Past Development Projects
Education Project: The [candle] flame that never extinguishes
This project revolves around the organization that makes one of our best selling products: the recycled newspaper bags. The organization’s main purpose is to provide education and health care to underprivileged children. The school also provides vocational education to help them become self-sustainable when they grow up. The school raises some income by making the newspaper bags, but they need more help.
Half of the children they work with have some kind of disability (hearing impaired, sight problems, missing limbs, and so on). The other half come from very poor families. This creates an environment where the physically impaired children can interact with the “normal” children, and where all of them can have a positive education environment. The organization has their own clinic that helps the children with disabilities. They also take care of special surgeries, and even have a workshop that makes the prosthetic limbs that some children use.
The school is constantly in need to buy or upgrade computers, ocular implants, water purifiers, motor-run sowing machines (to teach the physically impaired children how to sow), furniture and building maintenance. However, their biggest need at the moment is money to cover the vocational training. The programs that are available for them to study are: Art & Craft, Textile Design and Jute Bag Making, Computer Applications, Cutting & Tailoring, Electrician. For now, each student needs $100.00 a year to cover for education costs.
Kala Raksha Vidyalaya
“Kala Raksha” means “Protecting art”. At Handmade Expressions, we greatly value the conservation of handmade, cultural and artistic expressions. It is even reflected in our name!
In our experiences, we have noticed that many art forms are becoming extinct. Unfair trade practices make artisans go out of business, provide mundane work at factories that doesn’t require artistic skills, and ultimately stop the passing of knowledge from one generation to the next. Thus, younger people do not inherit the artistic skills their forefathers created, since they render it useless in a “modern” world.
Handmade Expressions is committed to keep art alive. Kala Raksha Vidyalaya is a school in north western India that provides vocational training in the traditional art forms to the local youth. The aim is for young people to practice and preserve the art of this region. We provide direct financial help to support this project, which nurtures many of the art forms used to create our products. Furthermore, we provide the artisans with information necessary to create more fashionable and marketable products, so they have a better chance to compete against big factories.
Dolls & Toys Distribution
Through a partnership with Charity USA, Handmade Expressions has been able to distribute dolls and toys to children in different orphanages in India. Most of these kids are girls. This is a sad reality in many Asian countries, where families rejoice when a boy is born but mourn the birth of a girl. Many kids have suffered from malnutrition or severe illness since before they got there. This has affected them to the point where they have permanent physical or mental disabilities. Overall, the orphanages don’t have enough resources to support many children, especially ones that need extra medical care and good nourishment.
In the past, we have purchased big-sized Candy dolls that can wrap their hands around the kids, for the girls, and cuddly Winnie the Pooh Teddy dolls for the small boys. Older boys got Laser Tops and pull-back cars, and the infants got rotating musical toys. “The children were ecstatic to have them, especially since the brand new and fresh, colorful dolls were uncommon for them,” comments Rashmi Dhariwal, head of our India team. In addition to the toys, we gave the children ice-creams, biscuit packs and bananas.
The greatest challenge the kids face is that of being placed in a safe home. Many of them are just “dumped” by their parents at the orphanages when they are very young, without any legal papers. The parents may come back, even years later, and demand them back. The orphanage authorities cannot afford to fall victims of any legal/controversial cases, so they have to give them back to the parents.
A compound word, Vidya_Archana stands for worshiping knowledge. Its meaning is derived from the Hindi language words “Vidya”, which means knowledge, and “Archana”, which means worship.
We believe that education is the key to a better life and a better society. Therefore, Vidya_Archana was started as an effort by Handmade Expressions to share and spread knowledge. This program is aimed for the children of the underprivileged section of society who have all the will but no means to fulfill their education needs.
The program focuses on collecting used books and stationary from donations and raising funds. They are then redistributed to economically disadvantaged children who want to study but don’t have the resources to continue their education. Financial aid is also given to students in terms of scholarships, merit awards and sponsorship for higher education. Vidya_Archana is currently being undertaken in northern India, helping more and more kids each year.