November 12 , 2004
I’m writing from the neighborhood where Deepak, our friend from the world social forum, lives. We’re staying with him and his family. Right now the streets are filled with firecrackers and lights for the hindu festival of Diwali which celebrated the return of the hindu god rama and the conquering of good over evil. It’s getting dark so now I can see the flashes of fireworks and can smell gunsmoke. Outside most people’s doors are lit candles and beautiful drawings written with colored sand. Everywhere you go people wish us Happy Diwali.
Its really warm today – most days its been over 100 – I’ve been doing great with the weather but today I really feel it – wow – all you can do is surrender. But it’s so good to be back and it was really good to be reunited with Deepak and his family – they are such amazing people. His parents were married by law not arrangement – a rarity here – they truly love each other and are so good and balancing to each other. Most of the time we’ve spent here we’ve been just focusing on the business which has been an amazing experience – we’ve been traveling back and forth to Creative Handicrafts which is about three hours away by foot, rickshaw (small 3 wheeled taxis that fits 3) bus and train. Creative Handicrafts is the amazing fair trade organization Patti and I will be working with. Their model for a cooperative of over 250 people is truly amazing – encompassing: economic development, capacity building and women’s self empowerment. Each component is very well developed for all of those who work there to thrive. Creative is located directly in the middle of the slums – the women who work there are from the slums and are disadvantaged or poor – (the criteria for having them be a part of Creative). From the street they are put into a training program where they learn how to sew and make clothing, bags, etc. From there they are moved into a work group (currently there are 8 groups of about 16 women) which is run collectively – in these groups the women collectively determine their working hours, their production schedule, decide who will sew which part of the clothing and manage the profits they receive from their work. If one work group makes more profit than another, the women meet to divide it up equally. Creative also provides trainings for all of their producers – sometimes the
trainings are about HIV/AIDS prevention, sometimes about how to manage their money,etc. Creative also runs a
day care for the women’s children and one child from each family is sponsored to attend school – I could go on and
on about the many benefits and components to creative – together Patti and I have been collecting stories from the
many people who work there – from the designer who is from an upper middle class family and once would never
think of working in the slums, to sister Isabel, from Spain, who helped found Creative and has lived here for
forty years, to Rosy who began her work at the training center as a woman without much hope and now
coordinates the training program and many others. The place radiates with good energy and when we see the
women working they are smiling. I am truly inspired and its made me think more and more about what a
learning/community center can be. – I actually just came back from a trip downstairs to watch one of
the neighborhood boys set off fireworks. Ever since the kids learned we were staying here they are constantly
knocking our door – bringing us treats from their mothers or to ask us to take walks with them. Ramesh asked us
we could cook him an American meal – I think we’ll invite them over to have homemade pizza.
I’m reading Creative’s “social audit” now – it
basically was a paper they put together at their funders’ request. But in it they reviewed all of the components of
their organization truthfully asking: their workers, the board of trustees, their funders, the staff:
what do you enjoy about creative handicrafts – what do you not enjoy?
What contribution could you make to improve the performance of creative handicrafts? Etc.
The process of writing the social audit allowed them to evaluate each part of their work – focus groups met to
workshop on different aspects – statistics on how well they met their objectives were evaluated – and from all of
the information gathered: the main issues that the organization faced and recommendations to the organization
Next all of the information complied was distributed to the stakeholders – or those who were involved in the
organization as well as the funders. It’s a great model.
Tomorrow we’ll head back to Creative Handicrafts to pick out some products to take back – time is going too quickly.
I hope everyone is well – more soon.