BIG NEWS.

 

We need your help with our crowd funding campaign we just kicked off! We are looking to train 50 women by the end of this year providing them with the technical training, financial management tools, and other personal development skills that will give them the choice to leave or not enter prostitution.

Please visit our Indie GoGo campaign to contribute and share to directly impact these women and teenage girls lives as we grow our business these next 40 days.

For any questions about our campaign please reach out to us at sewnewfutures@gmail.com.

Thanks!

-K

Ownership.

In the past two months we moved into a new four room building, hired two new full-time staff members; including a new sewing teacher and a new non-formal teacher for the kiddos (yay!) and launched a new batch of (paid) sewing trainees. Their training will happen over the course of the next three months. They will learn how to make scarves, wall hangings and pillow cases that SNF will then sell. After completing training they will have the option to gain full-time employment with us where they can have the option to earn more than the training stipend and share the profits of the products they have learned how to make.   IMG_4577

Each week, it seems our organization grows up so much and the girls along with it. It’s really exciting to watch and be a part of.

One of the things that is exciting to watch is how much the girls take ownership of the centre already. One of our visions is that we empower them to be leaders of their communities and take local ownership over different aspects of this business. In small ways, I see young leaders emerging already.

 

The girls (physically) open and close the centre. Check out the sweet keychain they made. #swag. IMG_4457A couple of them are “in-charge” of keeping the centre clean. They don’t let me do a thing when I am there. When I was sitting with Monika (our centre coordinate) to go over last month’s receipts, one of the girls brought over the admin folder, and showed me all the receipts she had put in a binder she had organized so proudly.  These tasks are small, but with every small task I see that they see the centre as theirs and not just ours that they come to waste some time. These small tasks show that we trust them. With time they are going to be given more and more responsibility and that will ensure that this program succeeds because it will be theirs.

 

Laser Focused.

“Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life – think of it, dream of it, and live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success” Swami Vivekananda

The last few months have been pretty great. In March, I attended The Coalition TC/1 which was a three day meetup to in motivate young creative entrepreneurs in their creative and entrepreneurial ambitions through inspirational talks and stories. Around 400 creative mavens and supremely talented entrepreneurs from all across the country came together to clash heads, learn and find inspiration. The collective passion and creative energy at TC/1 was extremely motivational and exactly what I needed.

1146651_10153950300935055_1831512935_nI had the opportunity to speak on the first day during “The New Wave” session about what Sewing New Futures is about. It was fantastic.

My favorite part was when I finished Vijay Nair, founder of Only Much Louder (OML) asked how many ordered we need to get the women we currently work with out of prostitution (8,000) and he gave me pre-orders for the NH7 festivals. A promise that has not has been empty handed.

149250_10153950301135055_392929230_n

I was in Bombay this past weekend and met with OML to work on how we can collaborate together for the festivals. All of my follow up meetings from the Coalition had been really insightful/helpful/great/heaps of other positive adjectives.

 

 

In the last few months we have:

  • Gotten our legal structure figured out in India and well getting our registration finally started. Sewing New Futures will function as both a for-profit business as well as a non-profit trust. This unique hybrid model allows the business to be driven by its social benefit model. Through this model it relies on profits from sales as well as grants and donations from funding sources in order to expand to serve more women from our target group.
  • Signed a yearlong lease on 4 room building in the community: two rooms will be for sewing production and the other two for education and dance therapy classes (and other workshops such as health, legal etc…)
  • Had a successful fundraiser at Chapter 25 put on by Hang Loose where we raised over INR 8,000 which goes a long way in helping these women
  • Hired our first FULL-TIME employee, our sewing teacher who was just part time will now be a full time Production Manager. It is very important to find people that really care about this community because it is not like hiring, just a “sewing teacher”. These women have never worked a traditional job before and it’s easier for them to just stay at home. We need someone who can help motivate them. Which will got quite possibly the best person_ever. Win.
  • Working on hiring our second full-time employee who will be coordinate our education activities to go along with our livelihood training
  • Soon be launching a IndieGoGo campaign this month… stay tuned

Lots of good things have happened for us these past few months & in the works. Excited to be growing this and to see what comes next…

-K

Next Generation.

ca87a11ba45092c458dad502ea5ed32e

One of the most frustrating parts of this work is feeling a connection to these girls. It’s a bitter curse. Because when a setback happens, it is difficult not to take it like a soul crushing loss to the gut. I think most social workers, teachers, and really anyone that works with children (moms included) around the world can resonate with that feeling.

Yesterday, I found out that one of the girls just started prostitution. This girl is 17. For the protection of her privacy, I am going to call her, “Dolly”  Dolly is a wonderful dancer. She loves learning computers. Dolly is very bright, beautiful and bold. I knew despite our efforts thus far, this was bound to happen as soon as her baby girl was born as this is typically the practice. But, knowing and then actually imagining this girl who you love so much, having horrible crimes against her happen first-hand are different.  The last time I met Dolly and her baby, she begged one of the staff workers and me for a job. You could see that she wanted a chance to change her future. It’s hard because we are trying our best to support her dreams of giving her a future free of violence. Dolly deserves a life full of dignity, where she feels safe in her community, and where she doesn’t worry about her daughter’s future.

The program we have now is a small income generation program. Where vulnerable girls, like this Dolly, can come for 1-2 hours a day around their household duties and make macramé bags. For each bag that they make they get paid 100. This program and our small centre is a great starting place for these girls but they need more.

The problem is that we are a small community based organization. This is both our greatest strength and weakness. The girls trust us because they know us, because we have been working at the community level. But, our funds and capacity are limited. I am afraid by the time we have raised enough money to truly help them with economic empowerment; it will be too late. They will all be married. Their husbands and in-laws will have already forced them into prostitution and by then it will be too difficult to get them out. The time is really now. Not six months from now. Now.

Which is why I am asking for your help. I know that this beautiful girl, “Dolly” is not lost yet! I know that with a more sustainable way to earn an alternative income, she can leave prostitution for good.

The Shanti Project needs to raise $10,000 as seed money for it’s programs in New Delhi to get a strong enough income generation program going for this community.

With tax-deductible donations of $25, $50, $100 you can help us break free the vicious cycle of prostitution for Dolly and other girls just like her.

To make a PayPal donation to The Shanti Project and select amiemphillips@theshantiproject.org as the “to payment” it will link directly to The Shanti Project’s bank account. Please make a memo that this is for “Dolly”.

It may be hard for me to hear about setbacks, but setbacks also make us re-focus. I can tell you I have never been more focused as I am right now in helping support Dolly and the next generation.

-K

Her beautiful baby girl...

Her beautiful baby girl…

Dilli Meri Jaan

The past five weeks I have been on a non-stop holiday. Rough life I know. I got myself booted from India over a bit of a visa issue. The result was a three week forced break at home. It was unexpected. I was lovely. For the first time in three years I saw myself living in Brooklyn with my friends. I saw myself enjoying the more “normal” easy, American life. But, I knew if I didn’t return to New Delhi I would enjoy New York only a short time before it would be full of regret. As I brought in the New Year here, surrounded by good friends old and new dancing like a fool I knew I made the right decision. I’m exactly where I need to be and we have things to accomplish this year.

I have been told that I will know when I am done here.  When I shut my eyes I see my vision for this project and what it will look like when I do finally jet off to some place new. This will go from a tiny project managed by me to having a full blown, full of life, a centre in Dharampura where the girls and women can come to feel safe. There will be no caste or colour discrimination in this centre.  It is theirs. No media invades them to run stories on their situation.

They are bold leaders within their community, standing up to “social pressures” and saying no to forced prostitution as a way of means.

Their centre serves what it best for them. It will be adaptable to the needs of the community.  It is a clean, beautiful space that they have created. Their beautiful artwork hangs on the walls. The days begin with yoga and meditation. There are art classes. For the older women and girls there is employment and job training that will best serve them and their monetary needs. They can learn how to make the jute bags we have been creating or for small group paid at fair trade wages to sell locally or they will come every day, sew and earn a monthly stipend in the “Sewing New Futures” program.

One of the community girls will be paid to teach dance classes to anyone who wants it. There will be education classes. The teacher (s) will work at getting the children enrolled in local schools and working with the teachers to solve why the children are dropping out.

If they feel like dancing, they can dance and be kids. Every child needs a chance to be a child. Every girl needs to feel special. When I was with my mother in NYC, we had a day to do all the typical Christmas and things I loved seeing as a kid. One was going to FAO Schwarz to marvel at the toys. While walking down memory lane in the doll section my mom, picked up a tiara and handed it to me, “Your girls need to feel like princesses like you did when you were little. Every girl needs have a chance to feel pretty. You should have a box where they the younger girls want to be silly and dress up they can.” How brilliant to have fun stuff to make them feel special and so easy to do.

This centre will be a fun place but also things will get done to serve the community such as health services and easy access to a qualified medical doctor with no discrimination.

But… my dream, my vision it takes funding. It takes seed money to get sewing machines, to hire a staff, to find a buidling. I am so grateful to have the support of The Pollination Project which allows us some small funds to have a tiny IGP bag making project.

However, 2014 is our year and we are ready to grow. These girls are smart and bold and they want to work. They want a change in their community. I am sick of sitting around and waiting… this is the year we our going to turn this vision into a reality.

 

-K

The Shanti Project

We have a big announcement…. Sewing New Futures is now a part of…

 The Shanti Project.

You may be asking, “What does that mean?”

This story starts ten a few years ago when I started college in West Palm Beach University. There in Baxter hall, 4th floor a couple doors down from me resided an artist named Amie. She drew these marvelous murals on her dorm walls and had style that  I longed for.

#notacreative

Also, on a deeper level was on of the kindest, most real person, you could ever meet. We were friends who went through many experiences together but like most college friends drifted apart through the years after college as life had us going in different directions. Fast forward to last year. We both found ourselves in India, through different circumstances, our lives had taken us there. Amie founded, The Shanti Project  after traveling in Jaisalmer and meeting the Bopha community. Our mission aligned as we both to promote the economic and social well-being of marginalized women and children.

We decided that why do things separately when we can do them together? Especially, when we already had the history and trust. Thus, how Sewing New Futures became part of The Shanti Project. 

Amie will be working on activities in Jaisalmer I will continue working in Dharampura.

For now, this blog will stay live but updates will go through The Shanti Project’s website, same with our Facebook. Please like make sure to like them on FaceBook.

-K