One of the main reasons we are in India is to collect data for social impact reports and measure the outcome of our program. This means interviewing the artisans and asking them really difficult questions. We do not like this part - Anchal artisans deal with extreme adversity that neither you or nor I could fathom. Asking them to relive and retell their hardships is almost unbearable and we have to constantly remind ourselves that it is a necessary part of the process. People -- donors, investors, grantors -- want numbers. They want line graphs scaling upwards and pie charts displaying the before and after. They want to see the artisan's increase in income, details of their monthly expenditures, improved health & literacy rates nicely woven together with a personal story about how Anchal is the reason they are still alive.
Because Anchal's supporters are crucial to our impact, we asked the questions. I was just as ashamed to delve into the details of their personal lives as they were to tell me that yes they had relied on commercial sex work in the most desperate of times. I pondered how to show them - through language and race and class barriers - that I understood. I know that they are kind, smart, talented women, caring mothers and loving daughters caught in a relentless, perpetual cycle. Conveying that to others is the challenge. It often feels like a loss.
In an effort to ease the conversation, I asked one artisan what her favorite meal is. Through the translator she described a bright green, leafy vegetable that she couldn't always afford. Later that day, Colleen & I were invited to some of the artisans homes, and we left in a pack of 10 or so women. We were walking down a busy dirt road and I trailed behind, caught up in capturing the hustle and bustle of Holi preparations. When I looked up I saw the same artisan I had interviewed buying a bushel of the veggies she had described earlier. She held them up to make sure that I could see, and she was beaming with pride.
The seemingly small differences that Anchal makes in the artisan's day to day lives may get lost in the formality of data collection but not in our minds or hearts. Change isn't happening over night, but it is happening. We witness it in little moments every day. And for us, that's enough.