Sri Lanka instilled within me a belief that as human beings we all strive for some sort of beauty in our lives, something to give us conviction and a sense of purpose, an overarching, universally sought destination. My travels revealed art as one potential source of this beauty and a tool for expression. I found art’s power in its ability to act as a nonverbal form of communication, telling the story of anyone, even those who had been silenced. My travels demonstrated the power of beauty in transforming pain and the power of expression in building strength. Emerge is a program dedicated to empowering these ideas to create beauty in the lives of abused girls in Sri Lanka.
This is the initial installment of what I hope to be a monthly update on Emerge, my project in Sri Lanka. I hope that this will be an easy format for you to witness my project’s development as my ideas and possibilities unfold. This first issues is much longer than future issues will be as it contains the events of the past few months. There is so much to catch all of you up on! As always, I love to hear from anyone who has ideas for the project, things for me to consider, or contacts and resources that may be valuable. Emerge is about community and each one of you has performed a pivotal role in its development. I hope you will continue to be involved and help to shape the growth of this project that means so much to me.
World Bank Grant for $10,000!
My most exciting news is that the project received a $10,000 grant from the World Bank’s Youth Innovation Fund just last week! This grant will fund:
• more supplies for the project
• 5-6 fieldtrips outside of the home for all girls (currently the girls only go on 1-2 outings a year due to insufficient funds for vehicles and chaperones to keep the girls safe)
• a digital camera to document the girls’ work and experiences
• supplies for scrapbooks for each girl to be filled with work and activities they are proud of
• a mentorship program with local professional business women to nurture a sense of financial empowerment, an understanding of money, and a supportive relationship that will empower the girls once they leave the home
• starter kits for other Sri Lankan children’s homes that would like to start a similar program
• transportation for several members of Ma-Sevana (the home in which the girls live) to a “best practices” conference for all of Sarvodaya’s children’s homes. Ma-Sevena members will disseminate information about the impact of Emerge, demonstrate jewelry technique, and provide the starter kits to homes that would like to start a similar program
• a “showcase day” at Ma-Sevana where the girls will exhibit their work for large donors. This mini-market will enable the girls to share their work, practice their communication skills, and learn about product showcasing.
Universal Awakening (http://universal-awakening.org) In addition to collaborating with Sri Lanka’s largest domestic NGO, Sarvodaya, Emerge has recently become a program of Universal Awakening, a US-based non-profit. I am extremely excited about this collaboration!
“Universal Awakening (UA) seeks to build a truly inclusive, global community, (while appreciating the essential beauty and contributions of each and all of life’s communities), welcoming individuals from all backgrounds, cultures, genders, races, and religious traditions who believe that life is sacred and who wish to develop within themselves an ever-greater capacity for compassion, awareness, wisdom, leadership, and service. UA is served by individuals and organizations who wish to catalyze, facilitate and nurture awakening to sacred relationship and the fulfillment of life.”
Natalie Palugyai Junior Professional Associate, World Bank Natalie is one of those contagiously enthusiastic individuals, excited and invigorated by life, who make people believe in themselves (as I can testify from experience). She is a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government where she obtained her Masters in Public Policy with a concentration in Political and Economic Development. She has worked for the US Department of Labor and currently works for the World Bank as a Junior Professional Associate for the Latin America and Caribbean Region, focusing her work in the Water and Urban cluster.
Near the end of the summer, she came to me with the idea of applying for a World Bank grant. We began meeting and brainstorming about the project. It was so exciting to have another person to bounce ideas off of! She understands what my project is about, and not just in a mental sense… she really feels how important it is to me and feels what the girls have gone through. We applied for the World Grant together and I am so grateful to now have her as the beginning of what I know will be an amazing team!
Pangea Artisan Market and Cafe, Washington DC “…a celebration and tribute to the spirit and resilience of artisans in developing countries, mainly women.” (http://www.ifc.org/ifcext/gbo.nsf/Content/PANGEA)
Pangea is an interactive and educational store that supports artisans worldwide while hosting speaker events, providing free informational material, and most excitingly, maintaining interactive kiosks where customers can scan a product and learn about the artisan/group of artisans who made their product. The kiosks display beautiful videos that capture the artist and their work environment and make the buying experience stirring and informative.
In the past month, Pangea has expressed interest in showcasing Emerge’s products, story, and cause in May 2007 in honor of Mother’s Day. Depending on sales during the exhibition, they may continue to sell the products. After viewing samples this past week, the store owners and sales manager are so excited about the products that they may try selling them as early as this December instead of waiting for the date in May they had originally set.
NYC Market Readiness Program
In August 2006, the MIT Public Service Center sponsored me to attend the Market Readiness Program in New York City, a conference hosted by Aid to Artisans. ATA is a non-profit with the goal of: “a world community of entrepreneur-craftspeople who have the ability to improve their own lives, the lives of their families, the communities in which they make their homes, and their livelihoods.”
The conference covered many topics, including:
• Understanding the Demands of the Export Market • Building Buyer Relationships • Researching Design and Lifestyle Trends • Understanding the Channels of Distribution for Export • Doing Business in the Global Market • Packing and Shipping for Export
The conference was held at the New York International Gift Fair, one of the world’s largest trade shows that exhibits what one attendee referred to as, “everything you could ever want but don’t actually need:” home decor, jewelry, hand bags, and personal accessories, just to name a few of the items found on thousands of packed aisles. I got the rare opportunity of seeing what is coming to market without being a registered importer, exporter, wholesaler, or retailer. The conference content was fabulous and the connections I made with the participants from over 10 countries were invaluable. It was so inspiring to be around artisans from all over the world and to get to meet with consultants about Emerge, our products, and the ways in which we can grow.
Publicity The March issue of MIT’s TechTalk published an article about my project. You can view an electronic version at: http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2006/beading-0315.html
A huge thanks as always to the many individuals who have supported me on my way:
• Sarvodaya and the Suwasetha staff for maintaining a home these wonderful girls, for embracing me and my many ideas, and for working to develop a coherent program that will support Ma-Sevana and its residents
• MIT PSC and the fellowship staff, Alison Hynd and Sally Susnowitz, for supporting me and believing in me from day one. They have put up with my incessant emails and questions and without them, there would be no project
• Anne Snodgrass, my MIT faculty advisor
• Universal Awakening for incorporating Emerge into its programs
• The Baker Foundation for funding my second trip to Sri Lanka
• The World Bank for its generous grant through the Youth Innovation Fund
• Natalie Palugyai for her enthusiasm and new involvement in Emerge
• Rick Brooks, former director of Sarvodaya USA, who has offered endless expertise and advice and has supported me extensively without ever meeting me in person
There is something about this project that always works out so beautifully, almost serendipitously… It is that something that keeps me going, that inspires and invigorates me. Often opportunities and ideas present themselves several times. And, the fact that they do seems to reveal that they are a good fit for the project. That’s how this whole program began and has arrived where it is today. The project development has consisted of me following one idea after another, trusting the natural flow of things, watching for those pieces of repeated advice and those seemingly serendipitous moments. I don’t know how to explain it more than that. Even when things seem like they simply wont work, something appears that makes me realize how doable the project is and how much support is out there in the Universe to make it happen. The advice and support that you and others have offered me have served a pivotal role in guiding the direction of Emerge. Thank you so much for your involvement. It has been, in many ways, the foundation of the project.