Sewing for a living, the first stitch

Inés Carbajal, a native of León attracted by Indian culture, decided to move to the subcontinent to teach Spanish. She soon settled very close to the city of Mumbai and found a teaching post at Pune University. This was at the start of this century and what struck Inés was the fact that, for some segments of the population, time and, above all else, progress seemed to have stood still. “Indian women are quite isolated by Hinduism, but those in the lower caste are the poorest and the most excluded,” she explains. They don’t actually go hungry; indeed, they get by with very little and seem happy, but they are totally dependent on their husband or brother-in-law, or other male relatives if they are widowed or unmarried.”

For this reason, Inés decided to swap her Spanish classes at the University for a dressmaking project targeting women from the lowest caste in the rural world. A team from the Teresian Association, established in India through the SARPI NGO, provided the support to make her project a reality. Thus The Kurta Project was born, an innovative social advancement project that revolves around sewing machines. It is all about fostering skills so as to increase employment opportunities for these low-caste women and, at the same time, provide them with other tools through English classes, or education on such issues as health, nutrition, and so on.

Ecological, fair, responsible fabrics

In this way, the 224 women who have so far benefited from the project have learned how to design and sew blouses, trousers, dresses, bags and other fashion accessories that they sell in their own country and export via fair-trade circuits. Some women have opened their own workshop/stores, which may be just a small room in their house, with the window sill on to the street serving as a counter. “

Fabrics are bought from local cotton producers, natural pigments are used to dye them and these people enjoy fair working conditions,” Inés Carbajal explains. The project is obviously affected by the pandemic, which is ravaging India with a virulent variant, coupled with a lack of vaccines in the country where the most doses are produced. “But we want to forge ahead with our project, now more than ever.” For more information: https:// www.ropasolidariakurta.com

Saying thanks is priceless

The goal? Help build strong community ties between neighbors in a district with special economic difficulties. How? Through a store that ‘sells’ products at a fixed price: saying thanks.

We find ourselves in Anderlecht, a particularly depressed district in the city of Brussels, where a small shop called ‘Circularium’ offers its clientèle everything from books, records, furniture and tableware through to small appliances. Money is of no use here when it comes to paying. The hard currency consists in customers saying thanks in writing.

A great wall of gratitude

Each ‘buyer’ may purchase a maximum of one item each day. After selecting their product, they go to the checkout counter where they fill in a thank-you card which is then hung on the wall of the store, thus forming part of a great wall of gratitude.

The store’s products are donated by other neighbors, both from the district and from other parts of the city, and are usually items that are in perfect condition but have fallen into disuse. Volunteers working in the store encourage donors to likewise write a note to the future owner of the item they are leaving in the store.

In this way, as the very name aims to convey, ‘Circularium’ is committed to the circular economy, by promoting the reuse of products, as well as to establishing a circle of solidarity relationships between citizens. http://www.circularium.be/fr/

Otra manera de ayudar

Heroes in sneakers

Alex and José are two youngsters from Badalona (a small town in the province of Barcelona) who describe themselves as basketball freaks and true sneakerheads (a term for those people with a fixation for the sports shoe models their idols wear and who collect or trade them). They have both played basketball since they were small and say that, as they could not afford the iconic sneakers of their sports heroes, they turned their hand to customizing cheaper models themselves.

One day they realized that customizing or mending sports shoes — something they had already become real experts at — could also become a skill they could put at the service of others. This marked the birth of the Kicks pel barri initiative, a sports shoe repair project that, in a single day, gained 500 social media followers ready and willing to send them unused sneakers so as to give them a second life. After making themselves known in the Sistrells district of Badalona, they have already received donations from educational centers and sports clubs throughout the city.

They now have a small workshop where, in addition to mending all the donated footwear, they have a washing machine to clean up the sneakers, leaving them ready for their new use. Alex and José comment that they now have a third person helping them with social media and that, in addition to revamping sneakers, they also make cell phone covers and change purses with soles that cannot be reused for footwear, as well as bracelets with the laces.

They have not yet been able to pick up the huge number of pairs of sneakers offered by Badalona schools and sports clubs, and they already have 200 pairs waiting to be repaired in their small workshop. “We’re really happy that people are collaborating so much. It’s all happened so fast, practically overnight. The truth is that we didn’t expect it. It’s so rewarding helping others,” they declare. https://www. facebook.com/ kickspelbarri/