How to turn trash into jobs, education, and laptop bags – Day with XS

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On July 20, I was able to visit XS Project, an organization turning trash into quality products, creating jobs, and providing educational scholarships.

I arrived to the office and met staff doing everything from sorting and cleaning loads of trash, unused car seat covers, and old marketing banners, to working on product development, and sewing the products. I sat down with one of the sewers, and he explained he had been with XS since 2005. What brought him here? He said a friend was working at XS. He used to make seat covers for airplanes, but now he can make products from recycled products. At the time, the team was putting together very cool laptop cases created from a combination of seat covers and discarded marketing banners.

I then met the head of product design and the head of finance.  The head of finance explained, XS is “not just cleaning the environment, but it is creating jobs for those who need it. XS is also providing education scholarships – it’s like 3-in-1.” The head of product design explained that he was first introduced to XS in college and thought it would be a great challenge to create products out of recycled material.

After meeting the staff and watching the process of turning recycled material into new goods, Retno and I went to visit the community where it all starts – the trash pickers. When we arrived the kids were so excited and everyone came out to say hi and play. Retno brought a box of pencils and crayons gathered from other schools, and the children all dove in to grab their handfuls. We stopped to speak with every family and to hear their current needs and issues. The families live on this land and work for a “lampak” which is the boss of that trash picker community.

I asked the kids what they studied and they all shouted out, “math, Bahasa (Indonesian), Ingrish (English), and Quran reading!” I then asked a few what they wanted to be when they grow up – and 2 young girls said a chef and teacher. Another young girl said a doctor. XS provides funding for the children’s schooling directly to the school and follows up with the school and teachers to see how their progress is. Retno encouraged the moms to tell their kids to go to class. In this community, the parents’ generation mostly did not attend school so this is a new opportunity for their children.

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How to empower women in Vietnam: Day with Hagar

Jacqueline Lee is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving who is visiting our partners’ projects throughout Southeast Asia. Her “Postcard” from the visit in Vietnam:

On the morning of April 11, I visited Hagar International’s office in Hanoi, Vietnam hosted by Kelly, Program Development Manager, and staff. The day started off with visiting Hagar’s main office and meeting staff. We sat down to discuss the staff’s backgrounds, current work, and challenges.  I learned about the impact of Hagar, the spearheading of Hagar’s case management and social work within the field for future social workers, and goals for Hagar.

Because social work is such a new field in Vietnam, Hagar staff is working with local universities to bridge the gap between class theory and work.  At Hagar, survivors receive intensive training for 4-6 weeks, personal development, art therapy, and life skills.  The next part of their time with Hagar involves job skills, career training, and goal setting. One of Hagar’s jobs skills partners is Joma Café. Joma works with Hagar by providing a rotating training program in hospitality helping develop these women’s financial and self-independence.

Life Skills with Hagar

Life Skills with Hagar (Photo approved and provided by Hagar, taken by one of their photographers)

I asked the staff to share the most rewarding part of working at Hagar. One said working with the women, and when the survivor shares that it is the first time someone listens to her.  Another said that Hagar is a place people can be and can  cultivate themselves – where one can be authentic. Working there makes them feel proud – where each person feels like they are making a difference.  Another staff member said being part of a learning organization. It’s not just about the numbers, but about each individual client. Hagar’s goal is to run its own shelters.

Next we went to visit Joma Café, where Hagar survivors are able to receive on-the-job training in hospitality, and met some of the empowered women. I met with 2 women – one who had been with Hagar for about 1 year and half and another who was with Hagar for about 10 months.  Let’s say their names are Sara and Mary (to protect their identities).

Vocational Training with Hagar

Vocational Training with Hagar (Photo approved and provided by Hagar, taken by one of their photographers)

I asked them both why Joma and hospitality?  Sara said she thought it was popular, easy to get a job and opportunity, and to meet people. Mary said she liked cooking. Before she cooked at the shelter and was good at it. I then asked if they would like to continue at Joma, and Mary said she hoped to work in her hometown to open a small business. Sara said she wanted to stay with Joma to increase experience and English. I then asked if they weren’t with Hagar and Joma where would they be?  Mary said it would have been difficult to find a job because she lacked skill sets.  Sara said before she wasn’t able to learn life skills, vocational training, and not able to be recruited. It would have been way more challenging. Without support like this from Hagar, they don’t know where their future would be. Finally, I asked if they had any questions for me, and both shrugged. Then Mary stopped, looked at me and said “I never thought I would have an opportunity like this. I want to thank GlobalGiving.”

Through protection, personal well-being, economic empowerment, and social capital women are able to not only survive trafficking but be empowered in their lives to move forward, create a positive and thriving life, and not be a victim.

My Day with Lotus Outreach addressing Cambodia’s Sex Industry and Women’s Rights

On March 14, Alexis and I visited Lotus Outreach’s Non-Formal Education program. Bright and early we met up with Raksmey from Lotus Outreach. First, we attended a sewing training. This training is part of the non-formal education classes providing life skills, basic education, and small business training so that the girls have necessary skills to survive outside of the karaokes, massage parlors, and sex industry. These women are the most vulnerable group because some are illiterate and a large majority never completed higher than an elementary school education.

With Lotus Outreach Sewing Class

With Lotus Outreach Sewing Class

One of the sewing class trainees explained to me that she hopes to open a small business in her hometown someday. Another said she worked in a karaoke bar and found out about the training, so joined to have her own business one day. A third girl said she might not be able to work in a karaoke forever, so she needs more skills to prepare her for another job. I asked her why she worked in a karaoke and she said she could not find other work to support her child. The instructor’s assistant said before she was illiterate, but now she can do calculations, read, and write since she joined the NFE program.

Following the sewing class, we visited a non-formal education class at the housing accommodations of girls that work in a local “karaoke”. These karaokes serve as locations for men to enjoy the company of women with the option to gain more.

The challenge is that the families of these girls demand money and support so the girls not able to make enough money in traditional jobs have to take alternative forms of income generation that is quick and provides large sums – income generating activities such as selling their bodies. They often lack skills to gain more secure and higher wage jobs in places like the garment factories, so Lotus Outreach is providing the training and skills as well as job placement for girls in their NFE programs. Providing a sustainable and feasible alternative to the sex industry – a job that the girls can be proud of. Finally, we ended at another “karaoke” where Lotus Outreach provides Non-Formal Education and vocational training classes in beauty like hair, nails, and makeup for the girls to get out of the sex industry.

The trainer and trainees were busy practicing on each other – creating beautiful nail and hair designs. One of the trainees had barely received any formal education growing up, but now had skills that she could make a living for herself outside of the sex industry.  Soon after, the first customers began to arrive… and we knew it was time to leave. These young women were so inspiring to meet and hear their stories because despite their hardships, they still have hopes and dreams they are working to achieve. These young women live in such harsh conditions, but at the end of day still wake up to attend the basic education classes, to study, and to practice their vocational training to have another life.

with Non-Formal Education Class

with Non-Formal Education Class

After, Alexis and I visited recipients of the Lotus Pedals project. The recipients were 2 young girls who received a bike from the Lotus Pedals program.  Before they had the bikes, these girls would have to walk an hour just to get to school. Now the bikes cut the time in half, and they have more time to study in between school and work. Where do they work? The rubbish heaps nearby to earn extra income for the family. They pick things like plastic bottles and items that can be sold to recycling plants. The average income is $1.25USD per day picking rubbish.

The Louts Pedals project goal is to not only provide bicycles to young girls but to increase awareness about the importance of education for the family as a whole. Lotus Outreach works with families and the schools, before enrolling in the schools Lotus Outreach staff meets with parents to identify needs and challenges for the kids to get to school. Lotus Outreach also helps to decrease the gender gap between girls and boys.

Lotus Pedals recipients with bike

I asked one of the sister recipients what her favorite subject in school was and she said science because she loves the environment. The other said her favorite was social studies and Khmer traditional dancing class.  The father said he hoped for the future of his kids involved getting a good job and to stay in school as long as they could afford it.  I turned to the girls and asked what they wanted to be when they grew up – one said a primary school teacher and the other a doctor.

Instilling Confidence and Courage: Day with Senhoa

On the morning of March 23, I was able to spend the day with Senhoa visiting projects and learning about the achievements, challenges, and staff.

After filling out numerous security and background check documentation months in advance, the day of the site visit finally arrived. Bright and early Debra, Senhoa’s Country Director, and I met to visit the Lotus Kids Club first. The Kids Club focuses on education, prevention and community-building and is located in an impoverished Khmer and Vietnamese village where the residents mainly work as rubbish and recycle collectors making an average of $1.25 per day.

Village Senhoa Lotus Kids Club works with

Vietnamese and Khmer Community that Lotus Kids Club supports

When we arrived I could hear the laughter of the children. Walking through the gate I was welcomed by one of the staff, and kids were happily playing, reading, and creating everything from sand mounds to drawings. The club served as a sort of preschool to not only give the kids an opportunity to be…. well… kids, but also to prepare them for public school. There the children receive snacks to address malnutrition issues and quarterly medical examinations. Families are incentivized to send their kids to this during the day (instead of sending the young children to earn extra income for the family) through a food program.

After speaking with the staff and observing the program with kids screaming laughing and playing, Debra and I were off to the Jewelry Program. The jewelry program is utilizing a taught skillset to instill confidence. Supplemented with a life skills class, this program takes confidence from jewelry making and applies them to the rest of life, as well as rebuilding the ability of learning and solution finding. I arrived and was able to observe a class on goal setting, meet staff, and then observe some of the students practicing making loops with the jewelry program. They come after or before work and school and earn a stipend creating beautiful pieces (some made with Swarovski Crystal). I definitely fell in love with a few of the gorgeous designs. The girls were not only practicing, learning, and laughing… I saw them help and teach each other when one or the other was struggling.

Coco Rocha in Senhoa Jewelry shot by Nigel Barker.

Sample of Senhoa jewelry by Coco Rocha

(Source: Senhoa Project Updates; “Coco Rocha in Senhoa Jewelry shot by Nigel Barker”)

Finally, Debra and I visited the Lotus House – a transitional house for the girls to stay in during reintegration.  During the girls’ time here they can come and go as they please but it allows them to focus on a priority of learning and life training. Residents receive incentives for keeping themselves and space clean as well as using good language. The space was clean, safe, and comfy.

Country Director, Debra, and Me at Lotus House

Debra (Country Director) and Me at the Lotus House

Senhoa works collaboratively with other NGO’s and not only interacts with the community but receives feedback to move forward and adjust current projects. Senhoa is promoting awareness for human trafficking issues with celebrity networks via their Coco Rocha co-designed jewelry featured in fashion shows and events. I was very impressed with the requirements for safety of the girls, confidentiality like photo restrictions, and background check before my visit. I enjoyed my day meeting the staff and Debra from Sehoa, learning more about their programs, and experiencing the impact first hand.

Jacqueline
GlobalGiving InTheField Representative | Texas

Jacqueline is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving and is now making her way across Southeast Asia. Jacqueline has lived all around the U.S., Central America, backpacked along Australia’s eastern coast while volunteering for the National Park Service, western Europe, and traveled around the world. You can also follow her via Twitter.

For more information about GlobalGiving, click here. 

My day with Happy Football Cambodia Australia – Homeless World Cup Participants

On Saturday morning, 18 January 2012, I was able to join the Happy Football Cambodia Australia (HFCA) for one of their first soccer (football) trainings of the season with Jimmy, Head Coach, Vibol, Country Manager, and Chandara, Coach and Assistant Country Manager. After surmounting a few obstacles to secure a field, including field repairs and a surprise out-of-season rainy downpour the day before, the program pressed on and the season began. HFCA’s team of Cambodian impoverished and orphan youth were able to attend and play in the Homeless World Cup Paris on the Champ de Mars in August 2011. I was able to spend a day with them getting to know some of the youth that went and observing the work of HFCA.

When I arrived, the youth were divided into 4 groups: 16 and up, 14-16, under 14, and the girls. This is because 16 years old is required in order to qualify and play in the Homeless World Cup. The program consists of fitness, basic soccer skills training, scrimmage, and fun. Despite the fact that some of the kids did not have proper soccer gear or even shoes to run in, they were all laughing and running – as if they had no problems or concerns in the world.

Part of the fitness and agility program

The youth come from 5 different orphanages with one driving over 3 hours just to bring their youth to this program on the weekends. Why do they do this? I was told because it is for the kids – it provides opportunity, confidence, and to spend their free time not in the streets but learning a sport and teamwork.

During this time I was able to speak with 2 youth that were able to attend the Homeless World Cup in Paris, and one that went to HWC Melbourne.  What was interesting was that not one spoke about future success and opportunity – they all spoke about how happy they were to meet and play with players from other countries and that the most important thing was to bring their experience back to Cambodians. Here is a clip…

It was inspirational to find out that Vibol, as Country Director and volunteer for HFCA, came from humble beginnings as well – and that’s what brought him to support these youth.  The stories of what motivated everyone to be a part of HFCA was definitely uplifting, and whether it be to share “football” with the kids or stop the cycles of poverty… everyone shared a common goal – to provide opportunity for these kids.

How do they get to go to the Homeless World Cup? HWC subsidized a major portion of the travel costs. HFCA brought 1 player from each orphanage/organization plus the top 3 deserving youth…and off they went. But “it’s not all about the Homeless World Cup, this [the program providing opportunities for these youth] is what’s important. The Homeless World Cup is just icing on the cake,” said the Head Coach, Jimmy.

I spoke with a representative from one of the orphanages (the one that drives so far just to be there). His name was Sokhom and he was with the Cambodia Kids Foundation. He said he was “happy because kids can learn football. It keeps kids from selling things at market”. He also said that 3 of his organization’s youth were able to attend the Homeless World Cups and that they were very happy.

Very happy was a common phrase that day.

The girls’ team: one ran up to me, said hello, asked my name, and proudly proclaimed she wanted to play football when she grew up. Then ran off to play again. They were all full of  laughter and joy.

The Obstacle: Organizations want to send more kids but costs and resources are limited. The HFCA is fighting for self-sustainability, but currently runs on donors, charity-tournaments, and fundraising events. The program can only take care of a certain number of kids and only on Saturday mornings as of now, but the demand for a Sunday program and more kids to participate is growing. The current soccer gear all currently comes from the little budget they have as well as a monthly pick up of donated supplies from local Phnom Penh International Schools.

The next Homeless World Cup 2012 will be in Mexico City. For more information on Homeless World Cup, click here, and on Happy Football Cambodia Australia, click here.

Jacqueline
GlobalGiving InTheField Traveler | Texas

Jacqueline is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving and is now making her way across Southeast Asia. Jacqueline has lived all around the U.S., Central America, backpacked along Australia’s eastern coast while volunteering for the National Park Service, western Europe, and traveled around the world. You can also follow her via Twitter.

For more information about GlobalGiving, click here