Thoughts on Volunteer work

A look at charity work from Ellie Cooke

I previously mentioned a few charities I am volunteering with and would like to share more details of that work.

Friday Creative Befriending and Community Group – Choices Islington
Choices is a charity based crisis pregnancy centre which provides pre and post decision counselling. They also provide practical support to women who may be in a vulnerable and/or abusive situation but want to keep their baby. A new community group for these women was started in September which meets every other Friday, providing a safe and friendly space for the women to commune with each other and get creative – a form of holistic support (http://www.choicesislington.org/). I have taught the women to sew, how to use a sewing machine and they have now completed Tote bags (please see attached photos). This has been a great achievement, many had never used a machine before so to now have their own bag, based on their own design is wonderful! I have now started a new project making baby books for their children which has been great fun so far picking out interesting fabrics. This group has been going for 5/6 months and already it has grown from a small handful of women to a small community – we are excited to have some expectant mums joining this week! I have learnt so much about unleashing people’s creativity alongside enhancing my teaching skills – what a blessing.

Bags of Courage – Linked with Women at the Well
This is an ongoing long term project in which I am working with Lynda Dearlove (http://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/jan/05/sanctuary-sex-workers) who is the founder and CEO of [email protected] [email protected] is a drop in centre for women living and working on the streets aiming to develop a holistic response to their needs and empower women to make choices to improve the quality of their lives (http://www.watw.org.uk/). We are working with another partner, Janet Rogers – Founder of Via Design, which works to empower people at the margins of society who have had few opportunities, (http://www.viadesign.org/our-vision.html). Janet and I first met in India and have developed a great friendship based on our passion for design and the freedom of women. Janet is currently working as the Creative Director for Freeset Business Incubator helping to start a new freedom business, Freeset Fabrics in West Bengal – an area where girls are at risk of being trafficked into sex slavery (http://freesetincubator.com/). She really helped open doors for me upon my return to England, which was a time of concern regarding what my next step should be. I knew freedom work was now my life path but was unsure of where those next steps would take me. Together, the three of us are planning to start a new company in which women can find safe employment and creative, holistic support making bags and other products (similar to Freeset) with the support of Women at the Well. So far I have designed the branding, logo and our first three training products and we are currently looking for a space in which we can start with our first few women.

I recently attended Pulse, a London trade fair for home and fashion accessories. I heard some inspiring talks from Gap on social media, Dragons Den’s Dragons on building small businesses and Stylist’s magazine team on trends and fashion forecasting. I have great hopes for the future and what our new business can provide, who it can support and for the opportunity to link with other similar organisations.

This week the founders of Freeset are in London and I am excited to have them round for dinner and discuss the possibility of me going on their Freedom Encounter, a course which explores freedom businesses, how to build them and the theology which motivates them. I believe it would increase my confidence and help me move forward in being involved with setting up a freedom business. I wish to use part of the remaining sponsorship funds to finance my return to India for the freedom encounter 2015 (http://freesetincubator.com/) and the rest will serve as a donation to both Sari Bari and Freeset alongside further relevant training.

Alongside this volunteer work I will possibly be selling some of my own products, working in a crèche and exploring new avenues, listening and trusting in God that he will provide and lead me along the right path. I would appreciate ongoing prayers for wisdom, understanding and strength at this time of new ventures and uncertainty.

Donations: If you wish to donate any fabric, sewing equipment or thread please let me know.

Peace,
Ellie