Updates from India and Myanmar
In late 2022, with $5000 in support from SowHope (a partner organization), Priya*, the head of GATE (Gypsy and Tribal Empowerment), began a job training for twenty women. These women, treated societally and legally as sub-human and therefore blocked from education or job opportunities, have spent most of their lives collecting and selling trash, and were earning about $14-$18 per month. Priya’s training enlisted local business leaders, medical professionals, and buyers to teach the women how to collect trash safely, identify valuable items, know the worth of what they were selling, and how to save their earnings. After a year of training, the women are all earning between $54-$72 per month.
The women were taught recycling, who to sell to, and how to do it. I bring the teachers to the community and ask them to train the women. The volunteers did batch by batch to all the twenty women. Now they know how to get more money than before. She feels that after the project she feels that some angels came into her life to change their life. She said that to me. Because she was in a very poverty situation. Now they eat three times a day. They have nutritious food now. Now she becomes like even higher than others, like she can buy whatever she wants. That’s what she said.
“I can buy my sanitary pad by myself because I have money now. I can eat whatever I want. I want to eat ice cream so I can buy ice cream for myself.”
She’s enjoying life, she’s feels like this is an amazing project. This ice cream is not big money for us. But for her, it is very big goal for her. She can choose what she likes, not only what she needs.
They are collecting the waste paper and water bottles and things to promote the whole community. They can separate the trash now and they are knowing how to sell it. They are like not cheated by anyone now, because they know how and what is the value of the things they collect and sell. Before, they bring water bottles and some plastic items to the shop and they would take whatever the money the shopkeeper gives and come back to the home. But now, now they are very clear about, “Oh this product cost this much”. The teacher taught them and their knowledge is increased in this recycling. So the women are very smart, very smart nowadays to know what is the good and what is the bad thing. You know, they are very well developed nowadays. No one can cheat them. They are very clear and this develops the community. Now, after this, the twenty women can teach other women to develop the community.
Also, the women can teach her husband, because they are also doing the same kind of work. They are also doing the same type of work every day. So the woman can teach the husband, and the husband can teach other men to develop by themselves. This is the real successful project for the colony. One by one, they can be developed.
If a woman who did not participate in the program she will sell the water bottle at a certain amount or take what the shopkeeper is giving. But now, a woman who went through the program can say, “No, no, no, you cannot give this for this for 10 rupees for one kilo, you must ask for 100 rupees to the recycling company”. So even the women who did not participate can get a fair payment for their product because they know how to get the money from the shopkeeper.
One year later, you can see the difference.
You can see the difference in the community because they have earned so much more money, and they are sharing knowledge with each other.
Instructors taught them how to be hygienic, so they are clean nowadays. They taught them how to store the trash correctly to avoid diseases and mosquitos. So, they taught them how to clean. And they taught them more about washing their hands, especially when doing the work while carrying a child. They are also safely using gloves to protect themselves from electric shock when collecting metal. That’s great.
Shopkeepers are treating them more fairly now, now that the women know the value of their product.
Another thing that is challenging is some have the newborn babies. So the women don’t know how they will spend so much of time here to sit and listen. It was really a struggle to ask them to come and sit for an hour. They have to feed the babies, they have to go to the work and come back. But, nowadays they understand this is a very good thing to know about. Nowadays, they are very happy about it.
From my side I am saying, be patient and teach them slowly how they can understand. That’s very important. If the person really is not understanding one time, you have to tell them like twice or three times to understand and if they are not understanding, then they can come back to us after the class. So we have to explain slowly.
Nagana, program participant
She has twins who are one year old and two older children, 10 year old girl and 11 year old boy. She said there was no happiness in her life, and she did not know what her life would be. Before the project, they won’t eat three meals a day. So they don’t eat good meals a day, three meals a day. They usually have one meal. No nutritious food. No vegetables, no chicken.
People now are coming into her life to make new friendship. Neighbors are asking how her life changed since a couple of years ago.
She tells them that this SowHope project changed it. Now she is spreading the news to the whole community.
She said that, first of all, we started with twenty women in the training, and other women did not want to do the project because they thought it would be a lot of work and would not change much of what they are already doing, since they are already collecting and selling trash. But now, she is earning 4-5 times, and the women who did not go through the project are jealous of her.
Indra, program participant
Before project she seemed unable to buy clothes for herself. She walks without slippers to the roadside to pick the paper without proper things. Her life was so terrible. Her husband was drunk all the time. Drunk and smoking too much. Fighting with his wife. The children were so young. They are like six years and two and a half years.
After that, she bought everything she needed. Amazing. Now she’s thinking it’s not needed to divorce her husband because it’s not going to be worth it, because she’s earning money. No need to depend upon her husband now. So she, and everyone is saying that
“I’m strong and now I am independent. I can buy anything now.”
She said that, “I can buy my slippers and I can buy my daughters slippers”. Everyone has a touching story like this. It is so simple, but before she could not buy 200 rupee ($2.40) slippers.
Before, the life was so miserable. She said, “I could not do anything because every morning I have to look at my husband. If he gives me money or not. I am begging in in front of him. Now I don’t need to because I do by myself. I cook by myself. I go to the mall and the market and I buy something.”
She says that she is closer to God now. She is able to communicate with others so easily. Now she said that she’s very strong and brave to talk to others. Before that she was afraid to talk to a man. Now she thinks, “Oh, I’m earning money. I am so proud of myself.” She has confidence.
Now, she no longer has to fight with her husband about money. Her husband is still a drunkard. But she does not rely on begging from him, so his actions do not effect her as much. The family is not fighting any longer.
This woman is very sweet. She is raising up her children very well. She is a good model for this SowHope project. She and others are good role models for the community.
Rehka, program participant
Her life was totally miserable. She had health issues. Her husband beat her. She had wounds on her head. And every time she is getting beat by her husband. Her husband had affairs.
Now she earns money, then feels more independent. She is becoming more comfortable and she said she will get the treatment for her head injury with the money from the project. Her husband is still having an affair, but now she does not depend on him, and he does not beat her because she does not ask anything from him.
She, and the other women are saying, “We are so strong.” Before, she and other women were hiding on the back of the man. Not anymore. All of the women are saying they have independence.
When she goes for picking the paper she can stop into the coffee shop and she can buy that. She bought a purse to keep her money. She didn’t carry a purse before because she didn’t want to carry a purse, because she had no money to put in it. But now, she bought a purse with 200 rupees to carry and save her money.
As the civil war in Myanmar creates more and more refugees and IDPs (Internally Displaced People), one of our country leaders, Pastor Pan*, set out to help vulnerable women who had fled their homes to be able to provide for their families. Last October, we supported three women with between $450 and $550 each to start weaving businesses. A year on, all of these women have gone from between $0 to $25 in savings to between $165 and $300 in savings.
Pastor Pan reports:
Mawi* is the only daughter who looks after her parents. Because of the coup, she has to leave her job and fled to another place. She has no job and faced lots of problem in her life. As she was funded by us to start her weaving business, she faithfully continues the work and she did very well. Now, she said that through her business, she earned enough money to feed her parents and she also said that she enjoys her business.
Now she is planning that she will extend her business in the near future from what she saved. She and her parents are greatly thankful for the funds that we have provided.
“The Lord gives me good health and I enjoy my business. I live with two of my daughters and I trained them to have this weaving skill every day and now they can do by themselves. It becomes our family business and it helps a lot to meet the needs of my family.” ~ Cing*
Hau* is also faithful to the Lord and faithful to her work. She is a widow and had three children between 11 – 17 years old. All of her children are still in school and she is the only one who feeds her family. It is great to learn that she can support her children in their schooling and also earned enough money for their daily food through her weaving business. ~ Pan
Thank you for your support and prayers for the partners of Harvest Bridge!
The Harvest Bridge Team
*Names changed for safety