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Filtering by Tag: empowerment

The Gratitude Series: Uganda

Lindsey Malcolm

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Not too long ago, in Spring 2017, we welcomed our first cohort into the Kampala, Uganda Sanctuary. A culture of support, perseverance, and joy must be established for long-term success and, over the last few weeks and months, we’ve seen proof that these seeds have taken root.

Each week, we receive an update from our Program Coordinator in Kampala and with every email, we are overwhelmed with gratitude. Here are some of the excerpts and reasons we give thanks for what is happening in Uganda:

“I wanted to stop, but, Mary, she believed in me. She kept working until I succeeded.” -a participant who struggled making the Mira Cuff and was encouraged and coached by her fellow participant, Mary, for hours under the mango tree

“During the last storm, the power went out and we were all huddled around two small desks with a couple of flashlights; the participants seemed to feel a lot more comfortable with us in such close quarters. They spent the day asking us all kinds of questions: Does it snow in the U.S.? Have we ever seen a bear? Do bears eat people? What do animals eat when everything is covered in snow? They’ve heard that in Alaska, there are sometimes days without night. Is it true? How do people know when to sleep, when to go to work? It was a pretty fun day!” -Emily, our program coordinator

“When we first started making Olivia earrings, everyone was terrible at them and got really frustrated. I saved everyone's first attempt in a little bag with their names attached. After we'd been making them successfully for several days, I handed the first attempts back and everyone had a good laugh at how bad they were. At the end of the day, we asked what they learned and a few of them drew lessons about how it's important to keep with something, even when it’s difficult.” -Emily, our program coordinator

“I enjoy it when things are easy, and when they're hard. When they're hard, I learn and improve my skills; when they're easy, I feel good about how quickly I finished something.” -a woman rebuilding her life in the Kampala, Uganda Sanctuary

“My birthday was yesterday. Several of the participants surprised me with cards, which was sweet and totally unexpected. After lunch, a bunch of them disappeared. We started to wonder if we were going to have give a lecture about attendance, when suddenly they came in singing Happy Birthday, dancing, and showering my head with flower petals.”
-Emily, our program coordinator

During this season of gratitude, we hope you’ll join us in giving thanks that support, perseverance, and joy are alive and well in the Uganda Sanctuary.

If you’re interested in keeping up with the goings on in the Uganda Sanctuary, email ashleymccully@isanctuary.org and she will add you to our Uganda email list.

She needed help.

Lindsey Malcolm

Little did she know when she boarded a flight from Seattle to San Francisco that Sheila Fredrick would become somebody’s hero. The Alaska Airlines flight attendant trained by Airlines Ambassadors International, an organization that has teamed up with the airline industry to protect vulnerable children knew the signs of what to look for.  Shelia was empowered to act when she saw a disheveled girl traveling with an older, well-groomed man. Something wasn't right.

And it wasn't.

Using a note in a lavatory, Shelia was able to discreetly communicate with the teen. When the flight attendant retrieved the note that read "I need help", she acted at once. Police were waiting when the flight landed. The girl was taken to a safe location and the man transporting her was taken into custody. 

This is a perfect example of the tremendous work our partners in the anti-trafficking realm are doing every day: training people to spot the signs, know how to act, and be a force for positive change. We are privileged to work along side these organizations to provide restorative and holistic care those those escaping trafficking.

Shelia, thanks for showing us that one person can truly make a difference!

Image from NBC News. 

Image from NBC News. 

Gratitude For Our Partnership with IJM

Lindsey Malcolm

In 2007, when International Sanctuary’s founder, Stephanie Pollaro and Sunita Khursule, Director of Operations, began digging deep into the local work of the anti-slavery movement in Mumbai, India, she noted a glaring gap: after-care resources for rescued victims were limited in diversity, resources, and accessibility. With initial guidance from International Justice Mission, Stephanie launched iSanctuary with the intent of providing holistic rehabilitation—economic viability, education, personal growth, therapy, healthcare, and training in life skills—to ensure comprehensive restoration and sustained freedom.

International Justice Mission (IJM) has devoted almost two decades to researching, combatting, and mobilizing a movement against modern-day slavery. Since the organization’s inception in 1997, IJM has grown into the world’s largest anti-human trafficking group, fighting against traffickers, corruption, and broken justice systems in eighteen locations to rescue victims of violence and exploitation across the globe. We are grateful for our partnership with IJM and acknowledge our efforts wouldn’t be possible without them.

As allies against the atrocities of trafficking in Mumbai, iSanctuary and IJM have developed a fond and impactful partnership since Stephanie started her aftercare community. Last week, I met with an IJM Mumbai staff member, Shalini Newbigging, aftercare manager, to learn more about the significance of our organizations’ allegiance. (The following interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.)            

Kate: How would you characterize the current partnership between IJM and iSanctuary?

Shalini: Once the girls are in the iSanctuary program, typically we don't really have to do a lot of follow up; we don't have to worry in that sense, because it's a very holistic program that takes care of education, financial needs, shelter, and home needs. So, I think once we know that the girl is referred to iSanctuary, we know that a lot of her needs are being taken care of. It's really neat to have that.  

Kate: What role do you think that community plays in rehabilitation for survivors participating in our organizations’ programs?

Shalini: Community is an important role in the healing process. You know we all say that no one can live alone—we can’t be our own little islands. Especially for people who have had so much taken away from them, it is an uphill battle to find even simple joys and simple things in life that make them happy. We have to be intentional about having community support. We truly believe in transition homes and group homes because there's such a sense of camaraderie, of belonging, of friendship and we all need that regardless of what we've been through. They need much more support and community work. It's a big need, and we do our best. 

Kate: What are the best qualities that have come out of partnering with iSanctuary, and do you think any of the programming at iSanctuary has informed your work at IJM?

Shalini: The advantages of iSanctuary are that we have so many independent girls now who are earning well, living independently, and have really great solid lives. And who are just doing well without a lot of follow up and support. A lot of the older girls—it's really beautiful see how far they've come, their growth and their journeys and their success stories. And so that definitely is a high point of our partnership, to have that physical representation of a restored girl, living independently, doing something that she really loves, and moving forward in life. It's really cool to know that you guys keep growing, that you have your education program now, and we support what iSanctuary does, and we support the business as you can see [she shows me that she’s wearing Purpose Jewelry earrings!], and we check online and read the blogs. I even talk to my friends in California about iSanctuary because I think it's just so brilliant, I love the quality of products and I love that it directly benefits these girls. We've seen our girls and they're very happy. They enjoy what they do, they're so confident and so independent, so we really appreciate the work that iSanctuary continues to do in the city.

Written By: Kate Poor, India Communications Liason

Victories & Challenges

Lindsey Malcolm

Since we featured the voices of our Mumbai staff to give you a peek into the inner workings of our India office, we wanted you to hear from the young women we serve. We sat down with the students and artisans participating in iSanctuary programs to talk about their biggest challenges and achievements right now. The following is a glimpse into the hearts and minds of our brilliant participants! 

Aditi

Challenge: It is a hard challenge for me to accomplish my project in three hours since the Academy has started.  And I had some work and was thinking, “when it will get finished?”

Victory: But finally I got finished those projects so that is my victory. So I will call it a victory and a challenge.

Sanyugita

Challenge: Production is hard because new models have come and that gives me difficulty because I have to learn new designs. Otherwise, everything in work is fine.

Victory: I’m always on time for school. I’m happy that I never miss class because we have to come early in the morning. And at first I was thinking, “Oh my god, I have to get up early” but it never gives me difficulty. I’m proud to never miss class.

Gamani

Challenge: My challenge is to finish a lot in one week. I am just trying to finish everything.

Victory: I like to work hard and there is a lot to do so I am happy.

 Divya

Challenge: It’s hard for me today because of the new models (new jewelry designs). So this is a lot of pressure for work.

Victory: I’m lucky to have work to do, because lots of people don’t have jobs, so I’m very thankful for that. Every time I feel down about work, I say “don’t be sad,” because you have lots of things to do in your future.

 

Like the stories of the staff, our participants show common themes in their descriptions of challenges, as well as shared themes in their narratives of celebrations. Our community thrives on the collectivity of hardships; we help each other get through tough times through empathy, mentorship, laughter, listening, creating safe moments to talk, and building spaces for growth and learning.

And while we prosper in the collective resilience against shared battles, we also grow from our differences—the unique nuances that disrupt the temptation of complacency, push us to see another perspective, and humble us in the wake of victories and challenges we might not have acknowledged. The mélange of voices and experiences push us to challenge assumptions and strengthen us in the lessons we learn from each other. Our individual experiences compel each of us to face variant challenges, but the beauty of the iSanctuary community is that no matter our differences, we rise up together.

Finding Power Through Education

Lindsey Malcolm

 
 

The iSanctuary Academy broke ground one month ago. Before the first day of class, we earnestly anticipated opening the doors—exhilarated at the prospect of introducing our meticulously hewn, cutting edge program, but also a smidge nervous about jumping into unexplored territory. Today, we already see the budding successes in the growing interests and capacities of the young women enrolled in the learning community. Our students arrive promptly at 8:30 every morning—some bouncy and ready to go, some still sleepy and stirring gradually through the infectious energy of their classmates. In the past four weeks, we’ve seen shier girls begin speaking out more in class, and watched apprehensive students willingly ask questions, offer responses, and engage in intellectual exercises. Garnering a committed base of eager learners, who arrive each day with completed homework and a motivated attitude perhaps appears a small milestone. But right now, we are celebrating these small victories. These are the signifiers that girls whose educations have been cruelly interrupted can have a second chance. These fledgling successes demonstrate that our students are learning every day life skills—habits that people without histories of trauma might take for granted, such as arriving on time, consistently completing assignments, and taking initiative—that will propel them forward in their education and social experiences. The daily attendance and engagement of our young women in the classroom show us that they are willing to confront challenges and committed to improving their lives through education. 

At iSanctuary, we believe that education equips students with the tools to understand perspectives and experiences beyond their own and to advance their communities. Many studies indicate that access to education diminishes poverty, reduces gender-based violence, and lowers risk of enslavement. Based on an ardent faith in the power of education to act as catalyst for change, we have spent the last year researching, planning, designing, evaluating, and (just recently) launching The Academy—an educational space built for and by the specific needs of our iSanctuary community.

Most of the survivors at iSanctuary have not completed elementary school. Traffickers who forced our participants into bondage and families who did not see the value in educating girls put an early and unjust end to many survivors’ educations. In hopes of fortifying the scope, diversity, and sustainability of the possibilities in our participants’ futures, The Academy intends to give our participants another chance at the education they were denied. Through a varied curriculum of basic math, science, social studies, computers, English, Hindi, writing, health, life skills, and financial planning classes, participants in The Academy can now fill in the gaps in their education, while developing their academic interests, personal strengths, and professional skills. Our objective is to prepare participants for independent lives by developing critical thinking, decision-making, emotional wellness, community building, creativity, and leadership.

In 2013, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan proclaimed, “Education is the key to eliminating gender inequality, to reducing poverty, to creating a sustainable planet, to preventing needless deaths and illness, and to fostering peace.” As we foster an empowering and supportive environments for the girls to explore their curiosities and dreams, together, we push towards a more peaceful and enfranchised future.

By Kate Poor, Communication Liaison & Alyson Emory Holsclaw, Program Developer

The Art of Dreaming

Lindsey Malcolm

For many young women in iSanctuary’s program, dreams feel unattainable. People who have experienced depression, trauma, or abuse, know that formulating a dream for the future can be nearly impossible. For this reason, the Mumbai Sanctuary is practicing the art of dreaming.

It's easy to think that dreaming is something that always comes naturally to humans, but there is a surprising extent to which dreaming is a learned experience. At times, the young women in the Mumbai Sanctuary are unable to see beyond their present situation, so dreaming becomes something we learn and practice together.

Recently, iSanctuary board member and leadership coach, Susan Cramm, visited the Mumbai Sanctuary. Susan generously coaches our iSanctuary staff and interns to utilize their strengths and develop new skills. When she visited Mumbai in April, Susan coached the jewelry artisans on how to dream. We bought stacks of magazines, pulled out the scissors and glue, and everyone (artisans, staff, and interns) created inspiration boards to express their dreams!

The ladies had several days to complete their boards, and at the end of the week, we shared our boards and talked about our dreams together. It was wonderful to see everyone excited about their future goals, sharing smiles and laughter together. For individuals who know the depth of depression, the celebration of a dream is a true miracle. Now, we're looking forward to working with the ladies as they break their dreams down into manageable goals and take steps toward accomplishing them!

 For many young women at iSanctuary, dreams can feel like something that only comes to fruition in the movies. But as a sister in the Sanctuary, the ladies are able to work as a family to help each other achieve their goals. As a staff, we support the young women by walking alongside them as they learn the art of dreaming, and what it means to achieve their dreams by setting goals and working towards them one step at a time.

Financial Empowerment

Lindsey Malcolm

Since the start of 2015, the Mumbai Sanctuary has seen explosive growth! More young women are working full time in the workshop than ever before. With courage and bravery, these young women are taking tremendous strides in their personal growth, especially their financial independence.

As anyone who has had the experience of their first "real" paycheck knows, it can take some time to learn how to manage your finances. It is no different with the participants in iSanctuary’s program. Each participant is paid per piece. The more jewelry they produce, the higher the paycheck.  The learning curve is steep for these young women as they have rarely faced any sort of financial decisions before, nor do they come from families who modeled positive financial decision making. For many of them, this is the first time in their lives they have the liberty to make decisions with an income they have independently earned.

Through iSanctuary financial empowerment seminars, young women are able to learn the answers to many basic questions: What is savings? Why save? What are assets? Why build assets? What kind of challenges do we face when trying to save money? Each participant takes the time to develop short term and long term savings goals and a plan for reaching that goal. Not only are these young women learning to develop their own personal finance plans, but they are learning from a senior participant who models this skill. The course instructor joined iSanctuary seven years ago, and has demonstrated a natural teaching ability by instructing jewelry making classes and mentoring new participants in the aftercare homes. Through the focused development of one participant at a time, we were able to see exponential growth on the original investment seven years ago.  

Exponential empowerment is taking place as one participant mentors and develops others! When one woman flourishes, others are empowered through her growth. The finance class is just one more example of iSanctuary’s holistic approach to aftercare.

The Day to Day

Lindsey Malcolm

Some days you spend checking quality control on products, reviewing impact metrics, and typing minutes from the most recent staff meeting. And some days India puts a satellite in orbit around Mars, which leads you to discover that one of the girls in the office didn’t know that there were other planets. So instead of checking products, you spend the next hour trolling YouTube and Google Images for pictures of the solar system and videos of Neil Armstrong moon-walking. Go figure.

Being part of the lives of the iSanctuary young women, in such a consistent way sometimes means filling in the gaps where they have not previously had teachers, mentors, or sisters (Example: Space 101: Introduction to the Solar System). In some ways, this is the most difficult part of the job because it’s time-consuming and unpredictable. It seems like the days with the longest to do lists are also the days where someone has a serious problem with a roommate or needs help with logic homework. (I have NEVER taken a logic class. Sorry honey, but this homework is just as indecipherable to me as it is to you… What does “indecipherable” mean? Oi…) But on the other hand, sometimes it means you get to have great conversations about healthy dating relationships, or why eating street food can make you sick, or whether or not aliens are real.

The best part is that it works both ways of course. Not only am I able to offer my perspective into their lives, but they offer their perspective into my life as well. A life skills coach comes in once a week to spend time with the ladies in the office, and she spent time recently teaching them the importance of good nutrition. Meanwhile, the other interns and I had developed something of a bad habit of eating Maggi for lunch (the Indian equivalent of Top Ramen) on a fairly regular basis. After their nutrition class, the girls were quick to point out to us that this was incredibly unhealthy and that we should be eating only whole wheat grains as well as fruits and vegetables. I am happy to report that our eating habits have actually improved since that day.

It can be quite easy in the flurry of filling orders, market runs, and creating reports to forget the larger picture of what we are here to do - bringing wisdom, worth, and dignity. But I love the day to day moments because they are so vital to teaching and developing the characteristics we desire to instill in the young women of iSanctuary. These human interactions, the relationships with each other, are what make us who we are. 

- Written By: Erin Arendse, Program Liason