Over the years we at Kilometer 66 have been busy working with women weavers around the world and developing products to provide meaningful employment. Over the past year, however, it became obvious that we needed to look a bit closer to home as well. Actually, let's make that a stronger statement. We were convicted that we had a responsibility to apply our creative efforts towards finding solutions for disadvantaged women in our own communities. As often happens, when the timing is right the answers appear.
It began last January when Charlene, our CEO and orchestra conductor, received a copy of The Shriver Report. As we read through the document we were shocked to learn that 1 in 3 adult women are living in poverty or on the brink of it. We don't know about you, but to us this is just not acceptable.
Through some friends we were introduced to some heroic women transitioning out of homelessness. Some of the challenges they faced were lack of credit, employment opportunities, and affordable childcare, just to name a few.
So we asked ourselves 'what do we have to offer?'
- We can provide jobs
- We can share our friends
- We can teach someone to sew
And that's when it all came together. What if we could teach disadvantaged women sewing basics, inspire them to develop marketable skills, and possibly provide employment opportunities. Could we make a difference? What if we could teach women to sew from their homes, thus minimizing the problem of affordable childcare? We got excited about the idea and began thinking about how to do this.
We soon realized that the main obstacle was raising money to create a training program. We'd need funds for materials and sewing machines to start. And while applying for grants or forming a non-profit were options, these options were just too slow to tackle this problem. Plus, we're firm believers in empowerment through enterprise.
It all came together last fall. We realized that the time had come to finally create a product line we had been talking about for years. Charlene and her kids had been telling her husband (who is an avid photographer ) that his photos would make amazing scarves. That was the aha moment: produce a line of scarves and use the profits to launch the training program. Kind of like a modified fundraiser. Problem of where to find the money? Solved!
Those who know us well know that we're rarely satisfied with small dreams. As we began troubleshooting and sharing the idea with friends we were introduced to people who asked if we'd be willing to implement a program in their city too. So we thought, 'why not?!' And the dream began to morph into a strategy.
For every 12 scarves purchased 1 woman is sponsored
through our training program.
The plan is to begin this summer in our nation's capital. We'll document the entire process every step of the way. We invite you to follow along by reading our blog.
After taking the first group through the training, we'll step back to assess what worked, what didn't, and what needs to be tweaked. Then we'll duplicate the training program in a rural community, mid-size city, and another major US city and refine some more. Our big goal is to duplicate this model throughout the US in any city that wants to partner in running a program.
We already have three cities on the waiting list who are chomping at the bit to begin.
Our goal is to train 1000 women in the next 24 months. Ambitious? Yes. Attainable? Certainly!
This is a limited-edition collection, so pick up your favorites soon!
We're able to keep the price for this first collection low by creating each piece made to order, so expected delivery time is 21-25 business days.
HOW TO HELP
First, pick up a scarf. For that matter, nab several!
Then, we'd be ever grateful if you would help us share this story. We're really excited about this project, and can't wait to continue to share the progress of our program throughout the year.
If you live in the DC area, consider volunteering with us this summer as we launch the training program. Or, if you'd like to learn more about setting up a similar project in your city, get in touch and we can dream about possibilities together!