I came to know about Emerge Global last summer through its country director in Sri Lanka, Ellen Sojka. Ellen learned about me through a mutual friend and sent me an invitation to a Emerge jewelry show. Unfortunately I couldn't make it to see the jewelry but I was able to meet Ellen before she left for Sri Lanka to take the job as the Country Director for Emerge Global.
The Boston-based Emerge Global was founded by Alia Whitney-Johnson when she was a senior at MIT to support the girls aged 10 -18 who have become pregnant through rape or incest.
The teenage mothers are cared for at the Sarvodaya Suwasetha Ma Sevena in Moratuwa while their court cases are pending. They are sent to the Ma Sevena by the Courts as these girls are rejected, for no fault of their own, by their families for being pregnant. Some girls are as young as 10, children themselves, caring for their children.
Emerge provides these girls with the beads to make the jewelry and facilitates the sale of the jewelry overseas. The profits from the jewelry sales go to a savings account of the artist who made the piece. The girls are allowed to access the accounts once they turn 18.
Emerge not only provides the materials, it also teaches the girls to develop their inner artistic abilities and learn financial skills to become economically independent. With the money saved while at the Ma Sevena the girls can start a means of living on their own when they re-enter the society.
Ellen is the Country Director of Emerge Global in Sri Lanka. I was somewhat skeptical that Ellen, a recent MIT graduate in Chemical Engineering from Mid West could survive in Sri Lanka for an extended time. So when I visited Sri Lanka I made a point to meet with Ellen to see how she is handling the life in Sri Lanka.
Needless to say that I was in a shock when I saw her eating a stack of string hoppers with hot fish curry by hand!
Ellen is really enjoying the program and the interaction with the girls. She will be returning to US in October and two others from the US will leave for Sri Lanka to take her duties.
Ma Sevena is the only such facility in Sri Lanka that provides a safe, healthy, and supportive environment to these abandoned girls to make it possible for them to become self-supporting and accepted in the community.
The Emerge bead program, which is funded through donations and private funds, is a huge success. They hope to expand the program to provide support for more girls. While individual donations can be made to Emerge, it also has a sponsorship matching program through which you can sponsor a girl throughout the duration of the program. Please visit www.emergeglobal.org for more information.
Please think about Emerge when you buy jewelry next time. A beautiful string of colored beads that adds glamour to your neckline also puts a smile on a troubled teenage girl thousands of miles away in Sri Lanka.