Movemeon Pandemic Response supports Laura, Founder of Khushi Kantha (Happy Blanket)

Movemeon Pandemic Response supports Laura, Founder of Khushi Kantha (Happy Blanket)

We interview Laura, Founder of Khushi Kantha. We discuss Movemeon’s pandemic response, how Khushi Kantha utilised free support during the crisis and what effect the pandemic has had on this Founder.

In reaction to the outbreak of COVID-19, Movemeon deployed a pandemic response initiative titled, Consultants Against COVID-19 (CAC). This initiative comprises of 400+ consultants and commercial professionals providing their services for free to support any charities, public sector and other not for profit organisations in need.

45+ professionals have currently been placed with a variety of public health organisations, charities and government at the national level. If you are in need of support email freehelp@movemeon.com

 “Movemeon’s Consultants Against COVID initiative provided me with brilliant support that helped me moved forward with launching Khushi Kantha despite the challenges posed by the pandemic….it’s great to be part of such a supportive community!” 

Laura,
Founder

In your own words, please describe what Khushi Kantha does and how it’s grown.

Khushi Kantha (‘Happy Blanket’ in Bengali) aims to create opportunities for mothers from the communities hosting the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to provide for their children with dignity and contribute to the circular economy, promoting a shift from ‘take-make-waste’ to ‘reclaim-repurpose-reuse’.

We will be launching a range of ultra-soft, ethically-produced, multi-purpose baby ‘kantha’ blankets with a vibrant ‘stand-out’ factor. Hand-stitched from reclaimed cotton, each one has a unique story attached.

What is your current role and what were you doing before?

I’m the founder. I’m currently a ‘one-woman band’, but I’ve mobilised a brilliant network of pro-bono advisors and supporters to help me launch Khushi Kantha, including the experts I hooked up with through Consultants against COVID (mentioned below). I’m ultimately aiming to employ at least 300 women producing blankets, supported by a local coordination team.

I gave birth to my half-British, half-Bangladeshi twin daughters Opi and Mahi in July 2019. I spent the first half of my pregnancy in the coastal town of Cox’s Bazar in South-Eastern Bangladesh through my career in the humanitarian sector.

Laura working in the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh

What motivated you to start Khushi Kantha?

The idea was inspired by the birth of my just-turned-one-year-old twins and my first-hand experience of working with mothers from the communities we will partner with in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.

Despite being one of the poorest parts of a very poor country, the local population have welcomed nearly 1 million Rohingya men, women and children who have fled across the border from Myanmar to escape human rights atrocities. While humanitarian agencies focus on the refugees, the host community are struggling.

I came home to London wanting to do something to help the mothers I had seen experiencing such desperation – but unsure of how to go about it effectively. 

When my girls were born, they were gifted a large collection of traditional ‘kantha’ blankets. I soon realised their numerous uses – and their bright colours and traditional ‘kantha’ stitching were drawing compliments wherever we went. I soon realised there could be a market for them…..and the idea for ‘Khushi Kantha’ was born!

I’m so excited to be turning this dream into a reality!

Laura’s daughters Opi and Mahi were gifted a collection of traditional baby ‘Kantha’ blankets when they were born, which inspired the idea for Khushi Kantha

Movemeon’s pandemic response initiative, Consultants against COVID (CAC) supported you recently, how did our pro bono consultants help you?

During the crisis, I had two great consultants from CAC provide some much-needed support:

Kunal Datt
Provided financial modelling expertise.

I’d been struggling to create a basic financial model for Khushi Kantha and Kunal made me a brilliant one, which does exactly what I need it to do, and is simple enough for me to get my head around. Through a couple of short conversations, he was able to instantly grasp what I was after and whipped it up in no time, with minimal input needed from my side – this was brilliant as juggling setting up Khushi Kantha with being a mum to 13-month-old twins, plus freelance work to make ends meet means my to-do list is a bit never-ending at the moment!


Guan Yeap
Provided his operational expertise.

Guan provided some really useful tips on Khushi Kantha’s operational structure. We had some great conversations in which he challenged my thinking – considering various issues I’d been grappling with from another angle helped me figure out the best way forward.

How has this worldwide pandemic affected you personally/your work life?

Like so many other working parents, I’ve been operating around the clock to juggle everything. It’s been a tad overwhelming and exhausting at times, but I’m mainly feeling incredibly lucky that my girls and I are safe and healthy, and very worried about how Bangladesh is coping with the pandemic. So many millions of people there don’t have the luxury of ‘staying at home’, washing their hands with soap, and all the other things we’re able to do to protect ourselves in the UK. While it’s not safe for me to launch production in Bangladesh right now, I’m doing as much as I can from London to keep Khushi Kantha moving forward, because I know that the mothers I’m going to be partnering with are more in need than ever of opportunities to earn sustainable incomes, which will enable them to give their children everything they deserve.

kushi kantha
Laura’s daughters Opi and Mahi have been keeping her smiling during lockdown

What are you most looking forward to doing once social distancing rules have been relaxed?

My girls are finally starting nursery this week – which means I’m actually going to have some time and headspace to focus on Khushi Kantha properly during the daytime and be able to take the occasional evening off!
But my number one priority is to get over to Bangladesh and set up production for Khushi Kantha properly, once it’s safe to do so.

kushi kantha
Hand-stitched from reclaimed cotton, each blanket has a unique story attached.

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