At 22, Musharif should have been excited about a life ahead of him, but he felt he was going nowhere. His family had tried to survive on his father’s minimal salary as a rickshaw driver. They lived in a poor part of Pune, India, where Musharif dropped out of school early and started earning a minimal income in a mechanic’s workshop.

While Musharif was feeling trapped in Pune, an investment company, in a nearby part of India, had 27 computers to get rid of, some of them very high-end. They reached out to Global Hand, and we helped match them to NGO, Saahasee, which serves the poor in India, including Pune. Saahasee used these superb computers to help set up a computer school that now offers high quality training at very low cost. It was here that Global Hand’s story met Musharif’s. A friend told him of the course. He enrolled and did so well that he was offered a job in a tech company, became team leader, received a pay rise within four months.

“I sincerely believe that the IT school has changed my life completely,” he says.

We love Musharif’s story: one small opportunity, driven by one company’s decision not to trash their computers, can be the key to breaking the poverty cycle for a grassroots family.

The computer school continues to thrive, offering training to young and old as they prepare for a life which requires technical skills. (see main photo below)

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The Yamuna river, in Northern India, battles pollution on a tragic scale. Although its waters are clear in the early stages of its journey, when it flows through New Delhi, that drastically changes. Up to 80% of its pollution is gathered in the 22 km stretch within the city.

Entrepreneur Vimlendu Jha sought to make a difference. Targeting young Indian students, the leaders of tomorrow’s generation, he sought to gather change-makers. He soon found, though, that there were more environmental issues to be addressed and, in time, began a very successful scheme they call “Green the Gap.” It was started as a way to give waste another life by upcycling old materials. They purchase materials from rag-pickers and waste markets, transforming old tyres, juice cartons and waste fabrics into beautifully designed products.

We now stock trendy satchels and bags in our Global Handicrafts store. These products ‘do a double good’. They are good in brilliantly re-purposing trash and, being a Fair Trade organisation, good for employment opportunity. Many ‘Green the Gap’ workers have come from low income backgrounds and, by working there, have seen not only their environment improve, but their personal lives as well.

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Extreme taboo surrounds the process of menstruation in some parts of India, says local NGO, Goonj. What options do women have, then, without access to feminine hygiene products? In rural India, millions of women improvise with rags or, unthinkably, sand, ash and the like. As a result, they meet infection and disease, not to mention a crippling lack of dignity.

Goonj is doing what it can to restore that dignity to Indian women. In a project they call ‘Not Just a Piece of Cloth’, they produce pads and underwear out of cleaned, recycled textiles. They distribute these in packs to rural women, teaching them how to sew pads of their own. For the women, this simple provision is proving liberating and empowering.

This creative organisation also supports its women with another of their innovative enterprises. They train women to make paper bags out of recycled newspaper so they can earn income based on fair trade principles. These bags are sold all over the world, including Crossroads.

Any time you buy something from our Global Handicrafts shop, you will be given your purchase in one of Goonj’s recycled paper bags.

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One of the tenets of our fair trade principles is care for the environment. In our cafe and marketplace, we sell goods that are eco friendly as well as powerful in generating income for people in need.

The creativity of our producers leaves us in awe as they recycle and upcycle.

• In Uganda, for example, victims of the war years were strapped for materials to generate income. They roll, colour and varnish newspaper to produce jewellery so elegant none of our shoppers can guess the source material.

• In Mongolia and Myanmar, artisans upcycle glass shard to produce Christmas ornaments.

• In Cambodia, in the hands of craftsmen, rice sacks turn into funky bags, large and small.

• In India, saries are upcycled to provide decorative features on hessian bags.

• In Vietnam, crisp wrappers turn into tableware

Many of those farmers and suppliers also focus on organic products: tea, coffee, jams, cocoa, chocolates and spices.

Crossroads Foundation Hong Kong

Shop Now!

Browse Global Handicrafts’ full online range here or visit our shop at Crossroads Village to walk through our colourful global marketplace, with even more handmade delights from around the world, all of which care for the people who made them.

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Freeset, an organisation based in the heart of Calcutta’s red light district, offers employment to women who want to escape prostitution. For the approximately 10,000 sex workers in this area, “poverty has left them without options. The cries of their hungry children drive them to sell their bodies,” says Freeset. Working with Freeset can provide some of these women with an alternative life – a life of freedom.

Handmade in India from eco-friendly jute, all stylized with some Indian charm, our Freeset products turn heads as well as helping set women and their families improve their lives.

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“An education is perhaps a child’s strongest barrier against poverty.” UNICEF

Hong Kong goods open doors to learning.

Many of the shipments Crossroads sends are to help groups that work to keep children in school. It’s no small feat, in some parts of the world. Almost 1/3 of children in sub-saharan Africa and in many other rural areas of developing nations have never attended any kind of formal school.

We’ve selected just a few images that show how goods donated in Hong Kong and shipped by Crossroads are allowing children around the world to stay in school, learn to read, play and grow! Scroll to the end to see how your school or community group can help, too.

Children like these ones from the Philippines’ Smokey Mountain slum, often spend time with their parents sifting through a massive garbage dump to collect rubbish to sell, and survive. The children pictured, though, now have the chance to play, thanks to a shipment of play equipment and furniture from Crossroads to support their school.

School is serious business for a class of teenagers in Chennai, India. From extremely poor families, they know that studying hard may be their only chance to escape the cycle of poverty they were born into. Their desks were part of one of the many shipments Crossroads has sent to equip the NGO that runs their school!

A major backpack manufacturer donated thousands of brand new, sturdy backpacks to Crossroads. Now some of them are bringing joy to young children in the Gambia, who often have to walk many miles to school, carrying books in their arms.

School for these Kenyan kids used to mean sitting under a tree with their teacher, exposed to the elements, learning what they could with very few materials. Now in a new building, from a local NGO, they are reading their way to a brighter future, thanks to Hong Kong schools who donated boxes and boxes (and boxes!) of books for a Crossroads shipment to equip the school.

Moldovan orphans are among the most deeply vulnerable and disempowered members of their society, at risk of abuse and human trafficking. These ones can’t hide their excitement, though, at a distribution of stationery supplies from a Crossroads shipment, which helped an NGO who works to support and protect Moldovan orphans.

Without the opportunity offered by this non-profit school in Cambodia, many of the orphans and vulnerable children pictured would have no formal education at all. Desks donated to Crossroads by Hong Kong schools are now giving new life to these Cambodian children’s learning!

Your school or group can get involved! Talk to us about running a collection drive of stationery kits, school supplies, educational toys, or raising money to sponsor an educational shipment that can help children in developing nations stay in school.

Email communications@crossroads.org.hk for more information or to discuss collection ideas.

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Maria placed a frightened hand on her pregnant stomach as she stared at the home for single mothers. Could she succeed in hiding the shameful secret if she entered here? Her little sister stood quivering beside her, equally afraid.

Indian_ChildrenWould the people in charge ask questions about her baby? Would she succeed in the deception she and her family had planned? In their native Nagaland, Northern India, it was already shame enough for the community to think she was carrying the child of her boyfriend. That alone would see her shunned.

A much deeper darkness, though, haunted Maria. This child was not her boyfriend’s. In the months since her mother’s death, her father had sought ‘comfort’ from his defenceless teenage girl, raping her repeatedly. Her relatives feared they would be chased out of the village if the people learned of her father’s incestuous abuse. So, together with Maria, they had constructed the ‘boyfriend’ scenario to hide the unspeakable.

To Maria’s amazement, however, the home welcomed her with open arms and also accepted her younger sister who, too, was at risk from their father. In this nurturing environment, she found the care she needed for her pregnancy, together with the encouragement she needed personally, being traumatised by the loss of her mother and the ‘love’ of her father. Several months later, Maria gave birth to a healthy baby girl who was adopted by a couple that were unable to conceive.

CIndian_Womanoming to this home was a turning point for Maria.  She had been so supported by the staff at the home that she chose to stay on as a full time volunteer, supporting other children and teenagers who were pregnant and in need of help.

Her little child is now five, attending school and thriving in her new family. The care home where Maria works has, since 2001, offered safety, security and love to over 200 young unmarried girls facing crisis pregnancies. It has also seen 180 babies adopted locally.

How, though, is this home, itself, to survive? It is not possible to draw income from its needy inmates who surely cannot afford to pay. Yet the home itself needs the basics in order to continue caring for them.

Indian_BoyWithout this home in operation, the options for single mothers are few. The region offers 114 registered medical clinics in the region which provide abortions: the most lucrative source of income for doctors In the area. But “nobody wants pregnant unwed girls except us”, the staff  explained to us.

This, of course, is where Crossroads comes in. We sent a container with furniture, cradles, household items, blankets, baby clothes and toys to help equip the home for present and future needs. The home has since expanded, opening a new three storey facility which our goods furnished.  ”Thousands of babies will benefit,” the staff told us.

It has been said: “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go…”  We applaud the commitment of those in India who pour heart and soul into making this happen. The very least we can do is to come alongside and help equip it.

Crossroads Foundation Hong Kong

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Donate to a shipment like this one.

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Urban poverty tends to repeat itself with unremitting consistency. It’s not just about a lack of money. It’s too often, also, about alcoholism, drugs, social breakdown, ill health, violence, homicide or suicide. Two decades ago, in Hyderabad, India, a young woman agonised over the poverty in the nearby slum community and asked herself what she could do. Education, she decided, was the most strategic way to break through the suffering.

She began a modest school which, with no resources, she held under a tree. The children loved it and attended in droves until, eventually, the tree was no longer enough. She then relocated to a building where she could accommodate more students. Conditions were less than ideal, but, such was the eagerness of the kids to learn that they continued increasing in number. They studied well and achieved, with some ultimately becoming lawyers, accountants and professionals in other fields. Nonetheless, facilities are insufficient. School assembly takes place in the street, with the roads blocked off either end, (picture) as they have no building sizeable enough.

With donor support, they have found another building which they have been able to purchase while Crossroads has task of furnishing it. We sent a wide range of provision, from computers to furniture, text books to clothing. A Western sponsor who made a follow up visit wrote to us, ‘I am just back from a visit to Hyderabad. I was amazed at all you have sent them. As I walked around the school, I saw the desks and chairs, kitchen equipment for the orphans, cupboards and the soft toys as well as many other items, including uniforms.’

WP_20131109_004

Crossroads, as an organisation, is not able to make large capital injections of a financial kind. What we can do, however, is make a capital injection of goods: one which, we trust, can multiply itself over in the lives of many who use it in years to come.

Crossroads Foundation Hong Kong

Give Now!

Donate to a shipment like this one.

DONATE MONEY

Donate Goods!

Want to donate goods for a shipment like this one?

DONATE GOODS

Our food-saving superheroes

Every day, 3,600 tonnes of food waste are sent to landfill in Hong Kong, according to Feeding Hong Kong. Meanwhile, people...

read more ...

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