When you walk into an average family home, you’ll often see photos on the wall. Celebrations, milestones, and family portraits… they’re up there, in all their glory, for everyone to see.
Sari Bari is no different – we’re a family and on our walls, there are hundreds of photos, proudly displaying our 117 heroes.
And if you took a closer look, you’d say one face staring back at you, more than the rest. That’s the face of Champa, one of the very first heroes of Sari Bari.
She’s a trailblazer… a pioneer and forerunner towards freedom. She took a big leap of faith almost 10 years ago, to join a business that hadn’t even started production yet. It was just a small rented room, and she was one of three women learning how to sew.
As I sit across from her, the first thing I notice about Champa is her smile. It’s one of the most radiant you’ll see. She laughs as she reminisces about the early years, her gentle wrinkles embedding a little deeper with every memory.
“When the new women come, I tell them they can do it; I encourage them. I tell them I’ve been able to do it, and so can they,” she says. Champa has a motherly, tender touch, which she uses to not only encourage the women who work in her unit, but also women who work the line. She’s the reason many women have found their way to Sari Bari’s bright red doors.
“I remember my first day,” Champa says. “The first day was very hard, but I committed to learning. I never missed a day of work – even if I had a fever, I would still come in. I will cherish the early days.”
When Champa arrived at Sari Bari she had no previous sewing experience, but that only made her more determined to learn. “It felt very good to sew my first blanket. I still have it, but it’s getting very old now. Whenever my husband goes out of town, I take out my blanket, lay it on the floor, and have my afternoon nap on it.”
As she thinks back to where Sari Bari started, Champa becomes passionate about the women still left to help. “It’s important for Sari Bari to keep growing – there are new women who need work. When I started, some women had been in the trade for 10 years, but now those women have been in the trade for 20 years and they might be ready to get out. We need to be there for those women.”
In her role, Champa is in charge of ironing and preparing all the material, straps and zippers so the ladies on the machines can do their work as efficiently as possible. “My favourite part about coming into work each day is getting everything ready for the women. I like to anticipate what they need before they even ask.”
Champa says it feels good when people call her a hero. “My manager was the first person to call me a hero, and it felt very good. The master tailor also calls me a hero because I get everything prepared. It feels good to be called a hero.”
Champa is one of our first heroes and we couldn’t imagine Sari Bari without her… we’ve even named a bag after her! She exudes a quiet strength and joy in everything she does. We love her.
You can help us lay a foundation so more heroes like Champa can be born! We have the chance to acquire a building and transform it into a new production unit for young women who are at risk of re-entering the trade.
Visit saribari.info to find out more information about an exciting opportunity to give more women a taste of freedom.
Written by Nicole Peck