The past month has been a whirlwind of activity! Aaron and Sheena, two short-term volunteers who worked with Emerge back in the United States, spent October providing valuable insights and improvements to the Emerge’s programs inside Sri Lanka. And April, a new volunteer who arrived last Friday, has already visited Ma-Sevana and is in the process of working on the best way to keep track of our inventory.
Aaron spent much of his time researching ways to source beads from China instead of purchasing them from Fire Mountain Gems, a wholesaler in the United States. Ideally the best way for us to obtain beads would be to purchase them from a local Sri Lankan distributor. This way, we don’t have to concern ourselves with import restrictions and taxes. However, the problem has been, and I believe will continue to be, the lack of a consistent supply and of high quality raw materials. None of the stores that we’ve found have any sort of catalog to order from, so designing jewelry pieces around an inconsistent supply source will cause us problems in the future. In addition, many of the beads I’ve seen at stores here in Sri Lanka are spray-painted, meaning that the color chips off after very little wear. One of my priorities when purchasing beads is chosing high-quality materials that will last for a long time. I don’t feel comfortable buying beads that aren’t as good as the current ones we’re using, even if they are much less expensive. Because of this, the next step is to continue to develop relationships with potential suppliers in China, and ultimately test out their bead supplies through a small order in the near future!
Sheena spent a majority of her time this past month refining the curriculum that I had laid out for the Bead Workshops. I believe that it is important for the girls not only to experience the art-therapy aspect of jewelry making, but also to learn valuable skills for themselves and their futures with regards to the money they’re earning. I want them to know how a bank account works, what it means to manage money, and how to budget their savings. From this, in the month of October Sheena came up with the idea and implemented a Bank and Store into each jewelry workshop. Essentially, the girls receive a check from Nirukshi, our Bead Program Coordinator, every time they turn in a product, which they deposit into their own bank accounts at the “Emerge Bank.” When they want to purchase supplies, such as beads, wire, or tools, they fill out an order form and then go to the Bank to make sure they have enough money in their account to cover the cost of the supplies. Then, they head to the “Emerge Store” where storekeepers hand out the supplies they ordered. Both the Store and the Bank are run by girls participating in the program, empowering the girls even more.
A lot of the work I’ve been doing the past month has been in expanding Emerge as a global organization. From working on the best method of internal and external communication to developing a organization-wide base of collective knowledge, it has been an incredibly fascinating process. With the month of November in front of me, I am looking forward to continuing to improve the current Bead Program, and exploring future partnerships with other organizations here in Sri Lanka.
Until then, Ellen