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Mar 19, 2018

The importance of following up

Radha in her home
Radha in her home

"We became like a family," she said. "We helped each other. We shared our problems."

Radha's face lights with her trademark smile as she says this. She is holding a length of vivid orange fabric, eager to demonstrate her new tailoring skills on the machine that she worked for last year in our first pilot of the Mothers Access Health, Livelihoods, and Advocacy (MAHLA) Project.

After completing nine months of training in tailoring and jewelry making, and sixteen weeks of one-hour classes on topics ranging from nutrition and hygiene to self care and creative methods for managing challenging child behavior, Radha saved half of her stipend for the last few months of the program to buy her sewing machine. Priyam Global matched 50% of the cost, and Radha received the machine during the October 2017 MAHLA graduation ceremony. Nearly 200 people, including other special needs families and the director general of a nearby hospital, attended the ceremony.

Radha says that while she has increased her family's monthly income by about 25%, she wishes that she could do more. "I had a dream of making a group of mothers from our program who collectively rented a small shop and took sewing jobs together." They could earn more that way, but she says that there weren't enough mothers in the 2017 program who were interested in joining together.

There are several reasons for this. First, three of the seven mothers from the 2017 pilot program are now employed full-time by our partner school Hope as teacher's assistants, in part due to the dedication they showed in the MAHLA program. One of the mothers has moved to her extended family's village, and the remaining two live too far away from Radha to make the sewing collective worthwhile.

Following my meeting with Radha in January 2018, we have developed two solutions.

First, we will support the 2017 MAHLA Project graduates to meet monthly for a shared meal and conversation facilitated by our social worker. All of the mothers say that they miss their group and the time that they shared, so this was a simple solution.

Second, as our 2018 MAHLA Project cohort has 18 mothers enrolled, we are taking a more organized collective approach to their income-earning endeavors: they will form two collectives, with a shared bank account for each collective. This allows them to be more eligible for government women's empowerment grants, and with greater numbers they have an increased chance of being able to do something like what Radha dreams of, and go in together for the rent costs of a sewing shop. 

Radha will be invited to join one of the 2018 collectives. This way, she can expand her client base beyond her immediate neighbors.

Founder's note

It was so good to be able to follow up with the mothers from our first pilot. To be honest, I was nervous as I prepared to visit their homes. Did we make any lasting change? Was all of this worth it? Are they doing alright, since the program ended? 

Following up at the end of a program can be scary, which is perhaps why many organizations avoid it. Change is difficult, and hard to measure. But my visits showed just how worthwhile these follow up visits are. Although the monthly income has increased due to the mothers' graduation from the program, it didn't increase as much as we hoped. But we are learning, and there are several possible ways forward. Earning something is certainly better than earning nothing, and if we hadn't visited we wouldn't have known to create the monthly reunion meetings, or had the idea of incorporating last year's graduates into this year's collectives.

Most importantly, I got a glimpse of the change that is really hard to measure: the light in a mother's eyes. The mothers who graduated in 2017 are different women than those who first enrolled in October 2016. Those mothers were quiet, reserved, and uncertain. A year and a half later, they possess a new inner light that truly shines. They have learned confidence, and they have experienced their own strength and capacity.

So, does our project model still a work in progress? Undoubtedly.

But has our work thus far made a difference? Yes. It absolutely has.

Thank you all for donating so generously in 2017. We are currently in need of several new monthly donors to support our growing project costs. If you are able to and would like to pledge any amount per month to Priyam Global, your money will be well-spent. Thank you!

Click here to set up a monthly donation

Radha's son
Radha's son
Radha's son, with every bit of her personality
Radha's son, with every bit of her personality
Radha in her home
Radha in her home


Dec 4, 2017

Gathering dreams: Preparing for year two

The sun is setting in Chennai, and the moon rises over rainbow-painted buildings. Palm trees sway in a breeze that still smells like the afternoon rain, and the air is full of the sounds of car horns, street dogs, and voices.

Today, another home visit is coming to an end.

"What are your hopes for this program?"

Every mother is asked to answer this question at the end of her application interview for our program. Each mother is different. Some have finished secondary school and others have only completed 5th grade. They live in different homes, have different tastes, and show different personalities. They talk about what they love about their children, what they fear and who they go to, if there is anyone, for support.

But they are all living in poverty (less than $2 per person per day), and they all share the same questions and dream the same dreams. 

"I want to gain practical knowledge about what my son needs."

"I would like to know what children with autism need, so I can work with my son and help him improve."

"I want to get more training and counseling about children with disabilities, so I can help and teach other mothers who are having a child with a disability."

"I want to know more about my child's disability."

"I hope I can have more social interaction with other mothers because of this program."

"I hope in this program I can interact with other women in the same situation as me."

"I want to learn more about ADHD so I can understand how to help my daughter."

In January, these women will meet together for the first time. They will get to know each other, share their struggles and successes, and learn together. As they complete our unique program curriculum (you can read the details in the document attached to this report), they will also begin learning marketable skills such as jewelry making, tailoring, and beautician services.

Thank you for believing in this program and investing financially in Priyam Global. I don't know if there is anything better than giving people what they want most, and what they are willing to work for: education, knowledge, and skills. 

Feel free to read our 2018-2019 program timeline for a deeper understanding of how our program works and how each piece fits together.

Gratefully yours,

The Priyam Team

Sep 7, 2017

MAHLA Model Pilot Project: Padmavathi's Story

Padmavathi in a group session
Padmavathi in a group session

"I always thought that I had talent, now I can prove that I do." 

Before she enrolled in the 2017 pilot project of Priyam Global's innovative MAHLA program, Padmavathi spent all of her energy simply trying to care for her son alone. She did not know anyone else who was raising a child with severe cerebral palsy. She had never had any professional guidance on how to communicate with her son, who couldn't speak, or how to care for his changing needs as he grew. Although she had time during each day to work, she could not find a job that was flexible enough to allow her to care for her son if he needed it, and she did not have any marketable skills. The meager income that her husband earned as a manual laborer wasn't enough to afford basic necessities.

Eleven months ago, Padmavathi walked into our women's center for the first day of a twelve-month program. At first, she was shy and unsure of what to expect. But since that day, she has learned how to sew and how to make jewelry, how to communicate with her son, how to know which local foods are nutritious for herself and her son, how to take care of her needs while taking care of her family, how to envision a new future for her family and how to make that vision happen. Most importantly, she has learned that she is not alone on her journey, and she has built lasting friendships with other special needs mothers in her community.

Alongside discovering a noticeable talent for tailoring and making clothing, Padmavathi also discovered a love for helping others learn, and we will be inviting her to work as a teaching assistant for the next group of mothers in the 2018 MAHLA program.

In one month, Padmavathi graduates from our first MAHLA program. It has been amazing to watch her grow more confident and happy, alongside her new community of like-minded women. Our dream is to find and support more women like Padmavathi as they learn what they are capable of, and work to make a better life for their families.

Padmavathi with her son
Padmavathi with her son
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