Dearest Emerge Supporters,
Four weeks ago, I packed my bags and returned to Sri Lanka to visit Emerge. It has been an incredible month that, despite the sweaty and packed days, has left me full to the brim in a way that’s difficult to describe. I’m grateful, alive, exhausted, and stretched… That’s one of the things I love most about being here. I experience the capacity of my body, mind, heart, and senses. What a joy to feel such fullness. Life is rich and beautiful. I feel very, very fortunate.
A few highlights from the past few weeks…
We placed 2nd out of 430+ projects at Project Inspire, a global social enterprise competition sponsored by the Singapore Committee for UN Women and MasterCard. Our prize will enable us to expand our Beads-to-Business program to a new home in early 2016! You can watch my five minute pitch here.
We hosted a reunion for our alumnae. At our reunion, we received a note from a past participant who was unable to make it: “…you were the strength and courage who supported me to fulfill my dream to become a nurse. I know you had hope in me that I will do my best. Yes, I worked hard and was able to fulfill your hope by becoming the second in my batch of hundred and eight students.”
We hired a Social Enterprise Development Officer to focus on our jewelry sales and long-term business model – Stay tuned to learn about Manahari!
Yesterday was one of those days when I was brought back to the raw emotion of why we do what we do. As we closed the Emerge office, we each lit candles for those we know who have survived rape and sexual violence. A bowl from the Emerge kitchen sat in the middle of a small bench, filled with water and small floating pink and white flower-shaped candles. A wreath was situated off to the right. We each took small orange pins made from beads and pinned them to the wreath, again, symbolizing those we know who have survived – or even passed away – due to abuse. I’m including a photo of our candles and wreath below.
As a team, we came together in silence, intentional and present, reflecting on the individuals we serve and the pain so many have encountered. While our moments and days are often filled with emotion at Emerge, I was struck by how heavy the air felt, the emotion that welled up within me, and the love in the room. We all stood there, tears in our eyes, watching the flames.
Today is the first day of this year’s 16 Days of Activism against gender-based violence. Thanks to the initiative of individuals on the Emerge team, Emerge is participating in this event for the first time. The team has planned a series of actions, starting with our candle lighting last night. The wreath and pins they made will travel throughout Colombo, where individuals from across Sri Lanka will be asked to pin the wreath in honor of anyone they know who has been abused. It not only serves as a visual reminder of the prevalence of this issue, but the sharpness of the pins themselves are a reminder of the pain sexual assault causes. Over the next few weeks, we’ll also be engaging boys and schools in a dialogue about building an anti-abuse culture. I cannot wait to see how this goes.
According to the UN, one in five women will become a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime. In Sri Lanka, a 2009 study reports that 34% of college women who were surveyed said they were sexually abused as a child. The numbers are daunting; but, my current trip to Sri Lanka has made me increasingly optimistic that we can make a dent here. Despite our small size, the government has begun to approach us for advice on shaping budget line items around child abuse prevention, policy and direction for the country, and mental health in the shelter system. Our team is more passionate and committed than ever. And, seeing our girls has reminded me how far an investment in these girls can go.
Thank you for being a part of this story. We would not be here without you. And, I could not be more grateful for the richness this work has added to my own life. Thank you. Thank you! More updates to come…
With lots of Emerge love,