Replicating the story of hope
Joyn Delhi began almost two years ago when Mel and I met for the first time over a lunch of lentils and burnt rice. I had heard a lot about JOYN from a mutual friend and was really interested in the work – a company dedicated to eradicating the cycle of poverty and creating jobs, and having a thriving market to sell to. Janine and I love working with the poor, we love being part of the process of restoration and JOYN seemed like the perfect fit for us.
The idea behind JOYN Delhi is twofold. As the JOYN head office is nestled away in the Himalayan foothills, access to a lot of the materials needed for production is limited, so we do a lot of the procurement and send it on the 6-hour journey between our two locations. The other, and maybe more important reason for starting JOYN Delhi was to replicate a model we saw that was working really well in Rajpur.
Beginnings and Partnerships
We started small. Mel sent me some photos of Jewellery designs and a bunch of JOYN fabric and left me to my own devices. I took the photos into the crazy back lanes and bustling streets of Old Delhi and after a lot of hunting around and wrong turns I found all that we needed to get going. At that time we were part of a community project, working with domestic workers and ladies who had no formal education. We began making the Jewellery with three of these ladies, who quickly learnt that they can do more than just sweep and mop floors.
From there, things grew quickly. We formed a partnership with a wonderful and dynamic lady named Suneli, who ten years earlier had started a factory out of a need to provide jobs for the people in her neighbourhood that were unable to find work, were disabled or came from abusive backgrounds. Over time, she developed a working environment that gave value to skilled artisans while at the same time giving much needed work to people coming to her without any skill set. We knew that she was a great fit for what we were doing at JOYN and we began making the bags in our leather line through her factory. It was great to see the JOYN model in full swing – connecting local artisans with western markets – and it was working!
Working in Delhi isn’t without its challenges – we daily face the injustice and corruption that is so entrenched in the systems here. We want to work with honour and integrity, and to do so makes our work twice as hard. The biggest injustice for me is to see people treated without respect and exploited to make money for a factory owner or a businessman. We don’t see people as a commodity to drive our profits here at JOYN, we see them as people, with lives equally as important as our own. We want to know our artisans.
Recently, we opened our very own office space in Delhi. We currently have 6 people working here in our centre, but we are helping to keep over 30 people in employment in Delhi through our work. It has been great to establish a place where we can work from and impact our community. We see it as a place of opportunity, a place where we can teach people the value and ethics of work – and that’s something we can give them that will help them for their entire lifetime. We are expanding quickly and I love walking through my neighbourhood nowadays, seeing them many people that need someone to believe in them, someone to give them a chance in life, and I know that through this work they can be given some of them that opportunity.
Looking AheadMoving forward, we want to continue to grow, to see our model replicated and reach other communities. We also want to grow deep – to put foundations in place that will last after we have moved on, to raise up local leaders who can take things further than we can go. We believe in Delhi and we believe in the people that live here. For me, the marker of success in JOYN Delhi is seeing people have a reason to get up every day, to work hard and to be proud of the work of their hands.