Rebuilding Lives

Rebuilding Lives

16 May, 2016
Tsunami Survivors
These female entrepreneurs from Sri Lanka are on a mission to rebuild their lives and help the environment.
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Shanthi, from Sri Lanka, is a survivor of the catastrophic 2004 tsunami, was left with nothing after the tsunami hit. Forced to resettle in an unfamiliar inland area, Shanthi had to rebuild her life from scratch, with no financial, medical or psychological aid from the government.
 
In order to get her life back together, and provide healthcare and educational opportunities for her children, Shanthi teamed up with forty other female tsunami survivors from the village of Udaperadenlya. Together, they decided to sell beautiful hand-crafted items made of recycled waste paper. Their products were well received right off the bat, and can found across the globe, including Hong Kong ( at online store Knots & Strokes).
 
But there’s a problem. It rains a lot in Udaperadenlya, and the women don’t have a practical workspace sheltered from the rain, so they can’t dry the recycled paper, combat the mold or create their products every day. And that means they can’t fill the orders or meet the export demand to grow their business.

In order to combat this problem, they started to build a work shelter, but before the 2015 monsoon they ran out of money. The bank wouldn’t give them a loan either, due to the women’s insecure revenue flows and their disenfranchised status.
 
Well, it's the 21st century, so of course they're turning to the internet for help. 
 
Shanthi and her colleagues are crowdfunding the urgent completion of the 18sq.m. bricks-and-mortar building. The building, with its high walls and proper ventilation, will create a suitable environment for drying the recycled paper and would allow the women to work everyday uninhabited from the outdoor elements.
 
The building has to be completed before the monsoon rains arrive in September. Failure to do so would mean that their production would have to stop, and that they’d once again miss out on many potential sales for their busiest season - Christmas!
 
And how much will this project cost? We’re talking US$8,000. That’s right, just $8,000. Perhaps not a huge amount for some people, but for these women it could mean the difference between desperate poverty and building a sustainable, thriving business – and raising happy, healthy, well-educated children. 
 
Enabling Shanthi and her fellow entrepreneurial artisans to produce and sell their products year round means that each woman’s income would rise by an expected 15% over the year. The ripple effect would mean that the women and their families can have better access to adequate housing, healthcare, nutritious food, job training, schooling and childcare.
 
The crowdfunding campaign also hopes to help to fund another project in the nearby village of Kribathkumbra, where there are another forty women waiting to work. Without work, these women cannot provide for their families and become vulnerable to human trafficking. By empowering these women to build sustainable livelihoods, their confidence and self-esteem not only grows, but their whole community is given hope and vital resources. The environment also benefits with the output of 3.5 – 4 tons of recycled paper from waste paper per year.
 
“These women are survivors, and they have the acumen and determination to build a successful, sustainable business. When you empower women, that empowers their families, their communities, their countries… And if this crowdfunding campaign for Shanthi and her friends in Sri Lanka succeeds, we can replicate the model in other communities I work with in Nepal and Guatemala,” says Sharon Vipond of Knots & Strokes.
 
What a difference one small building could make!
 
PLUS, using the popular 'give something, get something' model that crowdfunding is known for, when you donate you get to choose a beautiful handmade product in exchange for your support.
 
Click here to support (and select from rewards such as handmade products by the Sri Lankan women constructing the shelter!) :)

By: Ecozine Staff
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