MAKER STORIES

 

STORIES OF FREEDOM

Every purchase supports a day of freedom. Here are a few of stories of our current and past makers and the life-changing impact your purchase has made. They have been MADE FREE!

 

Aanaya

Ananya grew up in mountains of Manipur in a tribal community. By the time she was 3 years old, both her parents had died leaving her completely orphaned. She grew up moving amongst the neighbors huts. Robbed of her youth, she endured forced labor from a very little child. With little to eat and poor living conditions, Ananya was chronically malnourished and frequently ill . When she was 10 years old she was sent to an orphanage. This was a lifeline. There she was fed and educated and avoided the horrors of child labor. As she grew older she met other girls who planned to be garment workers when they graduated. Ananya’s kept hearing about MADE FREE and the work we were doing with local at the factory. She loves to sew and made it her goal for join us. Ananya picked up the skills quickly and now she is a team leader! She’s enthusiastic in her desire and vision to train more young women who were orphaned as she was, with these skills so that they too can have safe and meaningful employment.

 

Lakshmi

Lakshmi was born into extreme poverty in the slums of Chennai.

Her childhood was a survival story most of us in the west cannot even imagine. Her family’s shack was in a sewage flow and all throughout rainy season the sewage waste from the overflowing drains along the slum would flood their house. Trapped in extreme poverty, there was no option to move from the slum. So there, Lakshmi along with her four siblings and parents, worked hard to feed the family and simply survive making it hard for her to go to school.

When she was 16 her father died. She expressed to us the nightmares she had to go through each day just to bring food home to her family. At the age of 18, desperate and with two children of her own she got married. “ I knew he already had a few other women in his life” she recalls.  “My husband would take drugs and beat me when he is drunk, every day was a struggle just to survive.”  When she was 23 years old, her husband died. Once again, providing for her children and mother fell to Lakshmi.

“I thought that there is no hope in this life and I and planned to commit suicide. To kill myself and also my kids as well.”

This is the experience of crippling poverty that millions are trapped in today.

It was at this point that Lakshmi’s neighbor told her about the MADE FREE opportunity. Sharing that she had found a place employment that offered hope, value and joy. Lakshmi started working with us and shared with us that she loves the family she has found here.

“Through this job I am able to feed and provide for my family and also send the kids to school!”

 

Kanika

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.

 

Ayanna

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 maker, 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.

 

Jyoti 

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.

 

Saima

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!

 

Sangeeta

“I have changed a lot from the way I used to be” Sangeeta reflects.  She remembers a happy childhood with her parents, but her life took a turn for the worse and she found herself trapped in a situation she thought she’d never be able to get out of. Since working with MADE FREE, she has found a new life full of hope. “It is almost like getting my childhood days back” she shares. Adding that she likes the 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 Sangeeta would like to buy her own home. A goal we’re happy to be a part of helping Sangeeta achieve!

 

Bijoya

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 maker. 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

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 maker 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

Ahmad takes great pride in becoming a lead maker 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 now says he experiences hope daily.

 

Anita 

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.

 

Babli

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.


Guddu

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 quickly 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

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 one day being a kindergarten teacher. The income she generates as a MADE FREE crafter supports her family and her own education.

 

Pooja

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 FREEs 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.

 

Sayna

“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” says Sayna. She is also very proud to now have an ID card saying that she works for a respectable company. “I could never save money” she recalls, “but the first thing I did when I started working here was to open up a bank account!” She shared that after becoming a MADE FREE crafter she was able to sign up for a savings account and attain an insurance plan for her family. “ I can't always save, but whenever I get paid I always try and put some money aside” Sayna shared.

 

Shahida 

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 meet 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 workshop 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 I have had a peace in my heart. Now, I have so much peace.”

 

Note: Though the stories are true, many of the names have been changed to protect the crafter's identity.

Makers who have left our teams for greater work opportunities were able to do so because of the skills and confidence they gained starting at a MADE FREE team.