Natasha Wozniak has never shied away from exploring a new path.
A KettleSpace Member since October 2018, she is a former Fulbright scholar, a jewelry maker, a co-founder of a nonprofit, and, most recently, a designer. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she has studied front-end programming and 3D design, which will support her own work — and allow her to help the people of Nepal, to whom she’s been connected since she studied sculpture in Kathmandu Valley in the 1990s.
Natasha strengthened her ties to Nepal in 2015, when a massive earthquake struck that country and she reconnected with a friend, Bibek K. Pandit. She said she sent him some money for relief supplies; when he realized people wanted to rebuild, he asked her if she was interested in helping.
“I was looking for some kind of mission and this was given to me,” said Natasha, who started raising money to help rebuild an entire village — an idea that “sounded really audacious.”
In the end, Natasha, Bibek, and their nonprofit, Sangsangai, built 15 houses and a community center in Rainaskot. Each house has an extra room for guests, which provides a source of long-term income. In 2017, they built another community center in a second village.
Meanwhile, Natasha was supporting herself by selling her handmade jewelry. And the marketing skills she cultivated as a business owner, including making promotional videos, benefited Sangsangai.
“I decided to make videos for the nonprofit. They could be used to introduce people in the village. As time went on, I was able to add videos of complete houses,” Natasha said. “In the beginning, the earthquake happened and there was media attention. Then the story changed and I had to keep pivoting. In the end, it was less about the earthquake and more about building the relationship between the donor and the villager. I had to create links.”
Creating — and maintaining — links seems to come naturally to Natasha, who worked out of Distilled, Baar Baar, The Wilson, and CSTM HAUS prior to KettleSpace’s suspension of service in March. In recent months, she has kept up with the friends she met in those locations; one is even helping her learn coding.
As Natasha adds skills to her portfolio, she also wants to use them to create digital products that could benefit the villagers of Rainaskot. One idea is to create a website to provide information about staying in Rainaskot and giving potential guests a way to contact the village to book rooms.
Though Natasha has not been to Nepal since 2018 (and the pandemic derailed her travel plans this fall), she said she stays in touch with Bibek and continues to brainstorm ways to help.
“It’s great to do work that’s charitable, but in the end, we need to create a stronger economic base,” she said. That way, “if unfortunate things happen, people will be resilient.”
Related Member Highlights