India is in the midst of a strict, nationwide 40 Day lockdown. This means you cannot leave your home without police permission, even to buy food. Our families in the red light areas and slums live on daily wages: they did not have any food supplies before the lockdown, and they were going hungry.
Over the past four weeks, we have been focusing all of our energy on basic needs: raising funds and sending money to feed our girls and their families, because when families are desperate and hungry, girls become even more vulnerable. Thanks to our loving and generous community, we have raised $25,650 of our $30,000 goal. This will feed 1500 people during the lockdown. 100% of the funds raised from this campaign are going to feed our girls in India.
Thanks to the heroic efforts of our local team and partners, we have found creative ways to get food to girls and their families in the red light areas and slums of Kolkata. For example, in one red light area, we have been able to get food packets assembled and delivered by a grocery chain, and a young woman from our sponsorship program is helping a local government official to hand them out. Our local staff is providing daily phone support to women and girls in our programs, to help them cope with the massive stress of this situation.
Our Resource Centers, Jewelry Centers, and the schools where our girls go, will be closed until at least mid-May, and likely into June. We plan to continue focusing on emergency needs until the end of the lockdown.
COMING SOON: Cardamom Collection
We are excited to share a sneak preview of our new Cardamom jewelry collection, which we will be launching in the fall. According to designer Dianna Badalament,
“Cardamom was inspired by a decade-long journey in India consisting of friends, colleagues and new family, and, the bread that we broke to fuel us through. A thousand cups of chai, sisterhood and the smell of the masala chai spices accompanies teatime. The teatime “real talk” was always such a meaningful and healing time of the day, when I was teaching at the shelter homes.
Cardomom was also inspired by the women we work with and their indomitable spirit, their hard work, growth and resilience much like nature, where seeds find a way to grow in the most unlikely places. The designs in this collection evoke seeds planted for personal growth and social change. These designs reimagine Indian tribal motifs like the bell and the spear. The pieces are modern and sleek – inspired by an Indian aesthetic and, its women warriors”.
New Education Resource Center in Kolkata
In February, we rented a new space in Kidderpore red light area. We felt the need to have a center because we are sponsoring children in the area, and haven’t had a proper place to meet with them. When I and the local team first visited the space, we were worried that it might be too basic. The space was dark, damp, dirty, and decrepit. Our four little rooms were down a tiny corridor with no windows to the outside, only to the corridor. There were an alarming number of bugs. We all wondered if it would be possible to rehabilitate this space into a suitable place to work.
As we surveyed the space, and despaired of making anything good out of it, three little girls wandered in from the street to see what we were doing. One of them, Malaya, is in our sponsorship program. You could see the cautious hope in their little faces: could something good be about to happen? Their spark of hope convinced us to push through our reservations and carry on. Perhaps this humble space is not our forever home in Kidderpore, but it can be a stepping stone on the way to something better.
Two weeks later, after extensive repairs, building shelves, breaking down some walls, adding some doors and sinks and a new toilet, and a window mural painted by visiting artist Dan Roy, I am starting to see the potential. When the lockdown ends and center can open, we plan to offer computer and English classes, and to provide children a safe place to study and play while their moms are working. Our Education Program Director Maura will teach library and art classes, and we will invite local artists and educators, as well as international volunteers, to bring their talents and ideas to the space. We are starting simply, but like everything we have done, it will grow organically as we learn more about what the women and children of this community want and need.
Currently we are focused on providing food and other emergency needs during the COVID crisis.