Empowering Local Women: the Sewing Happiness Project

 

Kagyu Monlam Pavillion,
Bodhgaya

This project falls under the umbrella of The Compassion in Action Projects at the Kagyu Monlam, which are going from strength to strength and steadily gaining momentum.

For many years the Hart Knowe Trust, a Scottish charity founded by students of the late Akong Tulku, has been collaborating with the Kagyupa International Monlam Trust to work with the people of Bodhgaya and the surrounding area. Jangchup Lingpa, Secretary of the Kagyupa International Monlam Trust, and Vin Harris, one of the founders of Hart Knowe Trust, had often discussed what more could be done to empower local people through training and education. While some of the projects address the immediate needs of local communities, there has always been an aspiration to plant seeds of compassionate action that can grow to provide longer lasting benefit.

 

Last year 18 young women between 15 and 33 years old took part in the first Sewing Happiness Project. It was an immediate success and with the blessing of Lama Choedrak, CEO of Kagyu Monlam we were able to develop the idea further. The second Sewing Happiness Project ran from December 10th 2019 to February 12th 2020. This year 23 enthusiastic young women attended the sewing class from 2pm to 4pm every day except Sunday. Under expert guidance from two excellent local teachers they thrived: their skills developed and the results exceeded all expectations. The class was made up of some new students and some advanced students who had completed the course last year and were keen to learn more. It is amazing how quickly confidence grows as people find they can create something which they would have previously considered impossible. The training covered topics such as: looking after and using sewing machines, hand-sewing techniques, repairing garments, pattern making, designing and making new clothes for family members. It was particularly moving to see the beautiful outfits the young women had been able to make for their own children. At the end of each course, the students are gifted their sewing machines and sewing kits, so that they can continue to use and develop their newly-acquired skills.

The manager of the project, known to everyone in Tergar as “Tiger”, looked after the project every day with great care and then organised transport so that the young women could take their sewing machines home.

 

At a special party on the final day of the Sewing Happiness Project the students offered katas to their guests and to their teachers. Lama Choedrak was the guest of honour, accompanied by Jangchup Lingpa along with Ani Sonam and Ani Semchi from Samye Ling as representatives of Hart Knowe Trust. To celebrate the achievements of the students, Lama Chodrak brought Tsok food offerings for everyone to share. He presented gifts to the two teachers, and there were prizes for the top student in the foundation class and in the advanced class, with the winners chosen by the students themselves.

His Holiness Karmapa has said, “As long as we aspire to benefit others, we will continually find opportunities to do so and happily seize them whenever they present themselves”. Perhaps this is the timeless truth that enables the Compassion in Action Projects at the Kagyu Monlam to thrive as we keep finding new ways to express the kindness we naturally feel for each other.

20200204_Women's Sewing Training

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Recorded during the 37th Kagyu Monlam, Bodhgaya, India. January 28-30, 2020.