Feb

07

Hyderabad : MyChoices, empowering peacemakers

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Empowerment means taking risks, giving up comfort and stepping out in boldness to do something that matters.

Over the past few months I’ve gotten to know Elca Grobling, the founder of MyChoices a former Aussie finance manager who decided to move her entire family of 5 to Hyderabad, Andra Pradesh to make a difference for women that have suffered from domestic violence. Elca’s passion for this cause is inherent in her zeal as she shares about the issues here in India that women face.

In Andra Pradesh alone 30% of the violence enacted is against a woman. Most domestic violence cases are attributed to alcohol, especially in poorer families. Dowry, lack of education and child marriages also contribute to this. Her vision has been to train local women with counseling skills to go back into their own communities to be the “peacemakers”. The hope is that these peacemakers can be safe points of contact for abused women so that they have an outlet to share the issues that they are facing. The peacemakers also provide access to onsite professional counselors at MyChoices.

MyChoices also started a sewing unit recently in efforts to support the cause and provide good work to women within the communities they’re reaching. We’re excited about the development and may consider partnering with them in the coming year to produce new products.

In light of this, we conducted a basic skills assessment in order to assess the readiness of the sewing unit. Calvina helped us conduct a simple eye-exam (while trying the encourage the women NOT to help each other was another battle.) We also gave the women some test samples to produce. Our hope is that we can see improvement over time and that they would be in position to produce export-ready product in the near future. I’m excited again to see the possibilities!

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Jan

31

India, here we go again!

Bangalore

image Ranganath

 

c.1880's PHOTO INDIA CHAR MINAH HYDRABAD JOHNSTON Nizam's procession in Old Hyderabad

I need to be honest with you, it’s been a year since I’ve been back to India and I return this time with mixed feelings. The last time we left with utter sadness because the sewing development we hoped to start was not ready to take their business to the export quality that we needed for our market. We are still happy to hear that they are doing local projects for the school and are trying to be self-sustaining.

I needed a break to retool, meditate and pray to see what our next steps would be. We’ve come a long way since then. We’ve launched our line of Stitched Wonder Blankets, we are in 6 stores (and counting!) and we will be doing our first tradeshow in NYC in March. It’s all happening so incredibly fast and I can’t wait to see where this year will take us.

This Tuesday we will be back in India doing more development work with our new sewing unit in Dharmapuri. Flowering Desert works with marginalized women that have suffered some form of mistreatment from society and need a safe place to heal. They are the craftsman that have made the Stitched Wonder blankets. This series took us 6 months to R&D and get to the final product that you see now in our shops. There were many iterations of designs and quality checks, from the embroidery colors, to the tags, to the bags that our blankets come with. Each component is carefully scrutinized for the best quality. My standard is if I don’t love it, nothing goes out. Your purchase empowers these women with a way out of poverty!

We will also be heading to Hyderabad to vett and develop another potential sewing center. They work with empowering women counselors to go back into the slums and give women support who have suffered from domestic violence. I’m excited to see what new and potential goods we can make with these ladies. What new goods would you like to see in the EllieFunDay shop?

 

 

 

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Jun

10

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! 

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