My time in India with Sari Bari

Friday, February 12

This past January, Kevin and I had the privilege of flying to Kolkata, India to spend a week with Sari Bari.  You can see more pics of our time in India and Nepal here. 

From my heart I can tell you that Sari Bari is one of the most beautiful organizations i've ever seen. For many reasons, I was and am, greatly inspired by their work and mission.

Sari Bari employs women who were once involved in the sex trade in Kokata, India. They also employ a unit of women who have never been in the trade, but are vulnerable to it and are working at Sari Bari as a way of prevention (Most of the time their mom was in the trade and they get a job at Sari Bari as a way to avoid entering.).  I interviewed my friend Natalie who used to work at Sari Bari, and thought it would be helpful for you to further understand how the organization works:

Are the women trafficked or do they enter the trade on their own accord? 
Some were trafficked. Poverty choose the trade for some. We never say they chose to enter the trade.

Are most of the women coming out of prostitution on their own accord?
All of the women have to have the freedom to walk through the door of Sari Bari, so they have either paid off their debt or were rescued or phased out of the fully owned brothel system.

What happens when you hire a woman? 
The women first receive six months of training that helps them transition out of the trade. The first three months the women go to the trainings for half days where they learn how to sew. The next three months the women start training full days taking classes on writing, math, play therapy and mental health.

And once they go through the training, then they officially start work at sari bari?
Once they finish six months of training, they are full fledged Sari Bari employees with all the benefits of health care, school benefit plan, provident retirement plan.

How does the pay work??
Women are paid in two ways. The ladies who hand sew are paid a daily salary + per piece. Managers, support staff and machine ladies are paid salary. 

Now...a little more on my time in Kolkata... 

My time with Sari Bari was very unique. I worked 4 very full days, and each day was at a different site around Kolkata. I did both shots of the women making the products, as well as product shots around the city. Kevin was by my side the whole time, helping me get the shots I needed, and generally just being useful around the offices. He tied the tags that go on the bags, and helped fold and do whatever odd jobs were available. It was a gift to serve alongside him. 

The women were so gracious to welcome me into their space. I laughed a lot with them, hugged them, held their hands, and just watch in absolute awe as they made the most gorgeous products. Truly, these blankets and bags are a labor of love from skilled hands. Every time I wrap my Sari Bari blanket around me, I am reminded of their beautiful smiles and most importantly, of empowerment. 

These women have a skill, they have a craft. They are given knowledge and empowerment through their training programs, teaching them how to budget their money. Each morning begins with prayer and worship in the offices, and so much light just pours in. I have a very vivid memory of watching the ladies praise God. 

I mentioned at the beginning of this post that Sari Bari inspires me. 

First, it inspires me because someone saw a need and met it. 10 years ago  a group of people got together and recognized the specific need for more alternative job opportunities for women in the red light district of Kolkata. For 10 years they have given their life to making this business work. This is no small task, to run a non-profit in a country that has all sorts of red tape and can at times move slowly. They gave their lives to meeting this need, and I was able to witness the beautiful fruit of it. 

Sari Bari inspires me because I saw well over 100 women working in clean and caring conditions, doing something they love, and making a good wage in a fair way. Women who's lives have changed. I am inspired to know that when we purchase a product, we are using our money for kingdom purposes. 

Sari Bari bears witness to the fact that God's light can be found in dark places of this world. 

If you are interested in Sari Bari, please check out their website here! 


 {on one of the days we did a product shoot, most of our models got sick, so I jumped in and Kevin kindly snapped some pics of their amazing products. But truly, these blankets are so cozy to wrap up in!}

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