Today we got a chance to catch up and rest. We filmed another video - but this time on the streets of Kolkata. I didn't quite anticipate how much attention I'd attract! Storeowners, pedestrians, street people all stopped to see if we were doing a local news report. It was a bit daunting to get that much attention since we already get a fair amount of stares for being foreigners. Overall everyone was friendly and just wanted to talk to us or be on camera.
In the afternoon, we went back to Freeset to spend time with a couple of their operations managers. We're SO blessed by Freeset; they've welcomed us with open arms, treated us like their children and shared all their past mistakes and triumphs. It really can't be overstated how helpful and loving they've been. We met with Sandro who is a native Brazillian and moved to Kolkata just to work with Freeset as their operations manager. He oversees the whole production of the bags from start to finish. He sat down with us, gave his best advice and let us pick every part of his brain. He shared openly about the joys of working at Freeset and the struggles of living in India.
Sandro also told us that a big challenge is the differing standards of quality. What we think is acceptable quality is different than what the women think is acceptable quality. Some of this is cultural. But in the end, it's still a significant gulf to cross. Many of the Freeset women have no education and need to learn fine motor skills in order to achieve the tasks that they are given. Even handling a pair of scissors can be a challenge. Kerry and Annie not only provide a job, but they educate their women and love them like their own. Just recently they had to house a young girl who was beaten by her brother and had no where else to go.
To see where they are today is an enormous encouragement. After 10 years of blood, sweat and tears, they've been able to create a sustainable business and produce quality products that are sold all over the world. It's a story of faith and endurance. Their willingness to sacrifice western comforts and intentionally live among the poor has been an inspiration to us. As we were leaving, Annie (one of the founders), sneakily slipped a card into my purse and said, "This is for you guys." Later when I opened it up, it contained a very generous gift and the card read, "Please accept this to help as you start-up your business. May His Freedom Reign, Blessings Kerry & Annie." I am so humbled by their generosity and it's something that I will carry with me always. Thank you Freeset for paving the path for us.
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