This time last year I had just returned home from my first trip to India, it feels like both a lifetime and an instant ago. I received a photo this week that reminded me why we do what we're doing.
On my trip, I spent time working in the factory where we produce most of our business shirts. The factory itself is a social enterprise, providing jobs and opportunities for people from low-income communities and disadvantaged backgrounds. Each year they conduct training programs, which Little Yellow Bird supports financially, for women that have no skills and limited opportunities to enter the workforce. The week before I arrived the teacher for the training class left and so my job (despite a lack of sewing ability) was to teach this group of women what I did know.
Some of the ladies from our training program with their first patchwork quilt (Vijaya -far right), Oct 2015
Fortunately for the purpose of taking the class, these women had very limited skills and the first lessons involved learning how to cut fabric, setting up a sewing machine and sewing in a straight line. By the end of my time at the factory, the ladies had mastered these basic skills and moved on to making patchwork quilts and bags. Most of the women surpassed my speed and accuracy within a couple of weeks and fortunately a replacement teacher was due to arrive just after I left.
This week the photo I received was of one of the women that I helped train working on one of our orders for the Wellington Zoo. Vijaya is still not yet perfect at complex stitching but she has graduated from her initial training course and is now a production trainee. I am so thrilled to see the progress she has made over the last 12 months and how many more opportunities she now has with these skills.
Vijaya working on the finishing for the Wellington Zoo uniforms, October 2016
Vijaya is a perfect example of what it means to support ethically made and the impact that a business like the Wellington Zoo can make through ethical uniform procurement. So much has changed in the 12 months since I first visited India and in many ways, our business has mirrored the growth of the women from that initial training program. Next month we will be returning to India, I'm so excited to be able to see how everyone has progressed and to see what projects we will be supporting over the next 12 months.