All we wanted was electricity, a wi-fi connection & the tent to stay up. We prayed for it not to rain when we planned outdoor workshops and for the tent to provide enough shade to make working in the heat of the desert tolerable. One thing that India highlights is how many things we take for granted in the states and there were times that we longed for the comfort & convenience of working here.
But in the states we don't get to work directly with the artisans & that's what we live for. Spending time with the women is what triggered this project in the first place and our experiences in India continue to fuel us everyday. We thrive off of our shared moments -- telling stories over chai & biscuits, guiding them through new stitching techniques, learning of the adversity that they've overcome & commuting with them from work to discover the people & things that make Ajmer home.
Every second in India serves as a reminder of why we do what we do. This year we shopped for 500+ recycled saris, bought a surge machine & other sewing materials. We experimented with natural dyes, conducted educational workshops in topics like pattern making and introduced new product designs & stitching techniques. We collected data for social impact reports, conducted complete artisan interviews and recorded our trip through written, photo and video journalism. We celebrated Holi & International Women's Day with free eye exams, self defense courses and different games. The artisans surprised Colleen on her thirtieth birthday with a cake, flowers, larger-than-life speakers and a dance party.
Somewhere amidst this chaos we could feel the progress. Things were changing & we experienced it in little victories every day. And all of a sudden, after counting down the days to reliable internet, we weren't ready to leave. This feeling was amplified when the artisans surprised us with a farewell lunch, desserts, and a goodbye ceremony. They left us with handmade pillows they had designed themselves and a beautiful necklace that they had all chipped in to buy.
Before I got to India I was worried if I would be able to establish real connections with the artisans in the six weeks that we were there. And 40 days later their love brought tears to my eyes. They made it very hard to leave, but the reality of the situation remains the same - we can get more accomplished in the states. So we are back, for now, and more ready than ever to seek justice on the artisan's behalf.