In 2008 RugMark inspectors in India and Nepal rescued and rehabilitated over 116 enslaved child carpet weavers, bringing the total number of rescued children to over 3,200. Every single child is offered an opportunity to reunite with their families and to get an education. RugMark ensures that students have the necessary financial and social support to stay in the classroom and off the carpet looms.
Nina Smith, RugMark USA Executive Director, recently returned from a trip to India and Nepal where she visited RugMark’s schools and was able to talk with many of the former child laborers and children of adult weavers who are studying with RugMark’s support.
Laxmi Shresta was one such student. A RugMark inspector rescued her from a carpet factory at the age of six and she has since flourished as a student in Nepal. Now 18, Laxmi is the pride of her family, studying hotel management, speaking fluent English and offering hope to her mother and three sisters. Laxmi's family can barely scrape together the 1,500 rupees (equivalent to $20) to rent one dilapidated room for their home. Laxmi's education will break the cycle of extreme poverty that has kept her family living on the edge. Laxmi's mother said that "RugMark is Laxmi's second family". RugMark continues to offer hope of a better future to more children like Laxmi each year.
While much progress has been made in Nepal and India, the number of children rescued from factories and enrolled in school remains directly connected to how many companies and consumers in rug purchasing countries, such as the U.S., care about the issue. RugMark USA recently launched a traveling photo exhibition, Faces of Freedom, in order to drive home this message. A collection of 50 images captured by photo documentarian and filmmaker U. Roberto Romano, the exhibition takes you behind the looms and inside the carpet factories of South Asia. The photos also connect you to the positive, real-life difference made by RugMark and its partners.