It was a hectic, hardworking and highly productive few weeks in December /January after I landed in Pondicherry to oversee the progress of the project. With the incredible support and guidance of Sorrell Robinson who came with me to volunteer, we consolidated the training in sewing and printing for the women, and the design of their beautiful handmade creations.
Our new training centre, built in 2016, proudly has its own water pump and toilet! There was a real sense of excitement and purpose inside the space throughout the weeks we were there. There were women from other marginalised communities training in the afternoon, whilst the gypsy women came in the morning to consolidate their skills, and design and create the prototypes that soon will be ready to sell. The women are also given time to work on their own sewing needs for their families and community.
The room was always overflowing with women and their trainers, volunteers and visitors, babies and sweet treats.... and a lot of laughing! It was noisy and hot and the electricity and water would sporadically cut off but we all just took it in our stride. We were all there together, united by the same purpose despite language and cultural differences.
Thank you to our visitors who came along to share the journey with us, Sandra Levin, Jonathan Levin, Judy Avisar and Eugene Shafir.
We have chosen five women who have shown enormous commitment to learning and will act as mentors for the subsequent groups. See Vijaylakshmi, Kowaisarala, Nadia, Reka and Karthiga's stories below.
In April we finished renovating the training centre so that it is more comfortable for everyone to work in. As the Indian summer sets in and temperatures start soaring, it can become unbearable in the heat of the day. We have raised the roof to allow the air to flow from above and everyone is more comfortable.
The important things in life generally take time… so here are some ideas we are working on… we hope to get them into your hands as soon as possible!!