The Tiny Miracles approach lifts impoverished communities into the middle class within 10 years
what is the poverty cycle?
The poverty cycle can be defined by poverty that passes from one generation to the next – in other words, children born into poor families that are destined to remain poor into adulthood, due to factors such as a lack of adequate healthcare, education, and solid family environment.
The poverty cycle is a complex, multi-faceted issue, and yet too often we seek simplistic, one-dimensional solutions, i.e.: all we need is economic growth and more jobs, or better access to healthcare, or more schools.
But if the answer were that simple – let’s face it – the problem would have been solved long ago.
tiny changes create big miracles
what we believe
Complex problems require multi-faceted solutions; over the past ten years we at Tiny Miracles have witnessed first-hand that addressing one driver of poverty in isolation cannot create real change.
How much good will a school do if the children turn up hungry and exhausted? Will a girl who is married off by her family at 13 ever be able to achieve equality in society or take charge of her own life? Can a medical clinic really solve a community’s health issues if they have no access to clean drinking water?
This is why at Tiny Miracles we believe in a holistic approach to breaking the poverty cycle with the communities we work with: The only way to truly empower people to transform their lives is to identify and tackle all the challenges simultaneously, as an eco-system.
Focusing on 5 pillars- education, healthcare, life skills, income generation and happiness simultaneously, we enable communities to become self-supporting for generations to come.
We believe all communities need resilience, creativity and flexibility in the face of change in order to become self-sustaining. This is why we always empower communities to take responsibility for their own further development, working together to determine both why and how to invest in themselves.
We believe we can turn the worlds’ poorest communities into thriving middle-class global citizens within 10 years. We start with that end game in mind, and work with a structured yet adaptable approach towards this goal.
Take a look at the video about our philosophy
the fundamentals of our approach
We started developing our holistic approach to break the poverty cycle with the Pardeshi community in the red light area of Mumbai, India in 2010. Tackling the fundamentals first and building awareness and knowledge from a solid basis, we have refined our approach to a 5-pillar model for community development which has now been proven to create a profound and lasting impact, enabling people to transform their lives.
the Tiny Miracles 5 pillars approach
The most crucial and fundamental pillar of our approach, social awareness is about transforming mindsets by educating on critical topics for the community, such as: hygiene, abuse and domestic violence, family planning, healthy living, and how to save and spend money wisely.
In approaching the community on the basis of equality and mutual listening, through our social awareness activities we build their intrinsic motivation to work together to address the communities’ greatest challenges.
We have a doctor who weekly visits the community, a dentist who comes at regular intervals and we operate a special monitoring program for newborns and children. Furthermore, we create awareness with rehab programs for addictions, healthy cooking classes and the importance of exercise.
Work is essential for improving the lives of many families, but at the beginning most Pardeshi women couldn’t read or write and had no job skills beyond basket weaving. So we’ve taught them from scratch, training them to create beautiful, high-quality products that are bought around the world because people love them and want them in their homes – not because there’s a nice charitable story behind them. Every month, Tiny Miracles paper vases are hand-made out of two production units and sold in over 300 high end stores in 30 countries worldwide.
It may sound obvious, but only through teaching our children can we grow the seeds for a better future. All Pardeshi children go to school and follow after-school homework classes, and have the opportunity to take computer and English lessons as well. Additionally, we provide loans, so the children can enter higher education.
We invest in celebrations and fun activities that respect their cultural traditions and way of life. Why? We believe that in all our endeavours the journey is as important as the destination – that there should be joy and celebration along the way, as a part of the fabric of everyday life. All the results we are constantly achieving mean so much more when we take the time to find and experience the little things that bring happiness to their lives.
We are very proud of the Pardeshi community, who are only a few years away from accomplishing what we really want to achieve at Tiny Miracles – that they no longer need us for anything except as a client for their products.
When the foundation first started in 2010, the Pardeshi’s were living in extreme poverty in the centre of the shady Red Light District in Mumbai Central. People would look down upon the Pardeshi women. Children faced stigmatization and discrimination at school. They lived, ate, slept, played, worked, laughed and cried on the streets, literally.
The majority of the Pardeshi’s were illiterate with many of the men either alcoholic or dead from alcohol abuse. Most kids dropped out of school between 2nd and 4th grade because they would either have to work to support the family, were never encouraged by their parents who had never learned the value of education or were beaten by their teachers at school.
Through the unique 5 pillars model of Tiny Miracles, the (mostly) women of the community have since been empowered to unleash their human potential and to break the poverty cycle for their own generation and the generations to come!
Below just a few key highlights of our impact:
- Over 100 awareness sessions are organized yearly, ranging from trips to the bank to healthy cooking classes to sessions on how to deal with sexual abuse to daughter in law and mother in law meetings.
- The entire community is healthy, knows how to stay healthy and now have health cards to get free medical assistance from the nearby hospital.
- Group bonding & friendships developed among families that first did not talk to each other due to deeply rooted conflicts. Group formation enables community members to tackle challenges together, for example to keep the community safe and clean and to take care of the vulnerable and elderly.
- Women have overcome some superstitious beliefs. This is crucial as they wouldn’t always get the right medical assistance before, due to such beliefs, even in cases of emergency.
- There are no longer any child marriages in the community.
- The community has now accepted girls marrying outside their caste and outside of the community, where before they would have been outcast.
- Widows are allowed to remarry which was never allowed before.
- All women know how to use the bank & many are able to save money every month. Before almost none of the women had bank accounts and no savings.
- All women now have an accident insurance under the government insurance scheme; many women obtained a life insurance.
- We see a clear trend towards women investing for the future: buying small apartments outside the city and gold.
- women are fighting for their rights at the municipality & in the community, where they even created a women’s group to tackle local challenges collectively.
Simran (19): “In this community women are traditionally expected to marry at an early age. Whether or not they are allowed to work often depends on the husband’s will. Such beliefs are now slowly changing. Thanks to the many social awareness sessions and the stable income, women feel increasingly empowered and independent!”
- Since 2011 all children who were at the start of their schooling life in the Pardeshi community have been sent to English schools, which have the reputation for being of better quality and offering a better future perspective compared to local Hindi or Marathi schools.
- All community children go to after school homework classes.
- All productive (18-45 years) women are literate now; many were illiterate before.
- All girls now aim for higher education, whereas before none of the girls would because parents wouldn’t allow it.
- The first Pardeshi children have recently completed their graduation programs, supported by Tiny Miracles. One girl even obtained a Master’s degree for the first time in the history of the Pardeshi’s.
Jayshree: “I only reached high school, 10th grade.. then I dropped out. Now I have 4 daughters going to school, and the eldest even goes to college!”
Simran (19): “When my mother was my age she lived on the streets of Delhi, with little hopes and dreams for the future. With the support of Tiny Miracles I completed high school in English, and now study at the University! The road has not always been easy. when you go to school, a lot of things need be taken care of, such as clean uniforms, study materials…but how could I ask my family for that? Tiny Miracles really helped me a lot!”
- All community children are immunised and are in stable health where at the start, the majority was malnourished and dealing with frequent malaria and tuberculosis
- After 5 years of structural doctor visits and health sessions to the community, most inhabitants are now very much aware about how to stay healthy and and/or receive proper treatment for (chronic) diseases.
- They have the right knowledge to independently visit doctors and support each other if needed.
Community members now have enough resources (the majority of which through our income generation program) to pay for visits without assistance from Tiny Miracles. Assistance is only needed for most vulnerable categories, such as elderly without any family to support them.
Since 2011 many fun activities and celebratory sessions have been organized by Tiny Miracles.
Now, these activities are organized from bottom-up: the (empowered) women come up with specific requests and are responsible for preparing a budget and successfully carrying out the organization of fun programs. They still receive (some) funding from Tiny Miracles.
Every community member makes a monthly contribution to the community fund. How the money is spent is decided by mutual consent, examples so far are:
- Painting and decorating of the room where after school program is carried out.
- Organizing picnics.
- The women collect money from every family to hire someone to clean the community on a regular basis.
- Most of the women in the community are involved in the Income Generation Program (IGP): they produce our high-end design products.
- Income increased from ca. €25/month per family with average size of 6 members, to €1.20/hour (monthly income depending on work volume).
- This substantial increase in income has driven huge leaps in self-confidence for the women & created a true entrepreneurial spirit in many of them.
- A number of families have purchased rooms with their savings from the work generated by Tiny Miracles. They rent it out to 3rd parties to gain extra income. Such long term investment brings the women one step closer to financial independence.
The work through Tiny Miracles has also inspired girls to work outside the community to earn a decent income, for example at banks, hospitals or café’s.
Shoba (49): “Tiny Miracles motivated me to work as much as I can. When there are fewer orders I now organize additional work. I take orders from clients, for example to make flags. I hire other Pardeshi women as well, who can use the skills that they learned during the Tiny Miracles stitching classes! ….Being able to work and sustain my family makes me so proud, and I will not stop working until I am able to buy a real house. The real difference will be made by the next generation, of that I am confident.”
Jayshree: “My biggest dream is to buy a real house for the family. Thanks to Tiny Miracles I could use my savings to buy a room outside of Mumbai. I sublet it to earn extra income. This is a very important step towards achieving my dream!”
achieving our goal
At the start, the Pardeshi’s were very shy and ‘pleasing’ towards us. Today, you can feel the empowerment in everything they say or do: They are full of dreams and more importantly full of confidence that their life and that of the next generation will be different for the first time in generations. This, for us, is the most obvious proof of success.
At Tiny Miracles, the goal is to be able to leave a community after 10 years to sustain their improved livelihoods themselves and see us only as their client for work. We could humbly say that we are almost there. Since 2017, they already no longer need any Tiny Miracles staff for the health, awareness and happiness pillars. Happiness and awareness sessions are organized by community members themselves and when they need medical assistance they are able to visit a doctor independently. Moreover, community members take the responsibility to take care of each other, for example to take children to the dentist.
When you visit the Pardeshi community today, you will find yourself in the hustle and bustle of Mumbai life and when you speak to the community members and especially the women, you can see, hear, and feel their intrinsic motivation and self-belief.
To see for yourself, meet a few members of the Pardeshi community in these short stories.