Kolkata Diary. Visiting The Girls at the Women’s Interlink Foundation

Starting out

It’s 3 am and I’m sitting up in bed blogging and eating a piece of spinach pie that the girls at the Women’s Interlink Foundation sent us home with.   In case you’re wondering it’s delicious.

Yesterday, after going to the Flower Market, we drove to the Women’s Interlink Foundation.  This is one of the organizations that Dahn has helped raise money for year after year.   It’s a continually growing place.  Last year they added another floor to the building and a play ground in the courtyard.

This year they renovated a space that will be a kitchen.  As she gave us a tour, Aloka, who runs the foundation, opened the door to a run down stairway leading to rooms  that need to be renovated.  She was showing  us their next project.

We were greeted in the courtyard by two girls with flower garlands.  Another girl daubed a bindi on our third eye.  There are so many girls living and working at the foundation and they crowded around us, holding our hands and giving hugs.

The girls love to have their pictures taken and to take pictures of each other.  They would gather around pointing to each other or posing with a friend.  I’d take the picture and show it to them. Then they would point to me and them or another girl  and I’d hand my iphone to one of them who would take our picture.

We would exchange names, me trying to pronounce theirs, them correcting me till I got it right, then forgetting it in the next moment.  They had less trouble with my name than I had with theirs.

We toured the many rooms and workspaces.  The girls here, make block print and silkscreen fabric for scarves and sari’s.  They cook and sell spices that they package.   They make jewelry and sew for Top Shop , a retail store in London.

The girls who live here are victims of sex trafficking, other kinds of abuse and orphans.  When they’re old enough they learn a trade which they can take out into the world.  This way  they can always make their own money and have a way of taking care of themselves.  Even after the leave the Women’s Interlink Foundation, they are always, at any time, for any reason, welcome to come back.

It is their home.

After another delicious lunch, some of the girls, with the help of their teachers, stretched fabric on long tables getting ready to do a block printing and silk screen demonstration.  While they did that, I took the ten canvas tote bags and the fabric markers that I brought with me, and laid them  out on another long table.

I told the teachers the idea was to just let the girls draw whatever they wanted on the bags.  To decorate them any way they wanted.

I was looking to give them what I treasure so much, creative freedom.

The girls got to work.  While some hesitated, others drew confidently.  Two girls decided to do a blockprint on the tote  instead of using markers.

Block printing on the totes.

One girl, who made the only drawing of a house with a tree and birds, asked for help from the girl next to her.  She worked on her bag with a couple of different girls.

Working together.

I walked around watching each girl draw  and saying the single word, “beautiful”,  in English.   They all understood.

Most of the work the girls do is very structured.  Quality is important to the markets they’re selling the scarves, hand bags and jewelry to.

What I wanted to bring to them was the freedom to create.  And I saw that happen with the tote bags.  Each girl was serious about her work and proudly signed her name on her tote bag.   Some in hot pink and some in black.

I wasn’t sure what would happen with the tote bags, but I’m so glad I brought them and allowed them to find the right time and place to be used.

I took a picture of the all girls standing proudly next to their finished work.  I knew I wouldn’t be posting it.  As you may have noticed, I don’t have  close up pictures of the girls faces.  It’s for their own safety.

But I do wish I could post some pictures of the girls. Then you could see their confidence and shyness.  Their eagerness and warmth.  Their beautiful smiles and the love between them.

The finished tote bags with signatures.

I piled up the finished tote bags and brought them out to the van.  I’m taking them home with me to sell on my website.     All the money will go directly to the Women’s Interlink Foundation to help fund their next project.

Who knows, maybe it will help renovate the rooms above the new kitchen.



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