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Handmade Expressions’ Saathi Group

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By Lindsay Beck

Though still sort of reeling from our experiences with Bombay Teen Challenge, Mum, Amy, and I went on our first producer visit for Trade as One the very next day! We met Minal, of Saathi group, at a crowded bus and train depot in downtown Mumbai. After struggling to hear each other over the phone and then to find each other amidst the hoards of people, we were relieved to head away from the bustle and back into smaller side streets. Together we climbed some impossibly steep metal steps up to a workshop which hosts Saathi’s recycled newspaper bag making industry.

(Saathi is one group that produces for the larger company, Handmade Expressions. They create sustainable newspaper gift bags for Trade as One!)

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Minal gave us a comprehensive overview of Saathi group, which works with homeless youth, involves getting them into apartments, and equips them to be self-sufficient. A huge part of the move toward autonomy is training for dignifying and specialized work. We met five boys, each with unique–though hauntingly similar–stories of becoming homeless, and each of who now express hope for his future because of his work.

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We sat on the floor of the workshop facing these young men, who worked swiftly and deftly, showing us what goes into the making of their bags. I marveled at the precision and speed with which they worked, and felt blessed to have them share their precious time with us. When we requested to buy two bags at the end of our visit with them, they quickly pressed them into our hands, refusing to take any payment.

On Monday I’ll be telling you the individual story of one of the boys to whom we spoke!

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