The seeds of the business that we now call “Ruhamah Designs,” began as a simple craft time in Freedom Firm's aftercare home for survivors of trafficking in 2006. A couple of girls already knew how to do Aari work, ancient Indian embroidery of sequins, beads, and silk threads. Most afternoons saw them seated on the floor around a large wooden loom creating beautiful designs on block printed material. We bought four sewing machines and started turning the embroidery into bags and cushion covers.
Right away, we noticed the girls were happier during these hours than at any other time. Girls would chat and laugh as they worked, creativity blossomed, and every moment was purposeful. We were invited to sell the products at a Christmas fair in the school. The girls saw people pouring over their bright colors, exclaiming over the designs, and lining up to purchase the gorgeous handmade items.
We saw the miracle of self-respect grow almost before our eyes as girls realized they had made something worthwhile that people actually wanted. For the first time, they had a skill. The joy and dignity experienced by the girls in those moments birthed in us a great desire to make business a foundational stone in the rebuilding of the girls' lives.
In 2008 we transitioned from sewing projects to jewelry making. It only takes a few hours to teach an average girl how to make her first pair of earrings. Very few tools were required, and the end product was light and easy to ship. We lived in India, where semi-precious stones and other natural materials abounded. Girls were originally paid per piece but then transitioned to a salary base. They were encouraged to open bank accounts and to learn to manage their money. We started sending the jewelry to the Freedom Firm office and the jewelry was given in return for donations at church events and craft fairs. The little micro-enterprise was turning into a full-fledged business, bursting with potential.
In 2010, Ruhamah Designs was officially launched. A wise and lovely volunteer found the name “Ruhamah” in the Old Testament, Hosea 3:1. God asks Hosea to marry Hagar as a symbol of God's eternal commitment to wayward Israel. Their union reflected God's undying love for His chosen one, the nation of Israel. When Hosea and Hagar had a daughter, God calls her “Ruhamah,“ which means, "the one God loves." We knew the word beautifully described the girls who lived and worked with us. The ones whom God loves.
The eight girls in our aftercare home were now serious jewelry makers, highly skilled, and intent on making new lives for themselves, the business had become a catalyst for their futures. Several girls saved their money and were able to move out of the aftercare home and live independently. One girl even has her own apartment and cares for her younger sister and nephew. For other girls, Ruhamah is a stepping stone to returning to their home in their village, with money in their pocket, and a new identity as women, one to be respected, not pitied. The financial independence created by Ruhamah Designs has given each girl the chance to stand on her own.
Three production centers now exist in the cities of Ooty, Pune, and Kolkata. We plan to develop at least one more workshop in 2014. Today our products are available through online shopping, partnering boutiques, and jewelry parties hosted by women all over America. Ruhamah Designs is growing rapidly, ensuring that more girls have secure job opportunities after rescue. Our logo, a block print of a young, tender shoot, black at its base and turning green as it rushes upwards to the sun, is the perfect reflection of the promise, beauty, and growth we see every day in our girls.