Feb

21

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Feb

13

Training Kicks-off!

Monday marked the first full day of our training. Last Friday was more of an orientation to see where the women were in their skills, and  to establish some grounds rules. We also didn’t get a whole lot done because the machines were not in proper working order and we still needed to get power to them in our space.

As things go 4 out of the 8 only showed up on Friday. According to some strange Indian/Hindu culture people don’t like to start things on a Friday. One of the 4 women that was missing was ill so we decided to visit her on Sunday. Apparently she was having a allergic reaction in her feet so she couldn’t walk. We visited her home and prayed for her healing. Calvina had an opportunity to photograph her cooking a meal for her family.

By Dalit standards, her home was typical. It was a building made out of asbestos sheeting with two rooms. One for the family to sleep and one for her to cook. Her stove consisted of 4 bricks that she lay on top of a concret top and a place to add kindling. Her sons brought in long-logs that served as fuel for the fire. These sticks protruded out of the fire. A hole at the top of her kitchen served as mere ventilation to the smoke.

There was no cutting board. Just her knife and her hands to cut up the vegetables that went into her curry. Her boys ran to the nearby well to fetch her some water to wash the vegetables. She then added curry powder, garam masala, turmeric and other spices to the mix and let it simmer.

To her this is normal and a way of life. She seems happy even though she is the sole provider of her family. Her husband needs constant medical attention due to a brain illness. Our hope is to employ her so that she can feed her families and give her boys a way to go to school.

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Feb

11

Divine Coincidences Happen in the Strangest of Places

One tough part of this week in Kolkata was that ALL of us were sick. Cold, coughs, clogged sinuses. It was a symphony of sniffles. We needed to find some local meds because ours weren’t the doing the job. Sarah and Cal were sucking down Halls and Ricolas and it just wasn’t settling the coughing fits. We ended up finding this local-brand industrial strength lozenge and it was the only solution to the dingy, soupy Kolkata air. We asked a local doctor about it and he said, “When in Rome.”

One divine coincidence this week was meeting a woman named Janet Rogers. This past year we had more than a few people mention to us that we needed to meet her. This past September, I randomly met a British guy in San Francisco who after hearing about what we’re doing, emphatically said we needed to meet Janet and immediately returned home to make an email introduction. 

We exchanged a few emails, but couldn’t find a good time to connect. Then out of the blue, she emails us and tells us she will be at Freeset the same time that we are! Amazing! She is an artist/designer who built up an amazing network training women in India how to produce crafts for the international market. She is doing some consulting for Freeset and was more than happy to sit down with us for an afternoon. She downloaded to us loads of wisdom and I know we already avoided a few pitfalls just by talking with her. 

Lastly before we left we spent a bit of time with Kerry Hilton, the founder of Freeset. Every time we talk with him we’re so inspired by his selfless commitment to the business of freedom. Recently they decided to go to the source of sex-trafficking about 5 hours north of Kolkata to start a weaving unit that will employ the women most susceptible to human-trafficking. This makes total sense, though the 5 hour motorcycle ride Kerry takes makes me cringe with all the bad roads and insane drivers.

Sarah and I asked him what keeps him going. He said he never gets tired of seeing freedom… women tasting what it means to go as they please, spend the money they earn and chart their own course for their lives. It energizes him to no end. Kerry, his family and his staff all live in the slum that they serve. They eat, laugh and cry with the people they love. There are few examples of really sacrificial love in our world and they are one of the shining examples. 

Until next time Kolkata… off to Trivandrum.
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