company that sells lightweight jackets made in Nepal to support Nepali families.
The couple's goal is to put two Nepali children through school. They were inspired on a 2011 trip to the country where they developed a close bond with their trekking guide Kamal Adhikari.
"You're with someone night and day, trekking in these spectacular areas," said Reid. "We got to know him extremely well."
After the expedition, they were invited to visit Adhikari's family in a mountain village east of Kathmandu. There, they found their hosts to be warm and generous, in spite of them leading a very modest lifestyle. Adhikari and his wife live in a room the size of a kitchen with no running water.
"The average wage is $100 a month, yet they will be the first ones to offer their food, their home, anything," said Reid.
Adhikari's niece Resmi Nagarkoti, a charming five-year-old girl, is also from the village.
Near the end of their visit, Leboe and Reid were asked to sponsor her so that she could get an education. After locating a private school that was equipped with a pool, gym, computer lab and, most importantly, excellent teachers, the pair agreed.
"The challenge in Nepal is there's about a 66 per cent illiteracy amongst girls. Even if you attend public school there is a good chance you won't actually be able to learn to read or write very well," said Reid.
"Everyone in the family knew they just needed to give an opportunity to these children to break the cycle of poverty."
When Leboe and Reid returned to Canada, Adhikari revealed that his wife was pregnant with their first-born - a boy that he later asked the couple to name. They settled on Jasper, a tribute to the Rocky Mountains, where they first met, and to Nepal's mountainous climate.
Knowing that Adhikari would likely have to leave the country to find work and support his family, they began brainstorming how they could help.
"Rather that writing a cheque, was there any way we could work together where we get him involved in actively helping out his child and his niece?" they asked each other.
The couple decided on Jackets for Jasper, recalling that every other shop in Nepal carries high quality Gore-Tex and down jackets that are suitable for climbing Mount Everest.
Adhikari teamed up with a local manufacturer and recently sent over the first batch of jackets.
Made with 100 per cent goose down, they are water-resistant and ideal for cold, damp days in the city. Colours include black, teal and magenta; some are plain while others are embroidered. Currently, only adult sizes are available.
The couple will be receiving more jackets soon and they're hoping residents on the North Shore will consider grabbing one, especially because at $85-$95 they are 50 per cent less expensive than the competition.
Reid said some businesses have even opted to buy the jackets and distribute them to those in need - a holiday donation that's effectively doubled.
"They get to see their donations on the backs of people who actually need them."
Those who are interested in purchasing jackets can go to jacketsforjasper.com.
The company will be hosting open houses so that customers can see the garments first hand.