Sahana spent her childhood as a “rag-picker,” as they are called in India, sorting through trash to pay off her handlers. She was also being trafficked for sex and labor. When she was 16, she tugged on the dress of a well dressed woman to beg for money. The woman looked at Sahana, looked beneath the dirt and despair, and knew she deserved a better future. Instead of offering Sahana a few rupees, the woman offered Sahana her first real job making bags.
Sahana is now 23 years old and has been making bags for the past seven years. She is newly married and loves her work. But in all this time, Sahana avoided sharing her story with any of her coworkers. She felt it was too dark, too shameful, too painful. Instead, she focused on working hard and learning more about her identity as a daughter of the One who made her.
But at a recent team meeting, Sahana was ready to share her story. She stood up and told the entire community that her past life was all about trash. She collected and sold other people’s filthy trash, and her own body was treated as trash. Now, she says, “I come to work every day with my head high. I sit on my throne and stitch beautiful bags.” She knows her work is valued, and more importantly, she is valued. “I am living my dream," she told her coworkers and friends. "I am no longer trash.”
Hundreds are employed through our partner businesses (JOYN, Dehradun Guitar Company, All Things India, and others). Most of them have stories much like Sahana's.
We at JoyCorps are convinced that a large part of our divine mandate to care for the poor needs to be through job creation. The typical poverty relief program can create dependency and rob people of their dignity. But jobs provide purpose, dignity, community, and wages. They also give us the opportunity to form deep relationships with shared time and vision, so that we can have real discipleship impact.
JoyCorps is not a business. JoyCorps is a nonprofit whose mission is to support local businesses operating in marginalized regions. These types of businesses are critical in the battle against poverty, yet they often fail for many reasons—lack of investment, lack of training and illiteracy among the workforce, government corruption, poor health of workers, and lack of access to strong markets.
Our strategy is to seek out local, indigenous business owners and partner with them, helping them to grow sustainable businesses and take really good care of their employees' physical, emotional, educational, and spiritual needs (http://joycorps.org/our-model). This strategy will result in dozens, if not hundreds, of thriving communities of faith in India, Thailand, and across Asia.
We need support for our community development projects, which promote holistic transformation in the lives of artisans like Sahana. Please consider partnering with us.
*Name changed for privacy.