Posts Tagged ‘Mumbai’

Mumbai and Back!

March 1, 2009

Just on the cusp of the Slum Dog Millionaire successes last week, I finally made my way to Mumbai, India (!!!)

Those of you who have been hanging in there with me since I started drumming up support for my work with Hagar way back in August, you know that this trip, and others like it, have been in the making for quite some time.  Well, I never imagined that I would be making this trip on my own, as the sole Hagar ambassador to our partners there, but, well I did it, I made it work, and I think I did it well enough.  Isn’t it amazing what you can teach yourself in just 5 months or so?  It has been a very concentrated time of learning, problem solving, a maybe even little programmatic triage and the like BUT here I am, in one piece, representing Hagar International across Asia. Cheers.

Downtown Mumbai

Downtown Mumbai

I hopped a plane last Sunday, February 16, to join our partners, International Justice Mission Mumbai and Oasis India with several purposes in mind.  The first of which was to further develop and solidify our relationships with our partners and other organzations we are linking up with for our pending Hagar office in Mumbai. So, for example, I was meeting with new leadership, debriefing them on our model, updating partners on our status/timeline for operations, getting feedback from  them about regarding any internal changes and restructuring their organizations are going through, etc.  I was also cornering some big whigs at one of the major Universities there in Mumbai to finalize MOUs for a training course for our beneficiatries, etc. etc.  (Let’s just say it was a busy time, especially when typical travel time from one part of the city to the other is AT LEAST 2 hours, if you are lucky. ouch).

The second major purpose of my visit was to connect with what turned out to be an incredibly adept, social justice driven group of individuals from where else but Cincinnati, Ohio.  They came from Crossroads Church, blazing in with a twofold mission.  First,  to conduct a feasibility study of aftercare in Mumbai (Aftercare is just a fancy word for all the social service centers/shelters who work with survivors of sex trafficking).  This smaller group, about 10, was composed of individuals of various backgrounds and expertise (from engineers to corporate ethics enforcers) from the church, and then 3 aftercare experts.  I was humbled to be invited to join in as one of these “experts” on trafficking, along with two other great leaders in the movement– James Pond from Transitions Global and Kathy, the aftercare-psycho-social guru from IJMs Headquarters in DC.  In between my own meetings with other partners, I zipped around the chaotic, colorful, dusty, CROWDED  and vast city of Mumbai with them visiting the aftecare centers and participating in this assessment of sorts.  Crossroads is invested in Mumbai and wholly committed to figuring out how they can be a strategic, long term catalyst within the movement there.  It’s really exciting to see such an engaged, capable, willing and resourceful group listening to the NEEDS that exist and trying to understand how they can fill those holes.  It’s amazing.

The second part of their purpose was to serve the women and children of Mumbai who are survivors of trafficking via enriching activities like painting murals, photography classes, planting gardens at aftercare centers, and other lovely, creative, life-giving activities.  Yes, it was mission-trippy, relational, fun, difficult, sincere and FULL.  It was really fun to meet the other side of the Crossroads group and get a feel for their motivations, talents and backgrounds.  What a diverse and caring group.

Urban Slums- A View From The Top

Urban Slums- A View From The Top

So, on our first day together, I made a presentation to 50 plus people in a gorgeous 5 star hotel ballroom about Hagar International, who we are, what we’ve done and where we are going in Mumbai, especially. 

And to give you a brief recap about what we are planning in Mumbai, bascially, we are utilizing strategic partnerships to fill in the current gaps in service and reintegration for survivors of trafficking there.  For instance, many survivors get bottle-necked in the shelters.  Once they arrive and have undergone some rehabilitation (pyscho social care,  and meeting physcial needs)  there is a lack of sustainable strategies or options for them to move forward with their lives.  They get stuck, mostly because they have very few viable economic options.  SO this is where Hagar steps in.  With our Social Enterprise– Catering— we provide a bridge from the shelter to the job with comprehensive personal development, soft skills trainings, lifeskills trainings etc. coupled with hard skills trainings.  We plug them into a supportive job environement, commmunity based care and aid them throught the difficult, but essential transition into independence and true reintegration back into society. 

I must admit, I was super stressed about the presentation beforehand, but suddenly realized, that, hey, I’ve done this before…hey, I actually DO know this stuff, and I know it well…and hey, just relax Betsy, what more do you love to talk about to strangers than trafficking???  (yeah I know, odd, but true).  Needless to say, the presentation went off great.  It was a good start to a week full of learning, interacting, teaching and even a bit of frollicking about the trafficking and the sites of Mumbai. 

I feel absolutely grateful that this opportunity arose– and so THANKFUL to the likes of  YOU out that that made this trip possible.   Without your support, I simply wouln’t have been able to go and contribute to this very important week of synergizing, connecting, planning, strategizing and learning.  YOU ARE  A PART OF THE SOLUTION!  🙂  ok, I promise to stop with the cheesy bits, but I don’t lie when I say these things.

and, as i know some of you are probably counting, my official 6 month coutdown at Hagar is ticking by fast.  while it is likely that i will stay on further, things are still not quite certain.  there is still a lot more to be done as far as getting these expansion offices up to speed for their on-the-groud leadership to take over, but things are coming together. …. more developments to come soon!!

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What has been/What will be–Hagar Update

December 11, 2008

Without burdening you with too many details, I do want to offer you a picture of what my work life has been like these past 12 weeks or so.  I’ve learned a lot so far and have much more to go! So perhaps we can learn together.

My life as the “Social Programs Officer” at Hagar has been a bit of whirl.  Within my first week, after a thorough briefing by my supervisor, she headed back to the states where doctoral applications called her back home. So, I found myself the sole guardian of the institutional knowledge of an international social program on the verge of implementation in three countries. But not abandoned! While this may sound overwhelming, I do have remote support from my physically absent supervisor and the wisdom of my cohorts here at Hagar International. Our office relatively small, close-knit bunch composed of a few Swiss-Italians, a German, a Malaysian and a Cambodian.  Makes for entertaining lunches 🙂

Right now, our office is gearing up for the promising start of operations in India, Vietnam and Laos. What’s keeping us, you ask?  Good ole HR and a world-wide funding crisis.  We are in the midst of vetting applications and hoping for the right leader for the job, as well as raising funds for the new projects.  So…if you know any one with experience in management and gender/trafficking/vulnerable women and children issues, do tell.  Seriously.

But this waiting (for money, for leaders) could be, in all actuality, a good thing.  This period of time is helping the organization to catch its breath after over a year of intense grant seeking, research, travel, and partnership building in the new countries. Strategy is important, and ALL of Hagar is trying to cast a realistic vision for this next year.

Hagar International (not to be confused with Hagar Cambodia, which has been around for over 15 years) was formed in 2006 in hopes to implement the social and economic empowerment models Hagar Cambodia made so successful. Hagar Cambodia’s programs are vast in breadth and depth—spanning from catch up schools for young children, water filter’s for rural communities, foster care, women’s social program’s for domestic violence, career mentoring, farm communities, and even a soy milk factory for one of our three social enterprise businesses…

Hagar International is trying to keep things a bit more focused at this point. Through our research, we discovered that reintegration of survivors is very difficult, which shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone working in social services. Reintegration is basically the transition from the supportive environment (the shelters, social programs) into an independent, self-sustainable life (a job, a home).

Our target populations, those at risk of domestic violence, sex trafficking, rape or sexual exploitation, have gone through incredibly traumatic experiences that have shaped their emotional and physical well being forever.  Simply climbing up and out of this sort of nightmare is difficult without reliable support over time.  Therefore, when it comes to leaving the place you’ve come to trust and thrive in, maybe for the first time in your life, the “real world” becomes very scary.

Throughout its 15 years in Cambodia, Hagar has developed a program that has successfully reintegrated 80% of its beneficiaries.  Our model of social programs + social enterprise has been a huge part of that success.

Therefore, for the expansion projects that I am working on, we are aiming to combine our strengths with the strengths of already established NGOS and set up partnerships with them.  We don’t want to reinvent the wheel, we want to complete it and strengthen it.

Round Up
While I’ve found my sea legs and begun to learn how to navigate Hagar internally, I’ve had a crash course in exploring the possibilities present within my role here.

Right now, I find myself in the midst of challenging learning opportunities that can be both invigorating and taxing. In the past 3 weeks, two of my colleagues from our small office have transitioned out, for various reasons, leaving me with quite a lot of responsibility. Now, I am not only in charge of social programming and partnerships, but also development and fundraising (i.e. grant writing, proposals, research etc).

It’s not easy jumping straight into an organization in the midst of huge transitions, growth and re-prioritization.  Not easy, but a great chance to learn about organizational evolution, structure, leadership, professionalism and how the internal clock ticks inside this NGO. I feel I have gained an incredible breadth of perspective in the relatively small amount of time I have been here so far.  An organization is like a living, breathing thing that must be cared for properly in order to fulfill its mission. I happily admit that there have been many times where I’ve felt stumped for sure. But as much collaboration and partnering as there is to do on the OUTSIDE of Hagar, I find just as necessary to do on the INSIDE. And there are many intelligent, interesting individuals for me to learn from within Hagar. So I welcome the challenge and look forward to looking back in a few months to see what sort of pattern is taking shape beneath my very eyes.

Hagar in Cambodia, Afghanistan, India, Vietnam and Laos

Hagar in Cambodia, Afghanistan, India, Vietnam and Laos

Here are some brief updates on the expansion countries:

Afghanistan- We have a Country Director that is working diligently on researching plans for a social enterprise appropriate to the culture and security situation. Operations are projected to begin in Summer 2009.  Afghanistan is rather self-sufficient at the moment, due to its particularly sensitive security status, so my personal work doesn’t touch this office really at all.

India- During my first week at Hagar, I had the pleasure of meeting and touring Hagar facilities with two of our partners from the organization Oasis India.  Oasis, along with IJM (International Justice Mission)are our social program partners in Mumbai. It is possible that I could be traveling to Mumbai in the near future for capacity building (i.e. training social workers) but this is still pending. Either way, the social programs are being strengthened in Mumbai in preparation for Operations to begin, hopefully in early 2009. Our social enterprise for Mumbai is a catering business, but it will not start operations until we have hired our Country Director.

As many of you have probably heard on the news, Mumbai has faced some very real, very frightening terrorist attacks this past month.  I have been keeping up with our partners and am relieved to report that they are all safe and well. However, please do keep them in your thoughts, as you can imagine that they are quite shaken.  If there is one thing I am learning these days, it is that our world is so small.

Vietnam and Laos- Right now these expansion efforts are developing organically.  We have identified potential government partners for these projects and have just finished up hosting two government delegations from both countries for a week long

Women's Union Study Tour- Government Delegates from Vietnam and Laos

Women's Union Study Tour- Government Delegates from Vietnam and Laos

educational site visit. These representatives met with our program directors and staff, toured our facilities, and asked great questions which all solidified the partnership we’ve already been fostering with them. They are so eager to learn about Hagar’s model, as both countries are further behind in their capacity to really care for and empower these vulnerable populations.
Both Vietnam and Lao have very similar Communist government structures, and similar capacity building and partnership needs that Hagar can help meet. Because business is so highly regulated, we cannot do any work in these countries without government sponsors and partners. Plus, both parties are eager to learn how to better care for the women fleeing to their shelters.

The social enterprise component of the Vietnam/Laos partnerships will be with a café/bakery franchise that has had great success in Laos.  Hopefully, we will begin operations for these in early-mid 2009 as well.

As you can see, there is much to do, but we are excited and hoping for all the right leadership and funding to come through soon.  Once we have these things in place, we’ll be ready to get things moving.  And I’ll also be traveling to the offices in Vietnam, Laos and India to help oversee and organize capacity building efforts.