STORIES OF FREEDOM
Every purchase supports a day of freedom. Here are a few of stories of our crafters and the life-change impact your purchase makes. They have been MADE FREE!
If you met Kanika today, you’d see a hardworking single mother with hope and a future—but her outlook wasn’t always so bright. Kanika and her family were just getting by when her husband passed away. Left with little to her name and no workable skill, Kanika found herself on her own to provide for her special needs son. Her desperation took a turn when she connected with MADE FREE in Indian village, where she works as a crafter today. She used to feel alone in her struggle. Now, she has a community. Through this support and the skills she’s acquired, Kanika not only provides beautiful goods for the MADE FREE community—she provides for her family. And her hope doesn’t end here. Kanika’s next goal is to buy a house to call her own and, with your help, she can.
Raised within a culture of neglect, Ayanna doesn’t even know her own age. All of the money she made standing in the lines along the streets of Sanagachi was used to provide for her family, and rarely left enough for her to eat. Ultimately it was this unrelenting selflessness for her family that brought her to discover work as a crafter, and find freedom from life as a sex worker. She is now providing a life for her family that she never had the chance to have for herself.
As someone who was rescued from a life in the lines, Jyoti now makes visits to the brothels as a free woman to tell the girls that there is another way, and to show them that a path to a greater life exists. Now as a successful crafter she professes that she feels like an entirely new person; healthy, at peace, and living with a husband and family who truly love her.
To meet Saima you wouldn't immediately know the weight she has carried for her family. Her beautiful smile and eager heart to learn doesn’t show the weight at first, but every woman has a story and Saima is no exception. She's the oldest of 4 sisters. She lives in a culture where girls are often felt to be a burden on their families until the family can save enough money to marry them into another family where once again they become dependents. Saima has disproved that theory. She worked very hard and finished grade 12 but her father is very elderly and her mother has paralysis. This meant Saima had to find some source of income, but where? These are the stories of desperate women and they often end up in human trafficking and abuse. Thankfully, through a family friend she was introduced to MADE FREE's partner where she was told she would not only learn skills and earn a wage but she would be in a safe environment where she could be empowered and taught life skills as well. Her family is so proud of her! The need is still great with three younger sisters at home and both parents sick but there is joy and hope in her days now. A quick learner, she now makes MADE FREE products and knows her future looks brighter than ever before as she continues to earn a fair wage and grow in skills and courage daily! We are so proud of Saima too!
I have changed a lot from the way I used to be. I had a happy childhood with my parents, but my life took a turn for the worse and I found myself trapped in a situation I thought I'd never be able to get out of. Since working here I have found a new life full of hope. It is almost like getting my childhood days back. I like that we are a community here. Sometimes we fight, but we also hang out together. I am proud of the way I live now and, even if things are still difficult, I can hold my head up high. In the future I would like to use my own money to buy my own home, so when I'm old I will have somewhere nice to live and be accepted as part of society.
Since she was a child, the life of a sex-worker loomed heavily over Bijoya’s life. With a mother who constantly had customers in the same room as her and her brother, she was unable to study, and was pursued by the same men that her mother brought into their home. As she grew older, Bijoya would leave the house when customers were there, and it was on one of these days that she happened to meet a man who offered her a job as a crafter. She is now married, in her own home, and makes enough money to help her mother break free of the life she has lived for so long.
Bavishni lives in rural India and grew up facing a lifetime of captivity. From a young age, she understood that. When she was 15, her father abandoned her and her four sisters, seemingly destroying any chance they had to make a better life for themselves. Today, Bavishni is a young crafter providing more for her family than her father ever had, and the goods she creates in her remote Indian village are being sold around the world.
Ahmad takes great pride in becoming a lead crafter at the workshop where he makes MADE FREE products. With 4 growing children at home and a beautiful wife that struggles with chronic illness, regular work and consistent salary is absolutely necessary. And this is what brought him to work where he is now sewing MADE FREE bags. Before this Ahmad struggled to find consistent work and did not know how he would afford to send his children to school, purchase the medicine and care his wife needed, and put food on the “floor eating mat” for his family. No dinner tables in this part of South Asia. Ahmad now receives a scholarship through work that allows for all 4 of his children to attend school. From his own hard-earned money, he has the finances needed for health needs within his family, and his wife has regular visits from the company nurse as well as the chance to rub shoulders with women working in the business who can encourage her and walk with her through the challenging years of raising young children. Ahmad says, “We work hard and it is a kind and wonderful atmosphere.” He experiences hope daily.
Anita is a young and pleasantly smiling girl. She wanted to be educated and have a good career, but due to unfortunate circumstance and acute financial difficulties she decided to give up her studies. She started working so that she could support her younger sister's education and sustain her family. Along with making MADE FREE bags, Anita is encouraged to continue her studies. Finding a job has mitigated the possibilities of Anita being set astray by people seeking vulnerable opportunities.
Born and raised in a squatters camp next to a Hindu temple in Delhi, India, most of Babli's life has been full of fear. Babli and her sisters spent each night wondering if they would be safe. Every afternoon, Babli decorated hands with henna for the small price of five rupees (about $0.10). The money always went to fund her father's alcoholism, until he left the family to fend for themselves. Three years ago, Babli was rescued from her horrible circumstances. She had the opportunity to read and write Hindi, practice English, and complete vocational training. The education she received has enabled her to work in a steady job. She is working to save enough money to buy a house and rescue her sisters from the slum. She dreams of giving her family the same opportunities she received and breaking the cycle of poverty for good.
Growing up in an environment where you must overcome challenges, Guddu has been resourceful from a young age and has made numerous efforts to contribute to his family needs. At the age of 14, Guddu left home to find work in other cities. But like many, time after time he was promised his wage only to be left with nothing after months of work. Now as a young man, Guddu has found a place working on MADE FREE products where he is paid a fair wage on time, all the while being challenged to greater levels and treated with respect. Little did he know, his resourcefulness would pay off as he daily solves technical problems and makes the most of every raw material and hand tool available to get the job done well. The joy of working in such an environment is impactful, known best by his great smile and energetic attitude in the workshop.
Heena comes to Delhi, India from a family with little resources, no father figure and an abusive older brother. Being the oldest of four sisters, she had the sole responsibility to support her ailing mother and family. Heena dreams of being a kindergarten teacher. The income she generates as a MADE FREE crafter supports her family and her own education.
She still has a vague memory of when she was locked in a 6' x 6' room for 7 days as her parents went visiting their relatives in a different town. She was only four years old, but that feeling of being unwanted is still fresh. How she survived that ordeal is another story.
Pooja is the second of five siblings, and she was the only income-earning member of her family. She lived her life in a slum cluster just outside the city limits – most people who live there have leprosy. When her father abandoned the family, her mother put her in a small living area with very strict rules and regulations.
She found her way to MADE FREE′s first partner in India. She now lives in a supportive, positive community where she is influenced by mentors and leaders while growing in her faith. Now she is a woman who can manage administration, finance, and workers, as well as craft high-quality leather products.
Pooja is undergoing training to do high-level quality control of finished products before they are shipped to buyers. She is now working to help her younger sister and two younger brothers come out of the life circumstances to which she was once subjected. She serves as a role model for her siblings and others living in similar circumstances.
Before I worked here I had never been to Aquatica or any parks. I never had any friends to go with and I had no money. I could never trust the friends I had. Now I know I can trust the workmates I have, and I know they want the best for me. I am very proud to have an ID card saying that I work for a respectable company and I don't get bothered by anyone. I could never save money, but the first thing I did when I started working here was to open up a bank account. The other day I signed up for a savings and insurance plan for my family. I can't always save, but whenever I get paid I always try and put some money aside.
Her warm, shy smile will draw you in from the first moments you meet her. Shahida faithfully stitches at a sewing machine each day weaving not only works of art to share around the world but the future of her children as she thinks through the many needs waiting at home and the work in her hands that meets those same needs.
Raising four growing kids in North India, all still in school, is a feat to be cheered. Three daughters and one son. Her daughters she hopes will be the first generation of young women in her family to graduate and wish to attend college. Her son she hopes to see grow into a teachable educated young man. Hope is the key word here. And each piece of fabric she stitches continues to build the hope within her.
Shahida’s face lights up as she receives work and she is so very talented that she learns every new design given her to sew. This provides much work for her. Work for her and for the 10+ women from her community she now oversees. With the machines and generator at our work shop giving her the most productivity, she sits almost every day next to the sunshiny window sewing “food, clothing, schooling, and hope” into the lives of her children.
The most beautiful thing for Shahida though is the hope growing in her heart. With tears in her eyes she shares, “since working here (with Village Artisan) I have had a peace in my heart. Now, I have so much peace.”
Zubair is one of the most experienced crafters. He comes from a tiny village in Bihar, a state which is known for its extreme poverty. There are many reported cases of crime and suicide in the area. Most cases are motivated by the unrelenting pressure of debt. Zubair moved to New Delhi to try to scrap out a living and a new life for his family.
He continuously thinks of his family, including his two children, back in the village. They live in unimaginable conditions, lacking clean water, required nutrition, and basic sanitation. The whole family, including the extended family, of about 8-10 people live in a 10' x 12' room with an open kitchen.
Zubair wants to be the man who breaks the vicious cycle of poverty for his family. The cycle must stop at this generation. He intends to provide an education for his children so that they come out of the cycle and lead a normal life. He currently sends 90% of his income back home to take care of expenses and debts. As he earns a better income, he might be able to bring his wife and children to Delhi so they can stay together as a family. He also wants to support his handicapped and ailing father.
Note: Though the stories are true, many of the names have been changed to protect the crafter's identity.