A group of women gathers around a sewing machine

In Bengaluru, India, mothers Deepa, Nisha and Sabiha found a new opportunity to support their families through training to become seamstresses and one simple gift: a sewing machine.

Thirteen years ago, Deepa got married. At first things were good; she felt safe and happy. She and her husband had two children that they love dearly!

But then, a few years ago, her husband started drinking more. He began abusing Deepa both mentally and physically. She didn’t know where to turn.

Deepa was so scared and desperate that she considered ending her life, just to escape. But then, a year ago, Deepa’s husband left her and her children completely. This brought relief from the abuse, but also significant instability. Without her husband’s income, how would Deepa pay rent and buy food for herself and her two children?

Deepa suddenly faced new panic about her circumstances, especially the well-being of her children. She began taking odd jobs as a caregiver for a family in Bengaluru, where she lives. But this work was inconsistent and didn’t pay her enough.

Then Deepa started working in a garment factory, which pays better but is also dangerous work. It also meant she had to be away from home all day, leaving her children alone.  

As a single mom, Deepa felt she had no options. And there are so many women like her…

Worldwide, Single Mothers Are Common

Around the world, women are far more likely to be single parents than men, especially in developing countries. Men often take dangerous jobs in hard labor such as construction where their lives are at risk or move away to find better-paying work elsewhere. Or sometimes, in cases like Deepa’s, they abandon the family entirely. In Bengaluru, many of the women left alone are migrants who never had a chance to complete their education. They work hard to provide for their children as the sole breadwinner. But, in a foreign city without family support, the task can be insurmountable.

Especially before their children are old enough to go to school, single mothers are in an impossible position. They have to choose between staying home to care for their children and leaving their children alone to work so they can put food on the table.

Thankfully, there is a safety net through Holt’s local partner in southern India.

Vathsalya Charitable Trust (VCT) is a safe haven where many migrant families can go to find support, opportunity and empowerment. Through their income generating program, VCT equips women with marketable skills so they can provide for their families.

And for women like Nisha, this opportunity and support makes all the difference.

Women doing a group trust exercise at a Holt-supported empowerment group at VCT.

Nisha’s Story

When Nisha came to VCT, she was desperate. Her husband had left without warning, leaving her alone to provide for their children. She was scared.

But, through VCT’s income generation program, Nisha started learning how to sew products out of burlap. She has made laptop bags, file folders, gift bags and pouches. Nisha picked it all up quickly, thriving in a newfound community of other hard-working mothers, just like her. She bonded with them, and they helped make her strong and resilient.

Nisha soon started earning regular, consistent income for her family by selling her products. She became so accomplished at her craft that she now works for VCT! Nisha conducts sewing training herself and encourages the mothers entering the program with her story. She became a confident, independent businesswoman and they can too, she tells them.

A group of women gathers around a sewing machine
Nisha with a group of women during one of her classes.

Nisha even received a sewing machine to take home, so she can work and care for her children at the same time.

The pandemic was a crisis for many women in India who had worked as maids in the homes of wealthy families. With social restrictions in place, so many women were left out of work without other skills they could use to find a job.

But, during the pandemic, Nisha trained many women to make masks to sell. She encouraged them to learn a skill and become financially independent. During the lockdown — with her at-home sewing machine! — she worked hard to supply the masks they had made to children’s homes, old age homes, the police force and other nonprofits in Bengaluru. Her efforts were recognized by Book A Smile Foundation, and in 2021 she received the Covid Hero Award!

Now, Nisha’s income is enough to pay for rent and her children’s school fees, and she has enough time in the day when her kids come home from school to help them with their homework. She is thriving as a mother and a businesswoman, all because of a sewing machine.

Through her classes, Nisha met another woman who was facing similar circumstances…

Sabiha’s Story

Sabiha with her sewing machine.

Three years ago, Sabiha’s husband passed away in a car accident. They had one son, and she suddenly became the sole breadwinner for their small family.

Sabiha was depressed and overwhelmed. She had never finished high school, marrying young instead, so she had very little education and no skills with which to get a job. Paying for rent and her son’s education seemed impossible.

But then, in January of this year, Sabiha joined VCT’s income generation program. She started a three-month skills training course in sewing — the same one Nisha leads! At first she could just work at the VCT facility, since they have sewing machines there. Sabiha learned quickly, and hoped that one day she would be able to take projects home so she could accomplish more.

But this would require having a sewing machine at home, a tool that Sabiha could never have afforded on her own.

Then, to Sabiha’s joy, she received a life-changing gift: a sewing machine! Sabiha has become skilled enough to make alterations to women’s clothing, and even sew simple dress patterns. With a sewing machine at home, she has been able to increase her income significantly and send her son back to school!

Sabiha’s confidence and hope for the future is growing by the day! She even joined a peer support group organized by VCT, where like-minded entrepreneurial women gather to share their challenges and successes with growing their business. They are all working toward the same goal: financial stability for their families. Most of the women are the sole providers for their families too, and each one receives a great deal of support and encouragement from this group!

With their support and help from VCT, Sabiha plans to open her own tailoring shop in the future where she can sell fabric and continue to make clothing to sell.

Women gathered for a meeting of the peer support group at VCT.

And with the help of a sewing machine and a community of other strong women, Sabiha is achieving her dreams and providing for her son!

Finally, there is one more woman whose story took a turn for the better…

A Happy Ending for Deepa

Thankfully, Deepa didn’t have to keep putting in grueling, all-day shifts away from her children at the garment factory for long.

She started coming to VCT for counselling sessions and attending the peer support group meetings — the same ones that Sabiha does! She met Sabiha and other women who, like her, face many problems and are working to fight for a better future for themselves and their children.

Deepa has found that her mindset is changing, from one of despair to one of hope.

“I want to bring my children up, give them an education,” Deepa says. “There is no one else for my children, I have to take care of them. I tried to commit suicide but I failed… now I believe God saved me for the sake of my children.”

Through the same Holt-supported income generation program at VCT that helped Nisha and Sabiha, Deepa too is finding new life. She already has some sewing skills, and VCT is working to get her a sewing machine so she too can start a business from home.

With a sewing machine, Deepa will be able to work from home, make enough money to support her family and avoid leaving her children alone to go to work!

For each of these women, one sewing machine is bringing about a lifetime of transformation and hope!

Help a Family Rise Above Poverty

Your gift of chickens, a garden or sewing machine will empower a mom to provide for her children — and the whole family to overcome poverty for good.

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