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July 2014 - Nikita Handmade

Nikita Handmade Beginnings – Our Story

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Patching a way out of extreme poverty for the disadvantaged in rural Cambodia

I got to a point in my yoga practice where I wanted to honour my trusty yoga mat with a beautiful and functional bag.
Solution? Ask Mum to make me one for Christmas.
I was expecting something plain and functional and for me, the special part would have been because my Mum made it. Christmas ticks around and to my complete delight, I unwrap a beautifully patch worked yoga bag made from scrap velvet. You see, my Mum is an Interior Designer and for years has accumulated scraps of gorgeous fabrics because we both couldn’t bear to throw them away (this happens all the time when the new season of fabric comes in).
So now I get to breeze into class with something utterly gorgeous. I thought my bag was so beautiful that I actually ended up carrying it around more than I needed to and explaining how special my Mum is to anyone who’d listen.
Nikita Handmade founder Claire Henry

Nikita Handmade founder Claire Henry

On a sunny day in January 2013, just before I was about to leave for yoga study in Thailand, my friend suggested I make and sell them to other yogis abroad. I was hesitant at first but miraculously, everything just seemed to fall into place. Little pieces of advice here and introductions there created an opportunity for me to connect with Vichetr Uon, the founder of Sao Sary Foundation (SSF) www.ssf.org.kh. When I met Vic I could feel something special was about to happen.

SSF is a unique foundation that works in Cambodia to prevent human trafficking and sexual exploitation by inspiring vulnerable children and their families to socially and economically empower themselves. I knew this opportunity could go even further than me making and selling beautiful bags. I finally had a way to really make a huge impact in people’s lives.

Throughout my years growing up, my family and I we were involved in numerous humanitarian ventures. Without a doubt the most rewarding and memorable was offering foster care for under-privileged, international children recovering from major surgery. Contact with these beautiful children has had a strong impact in my life and has cultivated a powerful desire to support community in my personal and business life. Inspired by our family attitude of ‘you can achieve anything you put your mind to’, I saw this meeting with Vichetr and the Sao Sary Foundation as an incredible opportunity to create positive social impact on an even grander scale.

Claire with one of the women in the sewing program

Claire with one of the women in the sewing program

Fast forward to present day and Nikita Handmade works alongside Sao Sary Foundation operating a sewing program that supports disadvantaged women to build a brighter future for themselves. There are currently 5 women who work full time in the sewing team and 29 part time trainees.We provide safe, fair and flexible working arrangements plus practical training in sewing, business management and micro investment and well as personal business coaching. I believe that with the help of local teachers, our team members can learn all the necessary skills to establish their own small business and become self-reliant, successful members of their community.
Our beautiful women in Cambodia

Our beautiful women in Cambodia

Thank you for joining with us to empower and inspire women in Cambodia. Please feel free to contact me personally if you’re looking for ways in which you can to contribute further claire [at] nikitahandmade.com.au.
With endless gratitude,
Claire xx

Sewing the Seeds of Opportunity

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If you travel to the province of Kampong Speu, just an hour from Cambodia’s capital, you would probably notice the towering palm trees and majestic waterfalls cascading down rocky cliffs. However, with 55% of the population living on less than $1.25 per day, Kampong Speu is the third poorest province in Cambodia and a trafficking hotspot. Women and girls in particular are vulnerable to this billion dollar industry, often being tricked into thinking it can lead to a better life than one of extreme poverty.

Our beautiful women in Cambodia

Our beautiful women in Cambodia

At Nikita, we know that we cannot change this situation on our own. But by planting seeds of opportunity for these vulnerable women and children, we hope to grow sustainable and supported communities who are empowered socially and economically to reach their full potential.
Our vision is to create a sustainable, long term income source for at-risk families to minimise their vulnerability to trafficking and exploitation. We do this by partnering with a local Cambodian NGO called the Sao Sary Foundation, who work to prevent human trafficking and sexual exploitation by inspiring vulnerable children and their families to socially and economically empower themselves.

It has now been over a year since Nikita Director Claire first sewed that seed to create a social enterprise to protect children and their families from trafficking and exploitation in Kampong Speu province.

Fast forward to present day and Nikita Handmade works alongside Sao Sary Foundation operating a sewing program that supports vulnerable women to build a brighter future for themselves, and continue to sew seeds of opportunity for their communities. There are currently 10 women who work full time in the sewing team and 8 part time trainees. We work to ensure that the trainees, all of whom are girls, are also able to attend school whilst learning sewing skills at the centre. Our sewing team make beautiful yoga mat bags from upcycled fabrics, which are then sold in Australia through yoga studios and globally online. Each bag is handmade with love and no two bags are the same.

Empowerment remains at the core of our work at Nikita, and we are constantly working to ensure that these stories of hope from our women are delivered to the customers who buy our yoga mat bags all around the world. We will continue to sew seeds of opportunity in Kampong Speu to empower more women to learn valuable business skills to start their own social enterprises and become self-reliant, successful members of their community.

Thank you for joining with us to empower and inspire women in Cambodia – head to our website to purchase a yoga bag or donate to our sewing centre. Please feel free to contact us if you’re looking for ways in which you can to contribute further laura@nikitahandmade.com.au.

With endless gratitude,
Laura x

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