We first introduced you to Sarita here, but we wanted to give you the opportunity to hear from her first hand. While we wholeheartedly wish we could send each of you to Amber to sit down with the GBS team, share chai and listen to their incredible stories… we hope this will suffice! continue reading →
I didn’t go to India expecting to meet a hero. But that’s exactly what happened when I visited a small village in Rajasthan.
The first two days in India were eye opening. You arrive, you see shantytowns on your drive to the hotel, you go shopping in busy markets, tour the City Palace and ride painted elephants. It’s very clear that this is another life, one far different than what you know. But you don’t really understand just how different until you get outside of the Pink City and past Amer Fort. It’s not until you meet someone, you meet people – who have been working for over 25 years to make a difference here. You drive an hour outside of the city with these people, down dirt roads further than you’re comfortable with until you reach villages with no electricity, no real housing, no drinking water. You are welcomed with warm smiles and nervous laughter, because these people have never met anyone from the United States before. It’s awkward at first, and hard and emotional. But you sit and you take it in and you return these warm smiles and nervous laughs and in this moment, you realize while everything seems so foreign, we’re all the same. At the core of it all, we’re human beings — with feelings and needs and we just want to be happy and healthy.
I had no idea what to expect from this particular day in Rajasthan. That morning, I didn’t even know what kind of transportation to expect from our hotel to the GBS office — and while I’m being honest, I had no idea what GBS stood for. I did know that through The Global Fund for Children, LaDonna and I were able to visit one of their grantee partners that worked to empower young girls and women. I knew that we would be visiting a few of the villages this organization worked with and I knew we were in good hands.
The ride from the hotel to the GBS office was an anxious one for me. The prior two days were a whirlwind. I had never been so far from home and in such a foreign place. Everything was new and strange and jet lag only caused a haze. But on that third day in India, as soon as we walked inside Gram Bharati Samiti’s office and shook hands with Bhawani (the GBS founder), my anxiety disappeared and I felt at home. The chaos of India seemed to slow down around me and I was immediately certain that indeed, we were in good hands and to trust that the day would pan out just as it should.
This season as we celebrate the color and culture of India, we also want to give back and make a difference in the lives of some of the children who live there.
Recently, two Tea employees traveled to Jaipur to meet the staff of Gram Bharati Samiti, or the Society for Rural Development. This non-profit organization partners with rural villages in the state of Rajasthan to educate women and girls about their right to information, education and healthcare.
They also restore ancient stepwells so more villages have access to clean and safe drinking water. And they teach girls a craft like how to weave carpets and dhurrie rugs, to embroider saris and sew cholis (the blouses worn beneath saris). When young girls have the ability to earn their own money, they are free from the threat of child marriage and have more opportunity for education and independence.
We recently visited three of the 17 villages that Gram Bharati Samiti works with, and met many of the young girls who have been educated and empowered. (Read more about the girls we met here and here.)
We have been so inspired by the work of this non-profit organization, we asked The Global Fund for Children if all the money donated through our site could go directly to Gram Bharati Samiti.
So this spring, when you donate on a Global Giving Thursday or any day of the month, your funds will be helping Rekha, Buja, Prinka and other girls like them in rural villages near Jaipur.
Perhaps small groups of girls quietly sewing or studying or shyly showing us their homemade handicrafts. Something simple. Something that would be easy to describe with a few well-chosen adjectives.
Instead, I found myself holding a bemused baby goat and thanking a smiling 14-year-old girl for her gift while trying to explain through a translator that there was no way I could get a goat through customs.
It was a Saturday in Jaipur and my Tea colleague Jessie and I were spending the day visiting villages with Gram Bharati Samiti, a non-profit funded by the Global Fund for Children. In Hindi, the name means “Society for Rural Development.”
Early that morning, we met the Gram Bharati Samiti founder, Bhawani, at his office near Amer Fort. A sixty-something man with sharp eyes and sparse hair, Bhawani welcomed us with a gentle greeting and masala chai. He introduced us to Kusum, a quiet woman in her fifties who has worked with Bhawani for 25 years. (Kusum has one of those smiles that makes you feel like everything is going to be ok.)
Bhawani explained that he and Kusum would take us to visit three of the 17 villages they’ve been working with—teaching them about safe drinking water, about healthcare and women’s rights and the power of education.
After an hour or more of jouncing down increasingly narrow roads, dodging cows, camels and overloaded motorbikes, our van pulled into the middle of Gaonli village and I sat and stared in open-mouthed astonishment.
There, in a dusty clearing between equally dusty mud dwellings, stood a huge tent teetering on bamboo poles. And beneath it, a rainbow of pink and yellow and purple saris.
A crowd of villagers, mostly women and girls, all turned to stare as we awkwardly climbed out of the van and then, as Jessie and I pressed our palms together and murmured, “Namaste. Namaste,” they all began to smile and laugh and bob their heads in greeting. They had been waiting for us.
We were led to the front of the tent and seated on folding chairs facing everyone as Sarita, another GBS staff member, picked up a microphone and began to introduce us.
We found out later that the sound system was powered by a generator that had been trucked in on the back of a motorcycle. Gaonli has no electricity or running water. The people who live there walk nearly two miles each morning to pump their water from a well. (Yet later, at every door we passed, someone came out to greet us holding dripping glasses of water for our refreshment.)
Dressed in their best and visibly nervous, several teenage girls put on a Rajasthani dance demonstration, one after another after another gracefully bobbing and twirling in front of us, anklets jingling. continue reading →
At Tea, we believe in and wholeheartedly support the mission of The Global Fund for Children, and we began our tradition of Global Giving Thursdays in October. Every third Thursday of the month when you give to The Global Fund for Children on our site, we will match your donation. All proceeds go directly to our longtime charity partner.
For the month of December, we are matched up with The Homeless Children’s Playtime Project in Washington, D.C.. In the holiday spirit of giving, we are extending our Global Giving Thursdays to be everyday from December 2nd, 2014 until December 25th, 2014. During this time, when you buy one of Tea’s holiday styles, we’ll donate a similar style to the Homeless Children’s Playtime Project.
Families with children find themselves homeless for a variety of reasons, including rising rent costs, job loss or a job that pays too little, domestic violence, and medical problems. Some families spend years in facilities that are intended to be short-term solutions. This vulnerable time in a child’s life presents unprecedented risks as families live and sleep in unsafe situations. Most family shelters have no programs or services for children.
At Tea, we believe in and wholeheartedly support the mission of The Global Fund for Children, and we’re excited to announce Global Giving Thursdays. For now on, every third Thursday of the month when you give to The Global Fund for Children on our site, we will match your donation. All proceeds go directly to our longtime charity partner. With each Global Giving Thursday, we’re spotlighting a different grantee. This month: Street Library in Duayaden, Ghana.
Children living in the Eastern Region of Ghana typically have limited access to education, and no access to reading materials outside of school. Most of these children have delayed reading skills for their age, which prevents them from succeeding in school.
Reaching multiple villages with its mobile library program, Street Library Ghana brings books to children who don’t have access to reading materials. SLG also offers mentorship and leadership training, tutors children who are unable to read, and organizes events like debates, quizzes, and writing competitions. SLG engages entire communities around the importance of reading. The library operates with the involvement of trained “community program officers” who are selected by village elders to run the program in each community.
Here at Tea, we are honored to partner with the Global Fund for Children and learn about how our donations have an affect on the grantees. The Street Library Ghana is a wonderful program that promotes literacy and engages communities to place a higher value on children’s education through reading.
The mission of The Global Fund for Children is to advance the dignity of children and youth around the world. Since 1997, GFC has given more than $25.6 million in grants to 500 community-based organizations in 78 countries worldwide. Their impact means thousands of children are going to school instead of to work. Thousands more are protecting themselves from HIV, escaping the bonds of slavery, and getting the childhood they deserve.
Since partnering with The Global Fund for Children in 2006, we’ve raised more than $240,000 to support vulnerable children worldwide. Our support for GFC takes many forms. Each fall we design the Little Citizens Give Back Collection-donating all proceeds directly to GFC and three times a year, we hold GFC days, donating a portion of all online sales to the organization. In honor of today’s GFC giveback initiative on teacollection.com ($5 per order!), we have CEO Kristin Lindsey, here on Studio T answering a few questions.
What does it mean to “advance the dignity of children and youth around the world”?
Advancing dignity is about breaking down barriers for all children. We think all children come into this world with talent, with something important to do with their life. Dignity means every child gets the opportunity to strive for their potential, no matter their circumstances, economics, gender, nationality, etc. It means no limits!
How do you find and choose which grassroots organizations to work with?
Our program officers are regional experts who spend countless hours networking and searching for innovative organizations that serve the most marginalized children in the world. We select true grassroots groups with local leadership, community and youth involvement, creativity, and sustainability.
How do you ensure that your investment is wisely spent?
Our program team visits about 150 promising organizations each year, then selects 50 new partners to work with. Over the course of three to six years, we help them grow and thrive using flexible, strategic investments of money and technical expertise. We stay in touch, closely tracking their development. Our giving goes way beyond grants – we hold regional conferences to build networks, we leverage other funding, awards and news coverage, and we aim to be a true partner. All this means that their work and our investments can grow and last.
Is there one partner organization that touches you in particular?
Kliptown Youth Program (KYP) in Soweto, South Africa is a great example of the power and potential grassroots groups have to transform communities. KYP provides academic support, recreational activities, meals, as well as financial support for school fees and materials, for more than 400 children. Nearly 40,000 people live in the Kliptown slum, where the community suffers from high rates of unemployment, crime and school dropouts.
KYP has been a GFC grantee partner since 2010 and we were so proud to see KYP’s director, Thulani Madondo, honored as a Top 10 CNN Hero last year. See the video here: CNN Hero
Which issue is the most urgent to you right now?
I think a lot about kids exposed to conflict and war. It’s hard not to. Nearly a billion children live in places where there is armed conflict. That means families and children leave everything that’s familiar, live with ever-present fear and chaos, and for children, the vulnerability and upheaval is really traumatizing. We invest in a lot of groups that are protecting and healing children and families in conflict-affected areas, creating comfort, stability and places to learn.
Which region do you find particularly vulnerable?
Since the Arab Spring that began in 2010, we’ve looked a lot at the Middle East and North Africa and we’re expanding our work in Egypt, Tunisia and Lebanon. While it is a region marked by conflict, it also has emerging civil society and a chance to partner with local community members to make a difference. Ten years from now, it will really matter if we rise to the opportunity of investing in the dignity, learning, safety and positive pathways for children here.
We absolutely love the newest GFC book, Global Baby Girls!Could you explain why little girls need particular attention?
Girls can be powerful agents of change in their communities. They have the ability to solve some of society’s toughest challenges because they are the fabric that holds families together. The possibilities are limitless for what girls can do today. We owe it to them to make sure they are equipped with what they need to go out into the world and shine.
Where do you see The Global Fund for Children five years from now?
Five years from now, we hope GFC will be top of mind for everyone when they think about how to make the most powerful impact in vulnerable children’s lives. Since 1997, we have touched the lives of nearly 8 million children. With continued support from generous donors, key partners, companies and students, we expect that number to grow to 10 million by 2015.
Other than donating money through the GFC website, how can we help support The Global Fund for Children?
We love hearing from students because it will be up to them to transform the future of little citizens around the globe. We encourage schools and universities to contact us to learn more about ways they can help us help other kids around the world. We’ve had some great fundraising events and speaking engagements with students!
You can also show some love by spreading the word about our work on Facebook and Twitter. We look forward to hearing from you! AND when you shop Tea Collection, keep us in mind! There’s a donation at check-out option – and any amount goes a long way!
We are so pleased to share with you the latest book from The Global Fund for Children (GFC). Global Baby Girls is more than a collection of beautiful, close-up baby portraits from around the world–it bears an important message that, no matter where they are born, “girls can grow up to change the world.” We asked staff at GFC and our staff at Tea Collection, “Why do baby girls matter to you and to the world?” Be sure to share your thoughts with us as well!
“My daughter, Talia will be seven weeks old on Friday, March 22nd. I could never have imagined feeling such a fierce and intense love. Talia is a global citizen who is strong, bold and bright. Like all baby girls everywhere, she is a blessing to our community and the world over!” –Maya Ajmera, The Global Fund for Children
“What would this world be without little Princesses? Not the spoiled, holier-than-thou type. The little Princesses who grow up and explore the world around them… The ones who realize they’re just a little piece of this giant puzzle and they’re determined to make their mark on the world. They seek out challenges and are inspired by other cultures, they learn new languages and dream of one day ruling the world. They then raise their own little Princesses, encouraging them to dream big, see big and never lose faith in big hearts.” –Jessie Bandy, Tea Collection
“Baby girls matter to me and the rest of the world because they hold our future in their tiny little hands.” –Sandra Macías del Villar, The Global Fund for Children
“Baby girls are a powerful force for the future. Given support and the tools to succeed, baby girls will grow up to change the world! They will become mothers, sisters, best friends, students, teachers, leaders. They will stand up for what they believe in, they will initiate change and they will fuel growth. They will set the course for generations to come. Each baby girl has a whole world of possibilities ahead of her. And, that is incredibly inspiring.” –Diane DeRousseau, Tea Collection
“Sugar and spice and everything nice, that’s what little girls are made of. But that old-fashioned adage leaves out the gritty, the bold, the brave, the determined, the free-spirited, the sporty, and the clever. Today’s baby girls might grow up to be the President, teachers, sports stars, doctors, nurses, artists, and moms – and everything in between. The possibilities are limitless for so many, but not for all. The most important thing is that every girl everywhere can reach her full promise with all the access, choice, and opportunities she needs to do so. A girl’s potential should not be defined by where she is born, but determined by her limitless dreams and by the pathways we help create that lead to them.” –Victoria Dunning, The Global Fund for Children
“I do not have a daughter but I have two younger sisters and I remember my excitement when each sister was born. I remember carrying my sister on my hip and feeling a protective pride in this fascinating creature, so full of possibilities. I loved my role in showing the world to them, teaching them how to read and climb trees. Baby girls matter, just as baby boys, because they represent our future and, as society becomes more progressive, their opportunities to lead, influence and change the world are limitless.” –Lydia Bruno, Tea Collection
“Baby girls matter because today, more than ever before, they have the power and opportunity to shape the world we live in and make it better not only for future generations of baby girls, but for babies of all genders and backgrounds. I am raising my “baby girl” (now 7) to be mindful of the privileges she enjoys, growing up in the U.S. today, thanks to the tenacity, energy and spirit of those who came before her. I’m hoping she will strive to pay it forward.” –Esther Buss, Tea Collection
“Baby girls are a promise for our future. They are future mothers and providers for their children. And we need to make sure our baby girls know their innate power to shape the world for the coming generations.” –Teresa Weathington, The Global Fund for Children
To learn more about the experiences of children and families in South Africa, we spoke with Emmanuel Otoo, program officer for Africa at The Global Fund for Children (GFC). If you’d like to donate to The Global Fund for Children to support their work in South Africa and beyond, visit their website or add a donation at check-out when making an online purchase from Tea Collection!
If you missed part one of the interview with Emmanuel, you can see it here.
Photo taken at the Sophiatown Community Psychological Services in South Africa.
What inspires you about the South Africa region?
Despite their painful history, South Africans exhibit strong unity and determination to succeed, and that inspires me a lot. I am also inspired by the South African constitution, and the vision and passion that went into its making. The vision and bravery of Nelson Mandela, his selflessness, and his willingness and ability to sacrifice his freedom for humanity have always been a source of inspiration as well.
Photo taken at the Sophiatown Community Psychological Services in South Africa.
Describe a day in the life of a typical GFC-sponsored child in South Africa.
Chipo is the 14-year-old son of Angela, who fled with him and his two siblings to South Africa following a gruesome attack on their home by rebels in a war-torn country.
Chipo sleeps in a kitchen that his family shares with another family in an overcrowded apartment in a huge slum building. In the morning, Chipo gets up and eats a bowl of porridge. He helps his mother with some household chores and assists in taking care of his younger siblings before leaving for school. After school, Chipo drops off his schoolbag at home and goes to the market in search of leftover food or work to bring some money home to supplement his mother’s income.
When he returns home, Chipo goes with his mother and two siblings to Sophiatown Community Psychological Services, a grassroots organization supported by The Global Fund for Children. There, his family participates in art therapy and counseling, receives food, and plays games. Chipo is one of hundreds of refugee children who are being supported by Sophiatown to help them recover from their traumatic experiences.
Passionate about animals, Chipo loves to hold and care for them, and he hunts for abandoned kittens on the street. His dream is to be a teacher when he grows up—it is our hope that GFC and Sophiatown will help give him that chance.
Photo taken at the Sophiatown Community Psychological Services in South Africa.
What does Ubuntu mean to you?
Ubuntu is an Nguni word that has its origins in the Bantu languages of Southern Africa. While it has no direct translation in English, it is used to describe a particular African worldview that focuses on people’s allegiances to and relations with each other. Ubuntu describes a situation in which people can only find fulfillment through interacting with and supporting other people. It represents a spirit of kinship across both race and creed that unites people for a common purpose.
Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian peace activist, defined Ubuntu as “I am what I am because of who we all are.”
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a South African activist, said, “A person with Ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, based from a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.”
That said, Ubuntu does not mean that people should not enrich themselves. It means you need to think and act beyond your immediate personal needs—you will benefit from doing so, in addition to benefitting others. The question, therefore, is: Are you going to enrich yourself in order to promote the well-being of your community? If the answer is yes—that is Ubuntu.