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Welcome to Secret Projects, a UK registered social enterprise, creating work for women in India

A Collaboration With Spiti Projects Charity

Spiti Projects was founded by Joan Pollock in 1993. Joan started her career as a nurse and later moved into the Travel industry in the 1980s. In 1992 Joan visited Manali in the Indian state of Himachel Pradesh. During her stay, a Doctor from the Lady Willingdon Hospital invited her to attend a presentation on the Spiti Valley. The valley had been closed to the outside world since 1959. Joan was overwhelmed by the beauty of this isolated valley, but concerned to see the desolation of the people who live there. When asked if she would help to raise money to build a hospital in Kaza, she was delighted and became totally committed to helping to improve the health, hygiene and general well being of the local people of the valley.

Under her leadership the community has built itself a hospital, a clinic, a school and an award winning solar-eco community centre. Whilst driving this life-changing project, Joan has made life-long friends with people in the valley. Amongst Joan's friends are 5 co-operatives of women who knit the famous Spiti Socks. Secret Projects are delighted to be selling Spiti Socks alongside our Secret Projects range of products. We are thankful to Joan leading the way with this project and introducing us to the Spiti Sock Makers as we more forward. 

Spiti Valley is a cold desert mountain valley located high in the Himalayas in the north-east of the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. During the winter months the snow falls and the communities are cut off from one another.

The women of Spiti meet on the roof of their houses when the sun is warm in the middle of the day. They knit, spin and catch up on the gossip while the toddlers play around them. The women were taught to knit socks with heals by missionaries who were present in the area. The women created their own twist by adding elaborate geometrical colour patterns on socks. Still to this day the patterns are not written down and simply passed down from mother to daughter.

The women buy the wool for the socks from the local markets. Joan works with them to help them knit a wider range of sizes and also consider their colour choices to make the socks as commercial as possible to the Western market.

The women find the income they generate from knitting socks a lifeline, particularly during the period of the year when the snow prevents other income-generating activities. In the Summer months when the snow melts, the Spitians plant peas, which are grown and picked and sold to smart restaurants in Delhi as a delicacy.

Joan is planning a Meet the Maker trip to Spiti Valley in Summer 2020. If you are interested to find out more, please email travel@secretprojects.org for more details.