Sandy Hadley is a wife, mother of two, travel guide, essential worker at my local supermarket and owner of fair-trade business – Threadmill, whose funds help women in Nepal. Her zest for life is infectious. I first met Sandy in a small group personal training class and was struck by her kindness, beaming smile and positive attitude. It was only a slight wobble in her gait that alerted me to the fact that Sandy was recovering from the effects of a brain tumour. Yet Sandy used this adversity to inspire, creating her business to help those most in need, the victims of domestic violence and trafficking in Nepal.
Now Sandy inspires us all by trekking mountains, helping Project Didi Australia ( an organisation which helps Nepalese girls as young as 7 who have been trafficked ) and encouraging us all to buy fair – trade goods made by victims of domestic violence. I have long been a fan of Sandy’s wares which are of the highest quality. I have purchased cashmere ponchos for myself and my family, cosy silk pyjamas and cotton wraps plus distinctive jewellery for myself and many of my friends. Sandy has had to adapt and change her business due to Covid but as always she does it with a smile and only worries about those less fortunate.
- Can you tell us a little about yourself.
Since childhood, I have always preferred the more difficult path. I started working in a travel agent at the age of 16 and by 17 I went to Bali on my own. It was my first taste of real freedom and I really enjoyed seeing the world and wanted more. I was a bit of a rebel in my youth and would do things that other people found uncomfortable or it wasn’t a conventional thing to do. I think I drove my mum crazy, and I never understood why people wanted to go in any other direction. People would be jealous of the life I led but you have to remember, there weren’t many opportunities that I didn’t take. Nowadays, I understand that we are all different and like different things, and I embrace all those differences.
- You have travelled extensively. How have your travels changed you?
I have always been attracted to travelling in other cultures; ones where the people speak a different language, wear different clothes (rice paddy green is my favourite colour), so all those Asian countries appealed. I backpacked for a long time in South and Central America. Wild and untamed, I think that it was often the countries in the world that were the noisiest where I would find my inner peace.
Colombia was one place I adored but I was there in the early 90’s, during cocaine and cartel. I like that element of living dangerously. I spent a few months in this gorgeous country, and even though almost every single bus ride I went on I was held up by the militia, told to get off the bus where the women were taken aside, while the men had to spread eagle against the bus where they were frisked, I was deliriously happy. Although, I’m sure my mum wasn’t too happy about me being there. It was just before the internet, and I would send letters back home to tell everyone that I was okay.
I am able to find something in a place that is special and wonderful. I can find beauty in no matter where I am. I worked as a guide in South East Asia for around five years. I have seen and experienced so many wonderful things. Vietnam US Trade Embargos were lifted, Borneo still had wild men, people came to Thailand as an exotic travel destination and Nepal just blew me away. I was so fortunate to have experienced this when I did.
I’ve always taken every opportunity that has come my way, jumped on it and ran! I have only a couple of regrets in my life and that’s only because I was offered another adventure when I still hadn’t finished the one I was on yet.
Before Covid hit, I was working back as a tour guide taking (mainly) women to Nepal for trekking journeys. I had even landed a job back as a tour guide to Laos and Cambodia. I had been to Nepal to set up my very own tours, focusing on fair – trade. No trekking.
- Can you tell us what was the inspiration for starting Threadmill ?
Years ago, I had a huge health scare in the form of a brain tumour and from that Threadmill was born. I had lost my job in travel as a manager for an adventure travel company, I lost my licence and was having seizures and my life had fallen apart in one foul swoop. My love of travel and textiles and the fact that there were so many people in this world that needed a leg up inspired me , the one place I had in mind was Nepal. There was so much poverty there and wanting to help those who were in a far worse situation than myself, even though I was dealing with paralysis on my right side and couldn’t speak for some time. I knew that I wanted to help others.
- Can you tell us a little about your business.
Essentially Threadmill is a fair-trade or fair-made business. Threadmill just started at markets selling 100% cashmere ponchos (made by the Women’s Skill Development) and Samunnat Jewellery ( made by the women who are survivors of trafficking and domestic violence). I have had the luxury of visiting Nepal once or twice a year enabling me to source new product. I have expanded my range since to include items made from recycled saris into kimonos, shirts, pants etc. and a new brand, Kolpa, who make the most amazing wild nettle, hemp and organic cotton products. I have had some organic cotton face-masks made by them which are doing so well. I also have plans to go to other countries but now Covid has hit, it will just take a little longer.
- How has COVID 19 changed your business ?
As well as facebook and instagram (Threadmill and @threadmillaustralia), I now have an online presence. www.threadmill.com.au and I’m not doing markets, only one or two. That’s a huge difference in my world.
- How and who are some of the women and artisans you have helped since starting Threadmill ?
I have volunteered for a special initiative called Project Didi Australia, who in Australia collect funds for a place called Asha Nepal.
Asha is a halfway house, some of the girls are just of 7, one little girl just 4. Most of these girls are from the poorest of poor and uneducated, lured into the capital, Kathmandu, from the beautiful mountains of Nepal, at the prospect of working in the cities so they can then send the money home. Then they are taken across the border to work in brothels.
Asha provides homes for these girls (and a couple of boys) with foster carers or mothers who take care of those fortunate few who have found Asha or Asha has found them. The girls don’t live in this centre but it offers them a chance to study, learn and play – a vital component lost in many of these rural places in Nepal. These poor kids sometimes have to look after babies like a grownup and are only babies themselves. Playing and schooling are often missing from their lives.
I am fortunate to be able to take my groups there when we are in Nepal. We all sit down and have a talk, they make a delicious lunch, and then, we have our hands hennaed by the girls that have been trafficked. It’s sobering to think what these poor young things have had to endure in their short lives. Most importantly it is a non – institutionalised place. It is not an orphanage.
- What are some of your most popular items?
Without a doubt, Threadmill’s cashmere ponchos, and the very beautiful Samunnat Jewellery. Now my range is larger, I am now stocking Hatti Hatti recycled saris made into kimonos, shirts and pants etc. and my Kolpa wild nettle, hemp and organic cotton products.
- Why should we be embracing more fair – trade goods?
My motto is “ You’ve just to change the world a little” , and “ If you get stuff, get it so the stuff does make a difference”.
- Where can people find Threadmill ?
Online at www.threadmill.com.au Facebook, Threadmill and on Instagram @threadmillaustralia
- Are there any special events involving Threadmill and Project Didi going ahead this year?
Nothing at the moment, but if you go to my shop ALL monies that are received for PDA ( Project Didi Australia) go to PDA. I don’t take a scrap of money from the sales of the books, cards and bags.
- Where are you most looking forward to visiting post COVID-19?
My mum and sister in Melbourne. I miss them sooo much. It was easy to get there before and now since Covid, it’s a disaster. And I can’t wait to get back to Nepal.
- What is the ethos behind Threadmill and can you share some words to live by?
“ Just because it hasn’t happened yet, doesn’t mean that it never will. “ And, most importantly,” Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does.”
Freelance writer, wife and mother of three sons, occasional supply teacher and aspiring romance author, Michelle Beesley can be most often found in a coffee shop chatting with friends or beside a rugby field cheering on her favourite teams.
Michelle is a prolific—albeit reluctant—traveller, keen walker, bookworm and yoga enthusiast who loves anything pink or sparkly (including champagne!).