Next Generation.

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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…

The “Business” of Changing Lives

Your nonprofit is (in most ways) a business. That doesn’t mean embracing a factory-mindset or the relentless pursuit of profit.

But it does mean creating something of value. It means changing lives and creating impact. And it means investing enough in yourself that your organization can continue to make the world a better, more astonishing place to live.

-Marc Koenig 

Dilli Meri Jaan

The past five weeks I have been on a non-stop holiday. Rough life I know. I got myself “deported” 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.

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-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

New Beginnings

Sorry friends for the long break in blog posts. The past few months have brought lots of changes. We just moved centres (again). The next few weeks we will be busy setting up our sewing machines. We are also looking to hire a new sewing teacher. Then a IGP training class will begin. Our new centre is very nice. The sewing machines are on the second floor, next to the classroom where the non-formal education classes are being taught. There is a lovely open space, roof top terrace that can be used for many things. Dance, knowing our girls!

Pictures and more regular updates soon to follow.

-K

The Sewing Machine Project

This is from The Sewing Machine Project on the journey of our machines. Big thanks to them for the many months of patience. We are so excited to finally have these!

“Our shipment of 15 sewing machines and 2 sergers  reached New Delhi a little over a month ago. We were so excited to learn that they’d arrived.

The machines are going to be used by the Apne Aap women’s organization in New Delhi. Apne Aap (“on my own”) was formed to educate young women with useful skills to keep them out of the growing sex trades. We were honored when we were asked to outfit their sewing classroom. Ever since learning about the journey these brave young women face, I find that I’ve reframed my own idea of what a hurdle is.

This has been quite a journey for the machines and for The Sewing Machine Project. The machines have been moving slowly through Indian Customs. There have been many moments when I’ve sat here with my head in my hands wondering if they’d ever finally make it. But as it seems to happen with the SMP, the right people have stepped forward, the right documents have been produced, and little by little, the machines have continued their journey. SMP Board members, Bernina representatives, Indian importers, and the US government have all helped in some way and I am so grateful.

I am guardedly optimistic today, hoping that the sewing machines are on their final leg and that they’ll soon be in Apne Aap’s sewing classroom. I am grateful for all of the friends, old and new, who have stepped in to provide a piece of this puzzle, and I look forward to sharing the good news when the machines are final set up and being used by the Apne Aap women.”

-Margaret John Jankowski

Dilli Haat

We spent the last five days in Dilli Haat, an open air food and craft bazaar located in Delhi. Here is one of the articles about it, “With an aim to spread more awareness about the issues, women and girls who have survived prostitution along with victims are participating in ‘Traffic Jam: Red Light Blues’, a five-day festival which began on November 1. The stall is showcasing exquisite handicrafts, artwork, jewellery, crafts, tribal foods and other products made by them.”

Each day two girls came from Dhrampura (along with some staff) and help set up the stall, sell items, do nail art and do beautiful menhdi. They earned money from what they made and sold and had so much fun at the fair.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sex Workers and Empowerment

Yesterday, I got into a discussion about if women truly have a choice to be in prostitution. There was an article recently in Guardian which was similar. That we should instead of “rescuing sex workers” empower them with dignity in their profession. While I am all for a women’s right to choose my experiences have taught me that you truly never know the story behind why they are choosing this as a profession. Curious of others thoughts along this? I think it’s never a first choice for a woman even if they say they want to be doing it. There is too much violence, stigma and usually they are just trying to make the best out of a bad situation. With the community we work with I have definitely found this to be the case. The women talk about how they are in control but there is a lot of domestic abuse. I have heard them say they want better for their daughters, yet they marry them and continue this. Because, they are making the best of their situation.

I think to affect any change in a community the people have to demand it themselves. You can’t force it upon them. In our case, this project came about because of a group of bold girls who were taking sewing classes in the Apne Aap centre asked for it. They had sold 10 kurtas locally and had asked questions about selling more but it was hard to accomplish in the local markets. After conversations and meetings with the girls, I formalized an IGP program for them to make and sell kurtas internationally. They still make fun of the word, “IGP” because they have never heard of that before but it exactly what they wanted. They wanted a choice for their futures and money for their families. They love sewing. They were the ones that made the decisions for what hours they wanted to work, what they wanted to make and who would be in the first class. They will be going to the markets with me and helping chose fabrics, this is their program. Many women and girls came in the beginning but when family or society begin to put pressure on them or in the case of with the girl who will be married in a few weeks, they have left. And, we have to let them go because we have to support them, help make them stronger, more confident but we can’t push too hard. It’s a fine balance right now and we have to work with the girls and families that really want this change for themselves. Empower those first and hopefully that will cause change. It will be a slow process but it will happen if they want it.

At the start of this year my goal was to have 10 women and girls earning money outside of prostitution and that is going to happen.

Pretty awesome.

-K

Oh India!

We have a building! In fact everything has fallen into place right on time.

Which is exactly how India works :) I being an American no matter how many years I have lived here stress out and all the Indians I work with, say “Kristin why are you so tense it will work out.” I think they are crazy. And then it does. Amazing. Love this crazy country.

This is actually happening… also we are now on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/SewingNewFutures please like and share with your friends!

-K