Thursday, March 23, 2017

Around the Globe in 17 Days

This past January, several members of the Nomi Network team traveled across the Pacific to Cambodia and India.  After seventeen days, we crossed back over the Atlantic to return to New York. Our first stop was Phnom Penh, the energetic capital of Cambodia and home to our office/training center. This was the first time our Board Member, Susan Lee, had encountered the vibrant city and smiles of Cambodia. In addition to Susan, our U.S. team consisted of Diana Mao (co-founder & president), Maria Blackburn (program officer), and our talented photo intern, Justin Wee along with two brilliant film makers, Katrina Sorrentino and Brittany Buongiorno. Throughout the trip, we had the opportunity to visit our partners and various production centers in and beyond the city.

For the majority of our Cambodia visit, our group was split up to accomplish different tasks. Diana and Maria spent most of the time meeting with potential partners to expand our program reach. They had a chance to hear about organizations that employ vulnerable garment factory workers and learned that there is little to no job security for these individuals. Meanwhile, Justin and Susan traveled to the countryside to visit our partner Village Works’ production centers and witnessed women working in the safety of their homes surrounded by their children. By having access to a sustainable income, the risk of trafficking in their family is significantly lessened. While half the team headed to Siem Reap to explore the ancient wonders of Angkor Wat, Katrina and Brittany stayed behind to capture Nomi Network’s partner producers on camera. They also had a chance to film pattern making during a Nomi International Fashion Training (NIFT) session at our office with a handful of eager students.

Before leaving Cambodia, our team had the privilege of visiting our partner shelter for survivors of sex trafficking.  We pulled up in our tuk tuk to a beautiful gated property containing several villas and sprawling manicured lawns -- nothing like it’s surroundings! Most of the girls from the shelter were away at school, but we were able to meet three girls in their cozy vibrant dorms. We saw one of the girls washing another girl’s hair to practice for hair styling school as they listened to pop music.  Knowing what these girls had gone through, we were amazed to see them having fun as carefree teenagers should. It was easy to see that this shelter was a place of redemption, healing, and fierce love.

And just like that, we were already parting ways with Susan and boarded our flight to Delhi to start our trip across India and meet with some incredible game changers to our program. At the dusty airport in West Bengal, our team united with Karen Kang, an art therapist who would be staying at our new program site for three months and Edwin Keh, Diana’s mentor from a fellowship program (and a genius on supply chains). From the airport, we embarked on a three-and-a-half-hour trek to our hotel in the rural expanse of Forbesganj, where our India staff was waiting to welcome us with a late dinner. The next morning would be the beginning of a series of inspiring and heartwarming home visits.

Crisp air and a soft sunrise greeted us along with the quiet excitement and beaming smiles of women from our very first training cohort. The women eagerly showed us their homes and the improvements they were able to make through Nomi Network’s support. One of our trainers happily showed us her new gas powered stovetop that Nomi Network had helped her acquire through a government program. She lives with her mother and is currently taking care of an abandoned little girl. This remarkable woman aspires to be just like Supei, Nomi Network’s co-founder and VP of Global Initiatives -- strong and independent. When asked about this, Supei says that she was a bit of a trouble maker in the beginning, but is very proud of the hardworking leader she has become.

Next, we visited the office and much to our surprise, we were welcomed by our trainers, clad in their Nomi Network sari uniforms and armed with a bouquet of flowers for each team member. The rest of the day was filled with training observations, breaking for chai, preparing lunch together, and taking lots of selfies. We had a special guest provide training on agriculture and recycling and show our trainees how to use old plastic bottles as planters. Because many of the women we work with live on government land and do not own property, this method of farming proves very beneficial to their livelihood. At the same time, a group of adolescent girls new to our program were gathered for beautician training in another room. Each girl eagerly awaited her turn to practice applying cosmetics to her peers. Our team soaked up every moment in Forbesganj, knowing these precious memories would be cherished for a lifetime.

The remainder of our trip flew by as we visited our trainees’ homes, observed more training and production of leggings and totes, and surveyed our new land. The film crew stayed behind for an extra day as the rest of our team went ahead to participate in the first day of training for our new cohort at the new program site. After a bumpy two-hour journey from Forbesganj, we arrived in a town slightly more developed and lively than where we had come from. We were surprised to see buildings taller than three floors and a highway running through the middle of the town lined with billboards. We were greeted again with smiles and flowers as we entered our pink office building.
The women in there were eager to meet us strange foreigners that had taken part in providing them the opportunity to learn new skills. After sharing a meal, we split up into groups to play silly games as we tried communicating despite our huge language barrier. Eventually we all gave in to the one thing that transcends spoken language -- dance! All the women had a persistent desire of wanting to be known to us and to the world. Our project manager proudly showed us one of our trainee’s notebooks that she got in her starter kit, where she had been practicing how to write her name for the first time. We left the new site with excitement for their futures, confident in their potential to transform their communities.

After many inspiring meetings and network connections in Kolkata, Siliguri, and Hyderabad, we returned to Delhi and prepared for our flight home. As with most trips to our field offices, we would come back to the U.S. changed, with clear eyed focus and determination to end injustice. Our trainees are making huge strides in their community and we can’t wait to see tangible and progressive change the next time we visit.

By: Maria Dora Blackburn

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Meet Our Summer Interns!

Anna Smith
     Hello! My name is Anna and I am an Admin Intern at Nomi Network. I am a recent graduate from Adelphi University and am going on to pursue my Clinical Social Work degree at Fordham University in the Fall. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY and have attended Catholic school since kindergarten. The big apple has been my home and stomping ground for quite some time, it’s interesting to be returning from 4 long years of living in Long Island full time for school. Some things I love are music, singing, reading, listening to others, and laughing till I cry (it’s the best). 

     So, now that you know a little bit about me; let’s jump right into the why. I am a part of a summer immersion program called New York City Urban Project (NYCUP). This program works to develop leaders with the capacity to change the world. This is done through having open and honest conversations about injustices and seeing God’s ability to restore and renew these issues. My participation in this program has given me so much thus far, particularly my internship here at Nomi Network. I really admire and stand by the mission of Nomi and it is such an honor to be a participant in that work. I hope you all are ready to hear some amazing stories and to take this journey with me as I learn from the amazing and powerful women of Nomi. Buckle up ya’ll!

Brianna Copeland
     Hey there! I’m Brianna and I am the Creative/Social Media Intern at Nomi Network this summer! I am currently a senior attending James Madison University majoring in Studio Art with a Photography concentration! I love photography, graphic design, sculpture and printmaking and I’m a big art museum geek. I’m a dog person (never cats) and I enjoy volunteering at my local animal shelter. I’m actually from a small city right outside Washington DC, where I was born and raised. It was always really cool growing up so close to the nation’s capital, going on field trips to the White House and Smithsonian Museums and to the National Mall on the weekends. 

     I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to be working with Nomi. This summer I am also a part of the Summer Leadership Immersion Program with the New York City Urban Project (NYCUP). I actually attended NYCUP the Spring break of my freshman year and the Thanksgiving break of my sophomore year so I’m really familiar with the program and all the incredible work they do. Through this internship I want to be able to share the stories of the girls making all of Nomi’s incredible products and to help give them a voice. I have already learned so much from everyone working here at Nomi and I am excited to continue creating content to get their name out there. 

Julia Washburn
      My name is Julia Washburn and I’m a Summer Intern at Nomi Network. I’m a rising junior at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA and major in Political Science with minors in Sustainable Development and Health, Medicine & Society. I play on the Varsity Field Hockey Team and am a member of Lehigh’s branch of SALSC (Student Athletes Leading Social Change). I also love going to yoga, watching movies, running with my dog and spending time with my friends! 

      I learned about Nomi Network through my home church, Central Presbyterian Church, in Summit, New Jersey. I was immediately drawn to the work that Nomi does, as one of my big areas of focus in school, as well as in my career aspirations, is human rights. I intend on going to law school to study International Human Rights law so that I can protect, and obtain justice for, those whose fundamental rights have been violated. I hope that through my internship at Nomi I can gain further insight into creating sustainable solutions to pervasive human rights issues. Furthermore, I want to become a more socially conscious and ethical consumer.  I am so excited to have the opportunity to be part of an organization that is making a major difference in the lives of so many women and bettering the lives of future generations.

Chloe Chang
Hi, I'm Chloe and I'm currently a sophomore at George Washington University studying International Affairs. I was born in New York, but now I'm living in New Jersey enjoying the beautiful beaches. During the school year, I love exploring new food places and neighborhoods in DC while going to school at GW. I am on the Creative Team for TEDxFoggyBottom where we put on a conference for 1300 people each year with 20 speakers. It is one of the most labor-intensive but rewarding experience that I have ever been on. I'm also passionately involved with my local chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and I'm missing all of my friends there especially our spontaneous card games that happen anywhere at anytime. I am looking to potentially concentrate in International Development and was drawn to Nomi's cause to fight human-trafficking. I have a heart for the oppressed and for social justice, especially after attending an urban project in Southeast DC. I love working with the incredible women at Nomi and I am constantly inspired by their grace and beauty. When not in the office, I spend my hours baking different desserts, pretending to be a monster with my two little brothers and drawing in my notebook. I am so excited for this summer and what God has in store!

Catherine Fowler 
My name is Catherine Fowler and I am the Sales and Marketing intern at Nomi Network. I study politics, economics, and law at SUNY Old Westbury and I am going into my senior year. I am very active on my campus in advocating for social justice. I love international relations and I participate annually in the National Model United Nations Conference to grow in knowledge of various global issues while learning to strategically create solutions. When I am not in school, I enjoy singing and playing music. I play the ukulele, guitar, banjo, string bass and bass guitar. I would pursue music full time if I did not have a passion for law and justice. I am living in New York City for the summer and I have loved meeting new people and seeing the passion that so many New Yorkers have for their work. My long-term goal is to work for the United Nations focusing on human rights law. Interning at Nomi Network has shown me new areas of injustice that I was not as knowledgeable about, and I have enjoyed doing work behind the scenes to help women across the world. It is comforting to know that although we might not see it, the work we do here every day directly affects the lives women and children in India and Cambodia for the better. 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Journey Through India

I arrived back in the states a few weeks ago after a 10 day trip to visit Nomi's programs in India - and it was an incredible adventure that stretched my heart and made my soul sore. I'm bursting with pride after seeing the deep impact that Nomi is having on the ground, and at the same time, I'm completely humbled by the strength, beauty and resilience of the women in our programs who are the true heros. They have endured so much hardship and disappointment in their lives, and yet they have still stepped out in faith, giving us their trust, and they are flourishing.

We had a group of five traveling - myself; George Nomi's board chair; Andreas a Filmmaker; Zad a foundation analyst; Maria a India-based volunteer; and my husband David a University Chaplin. Each person brought an extraordinary amount to the group - warmth, openness, encouragement and curiosity towards our journey.

We started off in the capital city of Delhi where we had a series of meetings at USAID and had the immense privilege of hearing from the Gates foundation India office as well. We are building a strong connection to this city where our legal council and financial council is based. Meeting these advisors in-person was a wonderful learning experience - deeply enlightening to the bureaucracy of such a large country with such a deep history of colonialism. India only gained it's independence 67 years ago!

We spent several days at our program site and with the women in our programs in Bihar, India. There are 100 million people in the northern state of Bihar alone, and it is the home to many of the lowest caste families and individuals who are systematically oppressed. These were some of my top highlights and observations:

- The emotional transformation - the confidence, hopefulness and positivity of the women in our program verse other women in the community was stark - it was in their welcoming smiles, the way that they cared for one another, the way they sang songs in the morning together to start the day, the way they pulled their sewing machine work-stations together so that they could share about their days with one another as they sewed Nomi product
- The economic impact was so real - the women in our program who have been a part of our beginning and advanced training curriculum are making incredible headway in applying their entrepreneurial training and starting their own businesses - from purchasing livestock and selling chickens, goats, and cows milk at market, or purchasing their own sewing machines in order to open their own tailoring business - they are making huge stride towards financial independence! 
We saw holistic care in action - the women in our program were being cared for, not just financially, but through advocacy and legal training, through solidarity, through a partnership with a trustworthy medical clinic in Bihar, and through love and care for their children
- Our program model is scaleable to create change - we saw with our own eyes some of the strongest leaders in our program begin to deliver our training curriculum in a neighboring red-light district, to a new cohort of women, with great success 
- Our commitment - again and again we heard the women saying - we didn't believe in Nomi at first because we've experienced so many broken promises before - but now we know that when Nomi says that they are going to do something, they follow through - they are committed and consistent - our persistence has been met by a deepening of trust, and we take this very seriously and we continue to cast vision to expand our work!

- Finally, I want to share the story of sweet Dara:
Dara was born into a family that practices intergenerational prostitution. Her mother was forced into prostitution by her in-laws and her husband. When Dara's grandparents passed, Dara's mom put her foot down - she did not want her daughters to be forced to follow in her footsteps. She was wary of Nomi at first because other NGOs in the past have made promises that they didn't keep, but after careful consideration she and Dara both enrolled in Nomi's training program. Dara excelled - after only a few months she advanced to sewing the most difficult patterns. She was eager to learn and a hard worker and this year we promoted Dara to logistic manager. She has now been helping Nomi to survey a new red-light district a few hours away where Nomi will soon be training another cohort of women. She speaks about Nomi's work with great passion as she assesses and surveys the new community.

Thanks to each of you for your wonderful support of Nomi Network! We cherish your generosity and your commitment to creating economic opportunities for women who are survivors and women at-risk of human trafficking. 


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Part of Something Bigger

Santhosh Paulus

  1. Why do you give?
I feel blessed to have what I have.  It wasn’t in my control where I would be born or to whom.   I have many opportunities that were not in my control. This is why I want to give, because I’ve received so much, it makes me want to give to those who don’t have as much.

  1. How did you first learn about Nomi Network?
I first heard of NOMI’s work through my wife, who was blogging for NOMI. She first heard about NOMI through Facebook.

  1. Why were you drawn to Nomi’s mission?
I am a father of four girls and I could not begin to imagine nor would I want to imagine being so desperate to consider trafficking my own children.  

I love how NOMI offers those rescued a way to stay out of trafficking by giving them the skills necessary to provide for themselves and their families.  A great example of “teaching them how to fish” and not just giving them a fish. I love how it empowers women and girls to make it in this world who very often are not offered these opportunities.

  1. Were there any instances or experiences in your life that caused you to want to do something about human trafficking?
I was attending Soulfest in New Hampshire a Christian Music Festival and heard some facts and statistics on human trafficking during a talk and was shocked by how prevalent it was worldwide and how prevalent it was across both big and small towns all across America.

  1. The issue of human trafficking is an upsetting violation of human rights. Why do you think this issue has become so wide spread?
It is pure evil when any human can willingly and knowingly subject another to be sold for sexual exploitation and financial profit. It is a lucrative business where many have turned a blind eye to the reality of what happens and so it continues where those with power bully the weak and desperate. As far as a business…it’s about supply and demand.  The fact there is demand is evidence of the evil in our world.

  1. Why are you hopeful about Nomi’s approach to end modern day slavery?
Nomi’s approach is very practical. Once a woman or girls is rescued, Nomi provides the training they need to help them become self sufficient.  The simplicity and practicality of Nomi’s approach to end modern day slavery is the strength of Nomi Network’s philosophy.

  1. What’s your most memorable moment working with Nomi Network and why?
My most memorable moment in working with Nomi is a recent one, when Diana came to Cycling For Change’s First Gala in October of this year. Witnessing her share her passion as to how Nomi came to existence and why she does what she does in a room full of people who were riveted to every word she was sharing.  It was so quiet, you could hear a pin drop.  We were all riding on the line of shock and hope. Shock of how awful and terrible the realities of human trafficking are for so many in our world and the hope Nomi is offering those fortunate to have been rescued.

  1. How has your commitment to Nomi Network changed you personally?

It is good to be a part of something bigger than myself.  By working with Nomi I feel a sense of fulfillment in how I spend my time.  As a physician and father of four, time is a precious commodity and the time I spend in helping Nomi is time well spent for me. I am happy to think of the lives that are changed because of our efforts. Personally my commitment to Nomi Network has given me a sense of happiness and fulfillment.

  1. Why do you wish other people would know about Nomi Network?

I wish others would know about Nomi Network so they could get involved in their own way.  Either to contribute financially or with their time and to use their gifts and talent to help Nomi continue their work or to partner along side them to bring awareness to their work. Whatever way people choose to get involved, it does not matter, as long as they get involved and are able to experience the joy of being a part of something special, because what Nomi is doing is something special.

  1. In the next five years, why is it crucial for others to get involved?
The reason why I believe the next five years are crucial is similar to attaining glucose control in a diabetic.  The sooner the better. Getting control of your sugar over a period of years and getting control over a period of months is very different as far as long term complications.  Shame on us as humanity to not get involved and help end this modern day slavery.  The complications and long term negative effects are minimized with earlier control in diabetes and the same is true for humanity in ending human trafficking. We need help to attain this goal. We can’t do this by ourselves, it is crucial for others to get involved.  

My name is Santhosh Paulus. I am a father of 4 beautiful princesses and married to the most beautiful person in the world. I am a Family Medicine Physican and also am the founder and president of Cycling For Change (c4c).  I started c4c to help end human trafficking by offering hope to those who feel trapped in it. We all need help at times and can’t make it alone.  The worst thing is to feel alone and that there is no hope in the midst of a terrible situation. Cycling For Change is here to offer hope…because HOPE changes everything!

Make your difference today and donate to Nomi Network!

Monday, November 23, 2015

When A Little is Everything

It was, in a sense, an ordinary Sunday in New York: Church, bagels, cream cheese and coffee. I didn’t expect many attendees at the early service and that didn’t matter to me. I learned a long time ago that spreading the word about ending human trafficking isn’t always about impacting the masses. It’s about connecting with one person who cares enough to see their life, their actions, their commitment changed forever. That’s how the ripple effect happens and that’s why the Nomi story is so powerful.

What I didn’t imagine on that Sunday morning, was that I was the one to be changed.

After the service, a woman came up to me and fumbled through her pockets for a few dollar bills and coins. I knew she was living on the streets because I had seen her park her grocery cart at the entrance to the church. I knew that woman with her smile and sparkling eyes was giving me more than she could reasonably afford to give to fight trafficking and provide an empowering future to women like her, who needed a chance. For a split second everything in my heart wanted to yell out, “No.” You can’t. You shouldn’t. And yet, I knew in that moment it would not be accepting the generous gift she was making, nor her dignity and the dignity of her contribution — nor the lesson she was teaching me.
She told me she looked forward to coming every Sunday and to sipping on a cup of coffee and eating a couple of tasty NYC bagels. She smiled. And without further ado, I grabbed a piece of paper and made a donation slip.

“I want to help,” she said. “This is the only way I know how. It’s not much...” I answered, “It’s everything.”

We smiled and hugged and talked about what we could do, together, to fight and overcome inequality in the world. I’ll never forget her. On that Sunday, she taught me the difference between giving a lot and yet giving little, and giving what might seem to some a small monetary amount that is worth all our weight in gold.

By Sarah-Jane Murray
Nomi Network Board Member

Make your donation HERE.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Nomi Gets a New Look

Nomi Network’s Graphic Designer, Janay Frazier, shares about Nomi Network’s new branding that will be revealed this August.

Nomi Network has grown and developed in many ways since its launch in 2009. As Nomi’s capacity and abilities expand, and as the times change, we seek to retain and hold strong to our core mission, doing so with an adaptive spirit that embraces fresh, new ways of communicating our values.

We recently revisited the branding of Nomi Network, giving it a facelift to retain retail relevance; “the purpose of the new logo is to modernize Nomi and allow us to enter our target retail space,” Janay Frazier, Nomi Network’s Graphic Designer, remarks (Janay headed up the rebranding, assisted by Nica Rabinowitz). She says that the new logo also coincides with Nomi’s new product development, and that “These products, along with the new logo, will help advance the Nomi brand.”

The new logo is a modernized rebrand of Nomi Network’s original logo. Janay explains that companies are shifting from singular icons as logos towards typographic logos, so she chose to implement this shift when working on the rebranding. Describing the meaning behind the new typographic logo, Janay says it “represents breaking from bondage and joining a network that supports and uplifts. The breaks of gaps in the letters that spell out ‘Nomi’ suggest freedom and the script typeface [of the word ‘network’]… represents unification through a network like our training programs."

The new logo will be used starting with new product collections that come out in August and September. The rebranding also includes a re-designed website that will launch in August. “[The rebranding] was my first project as Nomi’s Graphic Designer,” Janay says, “and I am truly proud and excited about where Nomi will go next with its new facelift.” Make sure to keep your eyes open for products with our new logo as they are released in the next months!