Monday, 4 August 2008

more than just a paper bag

I've been meaning to write about the newspaper carry bags we use in the shop ever since the Cottage opened but time just ran away from me. Probably it is also because whilst the story is very uplifting it comes with a downside.
So let's start with the bad, it always makes the good taste sweeter.

Anyone who has ever set foot in India will tell you how the sheer number of people is mind blowing. Confronting and overwhelming in every way. But take this a step further. Look at the migration of people from the country to the city, all looking for a better life, and this isn't just adults, this is also children. It is estimated that a staggering 300,000 children live and work on the streets of Delhi. These children are often, originally, from rural areas, lured by the 'romance' of the big city, sometimes running away from difficult or abusive situations, or just ending up in the city through no fault of their own, and this city can be a frightening and dangerous place. Girls are often lured into the sex industry and boys into a life of crime and abuse. Yes, this happens all over the world and nowhere is safe, but the size of India's population makes this horribly shocking.

Now this where it gets better.

On the outskirts of New Delhi there is a  home called Karm Gaon. It was started by a non-government organisation, Karm Marg, to provide a loving home for children and young adults who have been through such traumatic experiences. In this safe environment they are provided with an education, therapy, health care and vocational training. Karm Marg translates as 'Path of Work and Action' and the home's philosophy extends into the surrounding community, providing training to disadvantaged rural women and through the establishment of an organic garden and community kitchen. 
This philosophy also puts the running and maintenance of the home into the hands of the children (with support from elders) giving them an active and important role in their own future. Part of this is the Income Generation Project, in which products, created from recycled materials, are developed and manufactured.  
And so we get to our newspaper carry bags. They are made by the citizens of Karm Marg and Karm Gaon.
But the story doesn't end there.
When I first contacted Karm Marg about their bags, they put me in touch with Somar and Kristy who have a shop in Maleny in Queensland  called The Industree. These lovely people have a plan. By bringing the Karm Marg bags into Australia they planned to finance another charity. This charity would be in Kochi (Cochin) providing support to an orphanage that cares for children who are mentally or physically impaired. These children currently do not have access to regular medical aid and lack extras like physiotherapy and psychotherapy. By working in conjunction with another charity called 'Raksha', in Kochi, Somar and Kristy hope to organise ongoing aid to the orphanage.

So, you see, a simple recycled bag can carry much more than your latest purchase. 
It can carry a whole community, half a world away, into a brighter future.

(Please check out the Karm Marg website for full details about their projects and philosophy and photos of the home and children.)


  1. And here was I thinking you were just groovy with bags...

  2. and just when I think I have had all the commercial and marketing crap I can handle this little story about a humble paper bag comes along and makes my day...

  3. amazing.

    thanks for actually putting some thought and heart into something so simple.

    what a simple treasure.



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