As a child, Sarita was forced to work on the street. JOYN gave her a job with dignity, and now her work brings purpose & joy.
Sitting on the floor of Street Smart, as her nimble fingers automatically push a needle back and forth through a scrap of cloth, Sarita's dark brown eyes light up as she tells me she wants to be a teacher when she grows up.
A little over a year ago, Sarita was working as a rag picker in Dehradun, a city located in northern India in the foothills of the Himalayas. Forced into that work by an alcoholic father, she spent her days collecting trash from the street to help provide her family with income until a friend brought her to Street Smart.
Now, she is receiving an education, vocational training in hand-stitching for which she is paid, daily hot showers and a hot meal through the Street Smart program. She is surrounded by good people in a healthy environment, and the change in her life as a result is massive; so much so that it has compelled her to give other children the same opportunity through teaching.
Street Smart is a program for children and youth living on the streets in Dehradun that provides them with the opportunity to receive education, and then, once they turn 17, trains them to work so they can live sustainable lives. The program opens its doors to any child who wants to get off the street and provides them with education from trained teachers, a hot shower, daily meals and vocational training once they are older. The program works to place younger children in Indian schools, and provides the older youth (17+) with full-time jobs at JOYN once they become trained in the skills of block-printing or stitching.
This November, Sarita began her full-time job at JOYN as a stitcher. As she walked into work on her first day, the joy on her face was unmistakable. Everything she had been working toward became a reality.
"One of my friends introduced me to Street Smart, and I really liked it there," Sarita said. "I learned to work, and now finally I have the opportunity to work with JOYN. This is the biggest moment in my life."
During her first day at JOYN, Sarita received additional training in policies of the workplace, and how to stitch specific JOYN products. While she is excited to learn more at JOYN, she is already proud of how far she has come.
"If my friend had not brought me to Street Smart, I would probably still be rag picking, living the same life," Sarita said. "But coming here was such a big change. I like working here very much. I'm really proud of my work and what I'm doing here. I definitely want to keep learning more at JOYN."
It's her desire to learn, and her five younger sisters at home that fuel her dream to teach other children, and provide them with the same opportunities she's been given. She doesn't want anyone, especially her sisters, to have to work in rag picking like she did.
Her sweet, generous heart is going to serve her well at JOYN. On her first day, she was talking and laughing with the other artisans and was immediately adopted into their family. In the midst of working hard and continuing to learn, Sarita is definitely enjoying the moment.
JOYN is growing fast and has the perfect piece of land to expand but they need your help to construct a building. Donate now to help them grow and continue to restore many more lives like Sarita's.
Photos: Haley George
Written by: Lindsay Bixby
Light the World : Joyn India Campaign