Last week, as inspired MIT students crowded around a table to discuss the direction of Emerge Global, I couldn’t help but think back to the spring of 2007. Just a year and a half ago, I took a semester off from MIT to make my third trip to Sri Lanka to conduct beading workshops for 20 persevering young girls. At the heart of these workshops were the emerging voices of the girls I had encountered and my eager optimism to restore their sense of hope and to help them accomplish their dreams.
I cannot say that my four months in Sri Lanka were easy. Having my computer harddrive crash was the least of my problems. Despite my best intentions, I was pushed through excruciating circles of beurocracy, sexually harassed, cheated financially, and threatened by the police. I witnessed an escalating war, waking up one night to gunfire outside my window. And, I struggled to build a program for girls fighting an unforgiving system, girls who didn’t speak my language but I so desperately wanted to comfort.
Sometimes, these challenges made me feel alone: alone in my ideas and optimism, and sometimes alone as a human being. But, I drew strength from every girl that I worked with. Each girls’ aspirations, fears, and stories motivated me. And, as I held their hands in times of need, they too took my hand to provide me with support. I realized none of us were alone. We were all connected through our yearning for purpose, meaning, and community.
One year later, the Emerge story is bigger—much bigger. What began as my own passion to help a few girls define the course of their own lives has grown to an organization of many minds and hearts that aims to one day support girls and women around the world who have survived abuse. Today, Emerge is the story of countless women in both Sri Lanka and the United States.
In the past year, Emerge has grown tremendously, girl to girl and woman to woman. In the US, more than 20 individuals volunteered their time to Emerge every single week. And, in Sri Lanka, our original Emerge girls began to teach girls of different backgrounds to make jewelry. Beading became more than a form of art-therapy, creativity, and savings generation; it became a mechanism to break down the walls of ingrained cultural stigmas.
As I hosted our first team meeting of the academic year last week, I couldn’t help but smile. Emerge is no longer an idea; Emerge is a movement. It’s hard to imagine ever feeling alone as I watch so many passionate individuals coming together to construct a new reality. And, with an incredible team in both the United States and in Sri Lanka, I know that the Emerge story will not only continue to grow, but thrive.
EmergeLove to our growing community,