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Our vision is to marry Fashion with Community Service. That is how our dream to support various community projects came alive! After working closely with our artisan communities for more than a decade, we realised there were so many ways, in which we could ‘Give back’! We just had to start somewhere. So, in 2016, we pledged to allocate 10% of our profits each year, towards the upliftment of our artisans and their families.
Earlier, ‘Masterji’ and I would go around the nooks and corners of Chennai sourcing raw materials for the workshop. Slowly, with growth came responsibilities and ‘Masterji’ took over. We realised that he would spend more than half a day travelling back and forth by foot or local transport. So, from the money we saved, we decided to buy a bike and bicycle that could be used by him and the boys to run errands. The day the vehicles arrived, the joy on their faces was inexplicable! Work at the shop took an obvious back seat, while they thoroughly enjoyed their little gallivanting expeditions. On weekends, all married men would take turns to enjoy a day at Marina beach on the bike with their wives. Indisputably, it’s their most prized possession till date! You can tell from the smiles on their faces!
We kept a pool of funds aside for any occasion or emergency in the family; There was always a little girl ready to go to school, one of our younger boys settling down in matrimony, or an ailing parent like Faruk’s mother, who needed help with an eye operation. There was always something that needed tending to, including Shalini’s dream of flying! We did not let anyone down; as a family we always had each other’s back!
More recently, our weaver Ravi needed some help in making concrete tanks for water storage in his village. We re-directed the profits towards realising his little dream of expanding the workshop. By nurturing their small dreams, we moved towards bigger ones! Our vision now began to encompass larger clusters of community driven projects.
Little Flower Khadi Village Industry and Leprosy Rehabilitation Centre was founded in the 1980s by Baba Christo Das to provide job opportunities for Leprosy affected people and their families. As leprosy continues to be a stigma in society it is difficult for people affected with it, to find work and most of them get pushed into begging.
Little Flower has a fascinating backstory. In the 1980’s, people in the State of Bihar, which is arguably the poorest state in India, decided that they didn’t want any people with leprosy in their state. Funny how lack of education and prejudice seem to go hand in hand! This decision was significant because even today, while India has 65% of all the leprosy cases in the world, the state of Bihar has more than 40% of those cases! It’s the most densely-populated leprosy-affected area in the world. In this state, there is little support from the government. Sadly and unbelievably, the people of Bihar decided to run the leprosy-affected people out of their homes and drive them into Nepal. The problem was, that Nepal, of course, didn’t want them either, and they were not allowed to enter, so a serious problem developed, with tens of thousands of leprosy-affected families stranded in no-man’s land, between the border of India and Nepal. There was no housing, no shelter, no food, no jobs, and no medical care available to them. The situation was dire. Many began to die.
Mother Teresa, hearing of this catastrophe, sent Father Christo das to help. He had been in charge of her leprosy treatment program in Calcutta. Upon arriving on this scene of terrible human suffering, he began to construct homes and create jobs. He bought land along with cattle, pig, chicken, rice, and vegetable farms. He started some factories. Father Baba, as he was affectionately called, also started the Little Flower Khadi Village Industries, a fair trade organisation which believes in providing the artisan with maximum profit and a life with dignity and respect. The story of aeshaane’s ahimsa silk cloth is rooted in the strong narrative of forty such women, who come from leprosy affected families.
With this collaboration, we aim to donate a portion of our revenue annually to support local projects focusing on women empowerment and education. To donate directly to ‘The Little Flower Organisation’, you can write to us on email@example.com
Since our projects are always community driven, the ladies love working together, and hence do not migrate to find work, thereby keeping families together.
Their work uplifts them as individuals and community as a whole to achieve economic independence and create better lives for themselves
Amidst friendly banter, they continue to find joy, besides earning living wages to support their children and families.
BETTER HEALTHCARE AND EDUCATION FOR CHILDREN
At aeshaane, we love hosting playful exploratory workshops for school children. We collaborated with Rising Star Outreach, a non-profit dedicated to empowering individuals and families affected with leprosy, to rise above the stigma associated with the forbidden word “untouchable”, and to live healthy, productive lives through quality education, medical care, and community development. The children who have been bitterly affected because of their parents struggle with leprosy, have been taught to rise above the stigma.
Intrigued twelfth graders queued up at our workshop, their playful minds soaking up everything from myriad hues to the beautiful rhythm of the wooden blocks. Soon their reticence dissipated, I was surrounded by chirpy laughter with Akka, Akka! (sister) echoing from every corner. I gave them a brief insight into ahimsa silk, their young minds bubbling with questions -
It was a beautiful amalgamation of colours, textures and playful learning; like they say – Children hate studying, but they love learning!”