India (MNN) – For those of us whose mothers have everything they need, finding a gift that is truly special this Mothers Day can seem daunting. So, here’s an idea. In honor of your own mother, give a struggling mother half-way around the world the gift of being able to provide for her family.
Donna Glass of India Partners fills us in with an idea especially poignant for those whose mothers taught them to sew. For over two decades, India Partners has been helping train women in tailoring, an invaluable skill for many young wives and mothers who have suddenly been called upon to support their family with no idea of where to begin.
The six months of training covers everything the women need to know about starting their own tailoring business. At the end of the training, the students receive their own sewing machine. That’s where you come in.
Let’s start with a story
To illustrate just what this training school means for many women, Glass shares Gowri’s story.
Like many young women, Gowri was married young. Though she stayed in school longer than many girls in her situation, Gowri’s marriage prevented her from graduating high school, going to college, and learning any sort of job skills.
As is typical, she was expected to take care of the cooking, cleaning, and other domestic responsibilities.
But there was a problem. Her young husband wasn’t earning enough even to support the two of them. And so, she had to get a job, even though she’d never learned any skills that could earn an income.
“The problem is with the advancements in society today, these roles really aren’t fitting any longer,” Glass says, referring to the traditional housewife role.
While there is still a lot of tradition surrounding marriage in India, including arranged marriages, the men are expected to be the only provider. Glass says this can be an unrealistic expectation when the only jobs available are not consistent enough and do not pay enough to support a family.
Fortunately, Gowri heard about the tailoring school. She applied, got accepted, and found she had a knack for stitching and design.
After the training, Gowri opened her own shop. Her designs were so popular that women wearing them in the village became effective advertisers.
Now Gowri and her husband can look to the future with hope of starting and taking care of a family. But it wouldn’t be possible if someone, perhaps someone like you, hadn’t decided to give money toward her sewing machine.
During each six-month block of training, 60 women learn how to stich, embroider, machine sew, and run a business. They attend the training six days a week. Currently there are five schools with twelve women in each.
A sustainable business is a huge blessing. For the woman whose husband isn’t making enough or has died or abandoned them, the options are quite grim. These include begging, prostitution, or leaving their children by themselves all day while they do hard labor.
Tailoring is a healthy, safe alternative. And it can help break cycles of poverty.
“Their sewing might make the difference as to whether or not their children can actually go to school and get an education,” Glass says.
Learning a trade and hearing truth
Though the classes are held in churches, the applications are processed based on need, not religion or church membership. The most impoverished women have priority.
“These classes are open to everybody regardless of their religious background,” Glass says.
And so, the training doubles as an outreach.
“Part of their training also includes a time of devotion—so they are exposed to the Gospel, they are given the opportunity to learn more, and often times many of these women will end up coming to the church and not only will they come to the church but then they bring their children and hopefully their husbands,” Glass explains.
As time goes on, fewer women in the church need the training, and so more women from the community are coming. Many of these women are Hindu.
“They have this opportunity to come and hear as well as learn a trade.”
A Sewing Machine: A gift of income
The sewing machines given at the end of the program are foot operated, meaning nobody has to depend on expensive and unreliable electricity to run their business. Even though the machines may not be the fanciest and most up to date, they are a precious and thoughtful gift.
Glass puts it this way: “The success of all the women who are in the program is really only possible through people who support the school through prayers or through the gifts of machines. It can make a difference to help bring a change to people who are suffering from poverty.”
Glass visited some of the schools and graduates of the program in January. She says, “They are very excited about it, they are so happy to be able to provide for their families or help provide for their families.”
India Partners works with indigenous Christian agencies in order to do these types of ministries. Because of the success of the schools, more of their partners are wanting to open tailoring schools. These partners are interested in a holistic approach for ministry, Glass says.
“If you don’t take care of a person’s physical needs, they often times are not going to be open to hearing about their spiritual or eternal needs.”
Their greatest hope is for the women to hear the Gospel and share it with their families. “The ultimate goal, besides providing for them to help them get out of poverty, is that we win souls for Christ,” Glass says.
Something new this Mothers Day
The sewing machine is a symbol of how mothers pass knowledge onto their daughters. For Glass, it is a way to memorialize her mother who has passed on.
“I learned to sew from my mom,” she says. For her, helping women in India is deeply personal. Every year she buys a machine for a woman ready to start her sewing journey.
To donate a sewing machine to a woman in India for Mothers Day, click here.
Please pray for the women going through this training not only to be able to rise out of poverty but to come to know Jesus.