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  • Our 3rd Center: Jalpaiguri

    Our third venture of Jewellery Program is in Jalpaiguri, a district in the north of Bengal, started on the 18th of April, 2012. The shelter home at Jalpaguri is another branch of our partner NGO, Women Interlink Foundation.  Our first and second Jewellery program (Kolkata and Boisar) are very different from each other, not only because of the geographical differences but also of the backgrounds of the girls.

     I was very excited to meet the new team of Jalpaiguri. I was keen to know how the girls will be different from the other groups we have in the other centres. Needless to say there vibrant faces, glittering eyes and innocent smiles made me fall in love with them at the first sight.  This was my second visit to the centre so the girls had actually overcome the shyness and responded to my greetings and hugs.

    Continue reading

  • The Story of Jalpaiguri

    Last week Team India traveled to an area of West Bengal called Jalpaiguri (located about 3 hours outside Darjeeling) to open the THIRD Made By Survivors Jewelry Training and Production Center! We are honored to be partnering with Womens Interlink Foundation again and based on the success of the first jewelry center with WIF, in Kolkata, we anticipate great things ahead. 

    In part one of a five part blog series about the opening of the new center, Asia Program Director Paul Suit, walks you through the background of why trafficking is such a problem in this area of India.

    The Background

    Located about 3 hours outside Darjeeling and near the borders of the Indian states of Sikkim, Bihar, Jharkhand and Assam, and the international borders of Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan, this area is a major transit, destination and source for trafficking.

    According to the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) Annual Report on Trafficking in India, “Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling, which are located in the north of West Bengal, have long faced problems of unsafe out-migration by individuals bound for Kolkata and other metropolitan cities in search of livelihood opportunities. Kolkata for example, is generally considered as a major trafficking destination and center for brothel-based prostitution, along with Mumbai and Delhi. Trafficking of girls and women coming from the tea estates of these districts is prevalent.”

    Destination: The areas major economy is tea plantations which are notorious for bonded, child and forced labor. Women and young children are ideal tea pickers due to the small size of their fingers and hands. This allows them to pick tea leaves easier and quicker and when you add in the marginalization that is common among these groups of people in India (and the surrounding countries), you can see why it’s so easy, and profitable, for traffickers to prey on people in this area. Women and girls are taken from other areas or countries and shipped to Jalpaiguri to work on the tea plantations for as little as 50 Rupees ($1) per day – if they are paid at all.

    Source: Jalpaiguri is a very remote area with little to no infrastructure to support anything other than tea plantations and the occasional nature preserve. Schools are very basic and are usually government run which lack basic supplies and rarely pay their teachers (who often don’t show up for this reason). Due to these factors the opportunities for education and employment are almost nonexistent. This makes exploiting people all the more easier. The less educated a person is the more vulnerable they are to exploitation. The fewer employment opportunities there are the easier it is to pull a person into an exploitative situation. Many people are tricked into believing they are gaining a good job working for a tea plantation when in fact they are being enslaved without even realizing it.

    Transit: Bordering three of the worlds most notorious countries for trafficking, Jalpaiguri finds itself in one of the most important transit areas in all of Southeast Asia. With little to no border security or control it is very easy to transport people in and out of India through this region. Jalpaiguri typically serves as a transit route for girls trafficked from Bhutan and Assam, with many of the girls ending up in brothels in major cities throughout India. Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling have an influx of children both from neighboring countries and neighboring Indian states

    As you can see the need for both NGO and Government agencies to get to work and address these issues is vital. However, very few resources (either from NGO's or the Government) ever reach the area. 

    Womens Interlink Foundation has been one of the few NGO's operating in the area and have been doing so for several years. Currently they manage three shelter homes as well as programs that provide training for border patrol agents and local law enforcement. WIF and Made By Survivors are raising funds for a new building that WIF is planning that will consolidate the current shelter homes and house over 100 girls as well as various income generation projects such as the jewelry program. To learn more about the Free Forever Campaign click here http://www.madebysurvivors.com/freeforever. You can also view a short video about the campaign here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QRMDW98FDG0&feature=player_embedded

    Part two of our blog series, "The Story of Jalpaiguri", will be published Thursday...here is a preview.....

    It takes the overnight train about 10 hours to reach New Jalpaiguri (NJP) train station from Kolkata and it can be a tough journey. Train cars are often packed to capacity with families, businessmen and tourists all trying to get a decent nights sleep and be as fresh as possible upon arrival in the morning. This is rarely the case of course and most people arrive with very few hours (if any) of sleep under the belt. Bleary eyed, hungry and in need of a shower people stumble out of the train car and find their way through the bustling crowds to try and find their bus, taxi or if they're lucky, private car. 

    Thanks and please share......

    Paul Suit 


  • A note from our new volunteer Renee - a high school teacher from Australia

    10 days ago I left the sunny beaches of Western Australia to volunteer with Made By Survivors for the next year.  As I set off on the plane from Bangkok I was filled with a mixture of excitement and nervous anticipation for what lay ahead.  For a girl who doesn't like cities I wondered how I was going to handle crazy Kolkata traffic noise and chaos everyone had warned me about. Yes it certainly has all of those things but my first week has been fantastic.  Filled with amazing people, great conversations and laughter, brilliant food and of course the reason why I'm here - The Team and Girls at Made By Survivors. 


    What has struck me about Made By Survivors so far is how tight the team are. I could feel the love between them all on day one and each of them speak so highly about each other that I was very happy to be lucky enough to work with such people.

    From day one Paul, Dolon and Soma have made me feel welcome and have gone out of their way to settle into my new home.  Dolon met me early on my first morning and took me shopping, settled me into my new apartment and gave me a run down on how to get places using the local transport.  Her warmth and infectious laughter make her easy to be around and her translating skills have come in very handy this first week. She is a strong woman and an excellent role model to the younger girls in the shelter home.

    For the next 3 days I travelled to work with Soma and its easy to see why everyone who meets her falls in love with her immediately.  She has such strength, integrity and compassion for others that i could listen to her stories all day. I have come to look forward to our long drive to get to CCH so I can hear more about her life and dreams.  Her talent for jewellery design also blew me away when she showed me her original creations on the first day.

    In the middle of all the women is Paul - he has been an absolute delight to be around my first week.  His extensive knowledge about issues surrounding slavery and how Kolkata operates has been invaluable. I already love his amazing dry sense of humour and witty observations on life.

    My first day at CCH was spent familiarising myself with the girls and working out who I would be teaching and what levels or class they are in.  All the girls are absolutely beautiful.  They straight away ran up and said hello "Aunty" and wanted to know who I was.  I got to practice my extensive Bengali phrases ( that would be about 4) and they were very happy to hear me speak some of their language even if I pronounced some words wrong and didn't know that much.

    Soma and Dolon introduced me to the girls in the program and I walked around and had a look at all the pieces they were making.  I was extremely impressed by the girls industrious work ethic.  Even when the lunch bell rang they wanted to keep working.  I had a look at the designs that were in the current range and again I was very impressed with the variety and beauty of each piece.

    At  CCH I have 2-3 different classes and then one on one tuition with one of the older girls who is extremely bright. The first class consists of 15-20 year old girls who have some english so we are focusing on speaking. As I expected they are exactly like any other teenage girls around the world- they have crushes on handsome men in the movies, love to dance, love to gossip with their friends and love having their photo taken- the biggest difference of course is that they are poor and have faced hardships in life that most kids their age could not even imagine.

    The other girls are younger and start from age 5.  They speak virtually no english so its tougher but their enthusiasm makes up for the language constraints. Simple ABC games and number games has proven to be very effective.

    Unlike in the big high school I work in back home, I have limited resources- I have a blackboard and some chalk. While this is a challenge it actually  it forces you to use creative methods of teaching and makes you concentrate on the most important aspect of teaching effectively - communicating with your students.  I did some goal setting with the older group today and said they had to be writing in a journal each day and they got upset because they didn't have one.  When I smiled and told them I would buy them a diary each they were so grateful it was heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. It once again shows how much we take for granted the education opportunities and resources we have in a wealthy country.  The week has reenforced to me how important education is to the girls.  I hope that I can really help them with their english in the next 3 months.

    Something that really shines here is the hope and positivity from the girls and the team surrounding them. Yes the girls may come from harsh backgrounds and have endured a lot of suffering but that is in the past. They really are making the most of the present and looking ahead to the future. i cant wait to get to know them all better!

    Its been a great first week with Made By Survivors and I;m looking forward to the next year.

    Until my next update -

    abar dekha hobe xxx


  • time for some fun!!!


    On December 22nd, Made by Survivors organized for an excursion for the shelter home girls in appreciation of their hard work and dedication throughout the year. It was time to let them unwind and enjoy the spices of city life, an experience beyond their worlds.

  • My daughter, my inspiration!


    Written by Soma Halder, 

    Jwelery Program Superviser.  

    Made By Survivors. 



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