What is KADO? Pakistan's Karakoram Area Development Organization
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Giving Back: KADO in Pakistan

By Don George | November 11, 2021

Carpet weaving dyes in Pakistan

Among the many highlights of GeoEx CEO Brady Binstadt’s recent trip to Pakistan were visits to three projects founded and supported by the Karakoram Area Development Organization, or KADO. From his early years at GeoEx, Brady has been a passionate proponent of travel as a force for good in the world, and that passion shone through our conversation about the work KADO is doing to improve life in the Karakoram area.  

What is KADO exactly? How would you define or describe it? 

I think their website provides a good description: “Established in 1998, KADO is working for sustainable development in the Karakoram-Hindukush-Himalayan region of Pakistan, aimed at promoting entrepreneurship, social and economic growth, and value-added products to reduce poverty and marginality of women, youth, persons with disabilities, and other marginalized segments of the society.”

That’s wonderful! How did you first hear about this organization?  

GeoEx groups have visited the KADO project in Karimabad in the past, and supported the organization by buying many of its products, and the wonderful man who guided me and is the head of our local outfitter in Pakistan is actually a founding member. 

What intrigued you about them?  

I’m often attracted to grassroots non-profits, where the vast majority of any contributions go directly to benefiting the organization’s various projects. And in speaking with our local colleagues in Pakistan prior to my trip, I learned about all the various outreaches KADO does to benefit the greater Hunza area. I was really moved by our colleagues’ deep admiration and passion for the organization. 

Where did you go on your visits and what did you find there?

One visit was to a deeply touching center for people with disabilities in Hyderabad, which is right next to Karimabad. The day I went, they were at various stages of helping to weave carpets, but more importantly, I could instantly see that this was a place where they felt welcomed socially. 

Working with wool and at the loom at a Hyderabad weaving center, Pakistan
Weaving center for differently-abled people in Hyderabad, Pakistan

I also visited a small weaving cooperative in the town of Gulmit that helps educate/train/support women who have the initiative to help in the revival of traditional arts and crafts.  They feel empowered by their contribution and also make some very needed extra income.  

Women at the KADO-supported weaving cooperative in Gulmit, Pakistan

My third visit was to a jewelry-making center in Karimabad. The idea and approach here is the same as with the carpets, but here they utilize some of the gorgeous precious stones that are found throughout Pakistan. I got a beautiful natural ruby ring for my daughter.

What did you learn?   

In addition to seeing and hearing about the inspiring work being done in these projects, I learned about other important improvements KADO has accomplished. To describe just two, they played an instrumental role in providing the first-ever garbage disposal service in Hunza just 15 years ago. And they have installed satellites to provide much-needed Internet services to local businesses, colleges, and schools. Among many other benefits, this has enabled the weavers and jewelers working for KADO to actively sell their wonderful items more easily via the Internet. The fact that KADO has their hands in many different lines of assistance is very appealing to me.     

What most impressed you about the places and projects?  

The genuine gratitude of everyone we encountered, at all three places.  As the father of an 8-year-old girl with a big world and life ahead of her, I have a personal interest in any project that helps women get more opportunities in any way—and particularly in a corner of the world where they would not likely otherwise get that jumpstart. KADO does this in a variety of different ways across the region.

What feelings/thoughts did you take away?  

My initial thought was that this is exactly the kind of organization we should be working with and telling our travelers about. We have so many caring guests who are deeply touched by experiences on their trips, and who often—either mid-trip or right afterwards—ask us how they can give back to a specific destination. Sometimes they want to help a country in general, but often they have a desire to make a contribution earmarked for a specific project in a small community they visited in some far-flung spot on the map. Visiting these projects in Pakistan, I realized that we need to provide a very easy way for our travelers, if they are interested, to incorporate this kind of philanthropy as an important element in their trip. The diversity of projects that KADO supports allows us to do that.  

Do you see this as the beginning of a long-term relationship?  

I do hope that my visit and GeoEx’s subsequent donation help kickstart our relationship with KADO. At the end of the day, if the connection is genuine and the benefit to the region is obvious and natural, I hope to find like-minded organizations in many of the other destinations that we visit too.

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Have you encountered an organization or project while adventuring abroad that inspired you to give back? We’d love to hear your stories. Please share them in the Comments section below. Thank you!

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Learn more about GeoEx’s Giving Back initiatives and approach to responsible travel here.

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