A Pilgrimage to Paro

Weaving into the Future expands to rural provinces

“The impact of this initiative goes beyond words.” Instructor, Wangsel School for the Deaf

Bill and Lee Anne Geiger don’t settle for small ripples. They’re determined to see that Weaving into the Future makes waves radiating far beyond Thimpu.

With this goal in mind, Bill traveled to Bhutan’s Paro Valley, home of the Wangsel School for the Deaf, in November 2023. Accompanied by then-RTA curator Pema Choden Wangchuck and FRTAB Special Liaison Mya Soe Lin, Bill met with approximately 40 deaf and hearing-impaired residential students and their instructors as they celebrated the completion of a two-week intensive yathra weaving program funded by Bill and Lee Anne’s Geiger Family Foundation. Yathra is the thick hand-woven wool that is heavily utilized in intricately patterned weaves unique to the Paro Valley.

The yathra workshop is an outgrowth of the Geiger family’s Weaving into the Future program which has become a bedrock of the RTA training program. Weaving into the Future aspires to train students and young weavers in producing weaves emphasizing the techniques and patterns characteristic of the students’ home villages. The weaves are created using local materials and natural dyes and are key to helping the students provide for their own livelihood and that of their families.

Wangsel students communicate by signing as they observe yathra dyeing techniques

The Wangsel students — their attentiveness, their industriousness and their clear aptitude — made an indelible impression on the visitors.

Rural weavers such as the Wangsel students in Paro are already gifted in weaving and dyeing. But many have become stuck due to their rural isolation and lack of an entree for their wares in a wider market. Weaving into the Future’s yathra program bestows economic and self-actualizing benefits to the students, instilling in these future weavers a confidence in their own artistry and an  expertise unhindered by disability.

“The impact of this initiative goes beyond words. It’s a journey of empowerment for our Deaf Children, providing them with valuable skills that will undoubtedly shape their future,” commented a lead instructor. “The Geiger Family Foundation’s support is a beacon of hope, and we are confident that these newfound abilities will allow our students to confidently stand on their own feet.”

Proud Wangsel graduates, ready to weave a more independent future