Caroline with her husband, Jayden, recently launched Elephant Landing in November of 2013. It’s a non-profit company where the goal is to teach women of rural Indian villages how to sew and embroider. The products they make in their homes are sold with 100 percent of the profit going toward employing the women and furthering their education. Although Elephant Landing is still new, they have already received an influx of supporters and customers across the United States, Australia and Canada. Truly embodying an adventurous spirit combined with a concern for those in need, we’re excited to introduce you to our Explorer, Caroline, and Elephant Landing’s newly released spring line today.
Darling Magazine: What prompted you to begin Elephant Landing?
Caroline: My husband Jayden and his family first traveled to India in 2001 to help build an orphanage in the southeast state of Andhra Pradesh. After spending time there, they realized that many of the children who were coming to live at the orphanage actually had parents, but that their parents could not afford them. Many of these parents were single mothers, who had very limited employment opportunities, and the jobs that were available to them offered payment that was less than half of what local men were earning to do the same job.
As a result, Jayden’s family decided to start a sewing training center where single mothers in rural villages could come and learn how to sew and embroider. Upon graduating from the sewing training, the women receive a foot pedaled sewing machine that they take back to their villages. This allows them to work from their homes and attend to the needs of their family while earning an income. Over the years, this endeavor has seen many family circumstances changed for the better, simply through training and education. More than 300 women who live in multiple villages around southeast India have graduated from the training center.
Elephant Landing is the next chapter of this story. It’s an endeavor to see more programs and opportunities provided and expanded by inviting consumers to consume with a conscience. While we have spent the last decade partnering with the local people, we are now inviting others to partner with us through awareness and ethical purposeful consumerism. And we’re pretty stoked about it!
More than 300 women who live in multiple villages around southeast India have graduated from the training center.
DM: Why did you decide to teach the women sewing and embroidery (instead of another craft)? Do you have a background in this art?
Caroline: The communities that we partner with are in remote areas of India. Few have access to electricity. By observing the lives of the people who live in these villages and seeing how limited their resources were, we needed to get strategic about what would be a practical and sustainable trade for them to learn. In these rural villages everyone has their clothes handmade, so providing women with this type of education and training allows them to open a business and be self-employed. Huge populations in these areas mean that the demand for handmade clothes is high, and the sewing graduates are able to support themselves financially through using the foot-pedaled sewing machine in their home. We didn’t initially have a background in sewing and embroidery, but it’s amazing the things you learn when you chase something with abandon!
DM: Where in India is your focus and what is the environment like for these women?
Caroline: Our focus is on the remote villages of southeast India in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Many of the villages are remote sections of land that have been donated by the Indian government to locate those who were previously homeless. This means that the poverty level is often quite extreme and difficult to counteract, as the remoteness of these villages lowers economic and academic opportunities. In addition, general access to running water and electricity is rare and there is absolutely no indoor plumbing. Because the villages are so rural, the only job available to these women is working in rice fields, which involves 12 hour days under the hot sun year round, where they are paid less than half of what a man’s wage is for the same job.
DM: How has this form of employment helped the women?
Caroline: In many cases, women who have graduated from the sewing training center have been able to stop working in the fields, and begin to stay at home to work while they care for their children. Many of the mothers who could not previously afford to have their children at home have been able to welcome them back. Some of the women that we partner with have incredible business minds and have grown their businesses so large that they have to buy additional sewing machines and hire their own employees to assist with their workload. It has been such a joy to witness the incredible strength and devotion of these women – their ability to enterprise with this new independence is both humbling and brilliant for us to observe!
…their ability to enterprise with this new independence is both humbling and brilliant for us to observe!
DM: Can you explain a little bit about your educational programs?
Caroline: Many of the women in these rural areas have little to no education made available to them in their youth. Schooling is sometimes available, but it is rare for a student to advance beyond the fifth or sixth grade in the villages. At the moment our education programs are focused on literacy and math, so that women develop the skills needed to run their own businesses. We believe that education is a bridge to a better future and as Elephant Landing develops and grows so will our ability to offer more advanced education for these people.
DM: How has the public responded to your cause and product?
Caroline: Oh so well! We launched in November 2013 and received such an incredibly warm welcome from so many. We’ve received orders from the U.S., Australia and Canada, and have been overwhelmed by the positivity and affirmation that we have received. It has been both humbling and encouraging to know that so many share in the desire to be a part of positive change for people in need around the world. We believe that our generation has the power to see the end of poverty, and we are so honored to be able to contribute through Elephant Landing.
DM: Being new, what are your expectations of Elephant Landing?
Caroline: While Elephant Landing itself only launched last year, the relationship that we have with the women in Andhra Pradesh has been long-standing. The sewing training center has been open for 10 years now, and over 300 women had graduated even before Elephant Landing was born. Now in 2014, we are elated to focus on new horizons – first of all, our newly launched spring line, as well as working to develop new education programs. We also want to explore the additional needs of these communities and how we can better partner with them to pursue community growth and development. Simply speaking, we just want to help people who need help. When you visit places like these, the needs are great, vast and seem kind of endless, so we are in a constant state of discovering what the actual needs are and how to address them sustainably. Our hope is that Elephant Landing can bring a positive change to the world and that others will join with us in seeing these precious people cared for and supported.
Images courtesy of Elephant Landing