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. 

Warmly,
Alissa


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