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Sasi, The Prima Dona Aari Worker

Sasi* is our silent prima-donna. She sits quietly, like an angel, face innocent as a baby's. The minute the staff are out of the room, she comes alive, raising an imperious eyebrow, issuing soft-spoken orders, or complaining about the recent damage inspection protocol at Ruhamah. She'll order one of her colleagues to make her some tea, another to rescue her toddler from the pile of beads she is rapidly crawling towards, and then she sits back, with smug satisfaction as everyone scurries to do her bidding.

Her beautiful baby, Joanna, toddles around the room, getting cuddles from the volunteers, playing with toys, and crawling under her mother's Aari frame. Sasi is the only employee skilled in the art of Aari. Aari is an ancient craft of India, dating back to the 12th century. Material is stretched on a large wooden frame and propped up on two stands. The Aari worker sits on the floor and moves a long needle (much like a crochet hook) in and out of the fabric at a perpendicular angle. Beads and sequins are sewn in elaborate patterns in this fashion as well as delicate embroidery. Traditionally, aari work decorates the borders of sarees and other Indian clothing. Today it’s used on many products from shoes to tablecloths.

Sasi sits alone, in front of her Aari frame. Ruhamah Designs puts her to work making beautiful Aari cuff bracelets, colorful combinations of beads and sequins backed with suede leather. The cuff bracelets are quite possibly Ruhamah's most unique design and have been popular for the last three years. Sasi's work is flawless and despite Joanna's inquisitive forays into the workshop, she concentrates hard and works relentlessly.

A single mother in India doesn't have an easy time of it. It's only married women who have any status in society. Sasi was married once; it was a child marriage in a remote Indian village. The village didn't have many medical facilities, and Sasi's juvenile diabetes went undetected. Her first baby only lived a month after birth. Her second baby suffered the same fate. The babies simply couldn't live after the insulin drop outside of the womb. Her in-laws and husband were convinced Sasi wasn't able to produce healthy children, and she was sent to the brothel.

After rescue, Sasi thought she had found a man to marry her. When she told him she was pregnant with his child, he quickly disappeared. Although options of adoption were encouraged for Sasi, she refused, desperate to keep her third child.

Under the care of a good diabetic hospital, Sasi gave birth to Joanna. Oddly enough, sometime after Joanna's birth, Sasi's diabetes simply disappeared. She went from having 5 shots a day, to no insulin at all.

The young mother had a lot to learn about caring for a baby, and there were times she simply refused to put Joanna's needs in front of her own. But the community around Sasi and Joanna, Freedom Firm, Ruhamah, and the other women in the center, all helped care for Joanna and teach Sasi the mothering skills she needed.

Women support women. Women can't succeed alone in India. Ruhamah helps to provide that community through job security. We help women survive and thrive without the traditional status and care of a marriage to support them.

*name changed to protect identity


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