The Free Bird collection was designed by acclaimed North Carolina jeweler and designer Melissa Tyson for Made by Survivors. Birds are the perfect metaphor for our survivors because they are at once so vulnerable and delicate, and incredibly strong. Tiny birds fly thousands of miles in migration. Our survivors too have a long journey ahead of them, as they rebuild shattered lives and gain the tools to rejoin society as strong, independent, capable women. Our commitment is to walk beside them every step of the journey, and our job is not finished until they are permanently slavery-proofed, with education, economic empowerment, a strong identity and sense of self-worth, and knowledge of human rights and laws regarding slavery and the laws surrounding it.
Melissa says: I am a wife, mother and a jewelry designer. Creating jewelry is a constant journey of joyful exploration! With my desire to discover the little things, the colors in a butterfly wing, the glitter in a flower petal, or a rock in the river, all of my collections find their way into my jewelry designs. My husband is all to familiar with this as i will clear out our suitcase when traveling to bring it home full of rocks! And as fabulous as my husband is, he lugs it through hotels and airports until the new found treasures make it home to my studio! Then the creating begins as my collected treasures one by one make their way into rings and neclaces. The importance of "greening" my studio has become even more important after having our daughter. So, now i am striving to apply the most environmentally friendly practices including the use of recycled silver, the least toxic studio chemicals, and recycled packaging. For 15 years I have been taking the scraps and metling, molding, and hammering them into a new forms, recycling and transforming. Craftsmanship to me is about excellence but not perfection; by leaving small marks of the work-process of forming, forging and soldering the hand-made quality of crafting remains visible. A reminder that our human flaws and imperfections are engulfed with beauty, yet real.
Petals, wings, and sparkling things have always fascinated me. God inspires me and I pray my jewelry inspires others.
Melissa Tyson Upham lives by the sea of North Carolina with her husband James, daughter Vyolet, son James, and bulldog Gza Gza.
The MBS Jewelry Centers – including the pilot program in Calcutta, the Mumbai Center, and the Jalpaiguri/Darjeeling Center are some of our most exciting new initiatives. These centers are training some of India’s first women goldsmiths, offering intensive (paid) high level skills training, followed by long-term, fairly paid employment.
Survivors at the centers are designing and manufacturing jewelry in precious and semi-precious metals. They also serve as peer trainers for new trainees. Jewelry making in India has traditionally only been done by men, and by members of specific castes. It is a highly respected and prestigious skill which enables survivors to overcome the stigma of trafficking and forced prostitution.
Many of our artisans are survivors of human trafficking and brothel slavery who have been rescued in raids and have spent several years in local aftercare shelters are also in need of help and opportunities if they are to leave the shelters, live independently, and support themselves. Others are at high risk because they were born into brothel communities or in rural villages with a high incidence of trafficking. Some are survivors or child marriage, severe domestic violence or other human rights violations.
Typically, girls are trafficked between the ages of 11 and 14 from impoverished rural areas in India, Bangladesh or Nepal. They are sold as slaves in brothels, where they endure severe physical, sexual and emotional abuse and torture. Those fortunate enough to be rescued from slavery face continuing extreme challenges in rejoining mainstream society. It is a struggle to rejoin society because of social stigma and a lack of job options, education or skills.
We see a dramatic change in the behavior and confidence of our survivors through this program. At first they are timid and unwillingly to look you in the eye. After six months they are laughing, speaking out, and maintaining eye contact. After a year, they are solving production problems, and challenging us to match their determination and energy. We see survivors progress from shelter-dependence to total independence. Many of our survivors are remarkable for their courage in rescuing others, spreading awareness of trafficking and slavery, and advocating for the rights of women and girls.