I was personally looking forward to March 2020 when our students were planning a tree plantation and sanitation drive in the slum area they live in. Seven women would have received certificates for completing their basic tailoring course and one for hand-embroidery. But the nation-wide lockdown was imposed on 23rd March and all the activities came to a halt. I had to ensure that two of our artisans, who had to return to their villages, got to their homes safely. So much of uncertainty raised a lot of unrest in the team members but we stayed together through those difficult times.
For nearly three months we stayed in touch with our students through phone calls as there was no way of meeting them, and making sure that they were taking care of their health and personal hygiene to whatever extent possible. We were also concerned about whether they were getting enough food through the lockdown.
From June 2020, we were able to start sending work to the students in order to continue their academic learning. The students responded very well to this and were eager to practice at home. This back and forth continues till date as we still cannot have them at the Center for the learning program.
On August 14, 2020, with the help of our students and Sri Sunil Thorpe, DIG of GC CRPF Pinjore, we organized dry ration distribution for about 200 families of the slum (Bhainsa Tibba) where our students live.
We held ‘Pratibhaon Ki Khoj’, a series of workshops on talent scouting and training, from October 6th to 21st, for the children of CRPF GC Pinjore.
We also organised, with the help our students and women learners, sanitary pad distribution drive in association with the local leader of Padsquad on September 5th and another on November 9th 2020, which was covered by ANI news.
November 5th 2020, a group of women from GC CRPF Pinjore with Deputy Commandant Srimati Phoolpati ji, had visited our Center to learn about our skill training and education programs for underprivileged women and children. Many of them also tried their hand at hand-embroidery, weaving, macrame, clay-modelling, carpentry and painting.
On November 9 2020, we organised a clothes distribution drive with the help of our students. The clothes were collected over a period of time through donations and word of mouth.
On February 10, 2021, the Akaash Center of Care for Specially Gifted Children was inaugurated online by Dr. A.P. Maheshwari, IPS, DG, CRPF. A collaboration between DIG Sunil Thorpe of CRPF, GC Pinjore, and the Auromir Community Center has resulted in creating a wonderful space for special children and their parents for therapies, consultations and personal support.
The training of the women has not resumed since the lockdown. The fear of infection prevails and we are not able to intervene at this level. Some families of the women who were associated with us migrated to their native places and we may not be able to meet them in the near future.
One of the women learners, Savita Rani, who had completed the tailoring course has joined us in the tailoring department, as she was left with no choice after her husband committed suicide due to lack of money during the pandemic. We are proud to have her working with us since August 2020.
Another lady, a victim of domestic violence, Vandana, joined our tailoring department in February 2021. She had learnt the skill earlier but was out of practice for nearly a decade. She is now assisting in apparel production.
An elderly lady, Amarjeet, whom we all address affectionately as ‘aunty’, is now part of our community since February 2021. She has several skills — tailoring, knitting, crochet, macrame and basic weaving. She is the sole earner in her family, as her husband is on complete bed rest for nearly three years. She used to stitch curtain and clothes from home as and when she would get orders. Now, she doesn’t have to look for odd jobs.
Rajkumari, wife of a motor mechanic and mother of two children, has also joined us as a housekeeper. She is a keen learner and is making cotton rope baskets for the Center.
The tailoring department is being headed by a 3rd generation tailoring master, Mahesh, since July 2020. He too had left his profession due to the growing popularity of readymade clothes and a lack of demand for handmade articles. We have received very good response from customers for whom we are stitching custom clothes.
The hand embroidery department is being led by Raza who hails from a family of embroiders and saree weavers who are no longer practicing the art. He joined us in February 2020. Our apparels are gaining popularity as some of our designs are a unique blend of contemporary styles with traditional hand embroidery.
In May 2020, Shameem (artisan, hand-embroider) left his body due to a heart attack. We feel his absence even today. We cherish all his work, teaching and contribution to the whole project.
Marketing and Sales
We are in the process of copyrighting the label of our handmade products ‘धृ’ ‘Dhri’. ‘Dhri’ is a Sanskrit root word which means holding together, bearing and nourishing. ‘Dhri’ is the root of the Sanskrit words dharti, meaning earth, dharan, meaning to hold or bear, and dhairya, meaning patience and forbearance. ‘Dhri’, therefore, perfectly reflects the three aspects of our work with the children, the women and the artisans: holding together by the thread of mutual respect, codependence, learning, growth and holistic nourishment of the being.
We hope to reach out, as much as possible during the time of pandemic, for support and sales of our products in order to create inflow of income for the project. In October, we started Facebook and Instagram pages for the Community development work.
Last, but not the least, the team has stayed together through these difficult times and continues to work together with hope, strength and confidence.
Director & CEO