Moving Forward

It’s been a few months since we’ve updated and certainly a lot has happened. When we last updated we were in the midst of training the first class of women that Stitching Sparrow would hire. The women were extraordinary. They were excited about the opportunity to work; it wasn’t just about the income but the sense of identity and dignity in being able to contribute something beautiful to the world.

However during that month, we realized that there are some very critical missing pieces in the operations. When we began all our planning, we had one solid premise – the sewing center needs to be a for-profit business. It’s not so much about making tons of money – it never has. It’s about running the sewing center with the heart and hustle to produce on-time, on-budget and at a remarkable level of quality. 

This is critical for two reasons. First, quality, cost and reliability are of utmost importance when producing a product for the western market. The second reason, being just as important, is that when we value the product, we value the women who make it. Pursuing excellence in production means we believe they are capable and recognize the work they put into it. This is why we were very adamant about running the sewing center as a business.

However as the training came to an end, we realized our partners would not (at the present time) be able to run the sewing center the way we heartily believed it needed to be run. It was a mixture of not being able to commit the kind of time/resources we expected and the conflicting mentality of wanting to run a business like a non-profit. I want to say here that our partners, who we love as family, are people of utmost integrity. We are always encouraged by their sacrificial and servant’s heart and have learned an enormous amount from them. 

Unfortunately in the end, we needed to pull out of working with Stitching Sparrow. It’s heartbreaking for both for us. There is a lot of potential. But it’s critical that we be on the same page as to how the sewing center would be run. We may consider working together again and will likely revisit the idea in the future. For now however it is better we part ways. 

Fortunately, the old motto as one door closes another opens is very true. We were extremely fortunate to connect with other established sewing centers in other parts of India and we are presently seeing whether we can have them make our blankies. They’ve already produced export quality product and are committed to working with poor and marginalized communities. We’re excited about the opportunities to partner and shooting to have a new product line in the fall. We’re in heavy design mode right now and look forward to having something out to you as soon as possible!

As we reflect on the past few months, we’ve grieved not seeing our plans with Stitching Sparrow come to fruition. But we’ve also learned a ton and will be better people for it. Without waver, we’re still committed to two things: making beautiful products and empowering under-resourced people. We’re excited about the future of Ellie Fun Day and look out for new and exciting things in the coming year! 




Week 1 of Training Done!

It’s pretty amazing to see where we’ve come in just one week. We know that it takes time to develop new habits and proper procedures in order to run a sewing center. This week we wanted to gauge their knowledge and their abilities. We are trying some really different techniques that most Indians don’t  teach. First is the “WHY”. In typical Indian culture, schools rely on repetition and rote memory. Children are not encouraged to ask why. If they do, teachers see it as a form of disobedience. With our partnership with Stitching Sparrow, we want to teach “why” so that the things that our women learn are internalized and they will hopefully be more motivated to do it the correct way. One of the very first activities we had them do was to observe their surroundings for inspiration of shapes. This is a new concept for many Indians to be inspired and think differently. It was really fun to see them walking around and finding inspiration.

This is what we do on a daily basis:

  • Pray and read a passage from the Bible
  • Take Attendance
  • Take out Tools
  • Clean and Oil Machines
  • Practice Yesterday’s Lesson
  • Instruction
  • Tea Time
  • Design Lessons
  • Lunch
  • Embroidery Lessons
  • Clean Up

We also had the women draft up their policies and procedures. In the end we want this sewing center to be theirs. Not what something a foreigner built and made them do, but a partnership where we empower them according to their skills and talents.

Cleanliness seems to be relative here in India. Our hope is to set an example of cleanliness so that we can help them improve their own family’s health and also eventually pass inspections for the certifications that we will need. I take for granted our standards of clean in the West. The idea of cleaning a bathroom in India is to take some water and pour it all over the toilet and splash it on the walls. That’s how most cleaning is done in India. As the women saw how I took a brush to the tiled walls and scrubbed them, they were astounded by how “new” everything started to look. After 1 hour and three of us scrubbing down our bathroom, it was near sparkling clean. They got the picture.

At the end of class we also asked the women what their hopes and prayer requests were. A couple of them needed a new house because their roofs were leaking. Some have debt that needs to be paid due to emergency health related bills. Many also had sick children or husbands since the weather has changed. Our hope is that our women will be able to learn how to manage their financial needs and use their form of employment as a means to help their families out.












Back to India for the Long Haul: The Possibilities are now Beginning

It is with great trepidation, excitement and anticipation that I write this post. I’m dutifully preparing our next stage for Ellie Fun Day. There have been doing many things leading up to this momentus moment. We’ve dialoged, prayed, and researched countless hours to get us to this point in time…and it feels like this is just the beginning.

2012 was a year full of connections and excellent building of our skills as social entrepreneurs. 2013 will be the  year of growth for Ellie Fun Day as we will be hitting the ground running to start training our women in India. This year will determine if all of our hypotheses will work! You my friends have a been a large part in our growing success and now we are asking you to SHARE about our journey. The more people that know about what we do, the more women’s lives will be changed!

This Saturday I will journey with my dear friends Calvina and my husband back to Kolkata for one week to shadow under our friends at Freeset. They’ve been an amazing support to us ( they make our EFD bags!) We are excited to hear new stories of Freedom. Amazing people like Kerry and Annie Hilton have uprooted their lives to make a difference in their corner of their world and they have been an inspiration to us. Then we are off to Kerala where our women are to begin training. I will be living in India for a whole 5 weeks to get this kicked-off and started.

In preparation for our time back in India, Elton and I watched an academy award winning documentary “Born into Brothels”. It’s a courageous story of hope in the middle of the red-light district in Kolkata. Zana Brisk, photographer decided to live amongst the people there and teach the children how to use photography as a way to express their emotions and what they see. She faces many challenges due to their economic and social situation. From getting a passport to convincing one of the children to travel to the Netherlands for a photography exhibition. She’s reminded me that the difficulty of what she had to endure was worth it. A true testament to her work is through the story of one of the children, Avijit, who has now become a film student at NYU. He’s even launched a kickstarter to help fund a film of his.

Just through simple decisions of choosing to make a difference, she’s been able to empower a generation that never possibly had the opportunity to. That’s my calling in life is to use my gifts and talents to be given away in a way that matters. That is how I will determine the success of Ellie Fun Day. I can’t wait to see what this year brings! Continue to follow and share about our journey here!