Expanding Our Maker Network

 19th Feb 2018 |  Stories about our Makers |  Fritha Mason


In 2011 the Indian Government introduced the National Rural Livelihood Mission. The scheme is focused on promoting self-employment and organisation of people who have received no or little education living in rural areas, where employment opportunities are limited. These training programmes, which are delivered by NGOs, include practical skills training in areas like tailoring and they encourage the formation of self-help groups. The self-helps groups support each other through their shared spirit of community and their shared experiences and challenges.

After the training has been delivered the NGOs move on to another community to deliver the next Livelihoods Programme, leaving those who have received the training with new skills but often without the confident and resources to generate an income from this new skill.

This is where we come in… Secret Projects builds on the Livelihoods Programme by inviting self-help groups onto our Training for Empowerment Programme. We train the women how to make Secret Pillows but we also work with them to explore ways they can create other income-generating opportunities for themselves. Their shared vision is to become financially independent and our goal is to support them on their journey.

Since Secret Projects began we have trained over 500 women, many of whom have completed the programme and set up their own business, or are now delivering training for Secret Projects, quality controlling our products, or sourcing materials locally. We now call the self-help groups 'Maker Networks' and they are located in Andhra Pradesh, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. The women tell us how much they enjoy working with Secret Projects and tell us how their income has made a difference to their lives. The money they earn typically goes towards basic living costs, such as paying for their children to go to school, food and medicine.

We would now like to invite 50 new women in Southern India to join our Training for Empowerment Programme and join our existing Maker Network of around 300 women. To cover the cost of the training programme need to reach our target of selling 150 Secret Pillows and, to help us achieve this target we have just launched our International Women's Day campaign #tellher which encourages everyone to buy a Secret Pillow for a woman in their life who they appreciate. Click here for more details about our campaign.

A few of the women in the Nilgiris, a UNESCO world heritage site in Southern India who we want to invite onto our Training for Empowerment Programme. 

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We are eBay for Change Hero Sellers of the month! To celebrate, we have 30% off all Secret Products in our eBay store!

We are eBay for Change Hero Sellers of the month! To celebrate, we have 30% off all Secret Products in our eBay store!

What does it mean to be an eBay for Change Hero Seller? It's pretty simple and pretty cool! It's a way that clever eBay introduce us as one of their . . . eBay for Change Sellers to their HUGE customer base by hosting Secret Projects eBay store on the home page of eBay! So, in short, shoppers go on to the page and there is Secret Projects to check out! It's a fabulous opportunity for us to promote Secret Products (the name we give to our Ranges of clothing and homeware) to a whole new group of customers! We are celebrating by offering 30% off Secret Products stocked in our eBay for Change store until the end of September '21! We have a growing range of Secret Products on our eBay for Change store from Secret Pillows, the cutest skirts for children to our iconic Secret Sari Dresses.  There is a wide and gorgeous Range to choose from and whether you are shopping for yourself or wanting to find a unique gift, our eBay store is the place to go! Click the link below to shop: https://bit.ly/SecretProjectsebaystore We are proud to be eBay for Change Hero Sellers and delighted to offer this discount to attract new customers and spread the story of Secret Projects further.      
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Our CEO and her partner Olaf feature their home on Grand Designs... and of course there are Secret Pillows!

Our CEO and her partner Olaf feature their home on Grand Designs... and of course there are Secret Pillows!

She always had Grand Designs!!! The full story...  As a young girl founder and CEO of Secret Projects, Fritha had a great school friend and was often . . . at her house after school  and during the holidays. One of the things Fritha loved most about the house was the pillows... Designed by her friend's mother and called Secret Pillows, they folded out into cosy blankets that Fritha would snuggle under and she decided to fill homes around the world with them! Flash forward a number of years and Fritha had had a long and successful career in the charity sector, but had never forgotten about the Secret Pillows and her desire to sell them around the globe was as strong as ever. By now, she had also worked out how she could combine this with another of her passions to empower women in India- a country she had come to know and love. It was whilst travelling around India on the back of a motorbike that Fritha met some wonderful women living in remote regions who were desperately trying to eke out a living by making flower garlands for people to buy as gifts at local temples. Fritha noticed that in most of the homes she visited there was always a sewing machine and was told by the women that they knew how to stitch well, but had no idea how to earn an income by selling items they had stitched locally. It was at this point that Fritha knew how she and the women could work together and Secret Projects was born! The first product made by women for Secret Projects was of course, the Secret Pillow and Fritha's dream came true. Hundreds of Secret Pillows have been sold since 2014 when Secret Projects was founded and they grace beds, sofas and chairs both indoors and outdoors throughout the world. Dreams do come true. Flash forward a few more years and Fritha is nicely settled down with the man of her dreams, Olaf who just happens to be a master carpenter and decided to build them a house. It's not any ordinary house either and the build has been followed by Channel 4's Grand Designs and is one of the homes featured during their autumn 2021 series. The episode aired last week on Wednesday 8th September and has been so well received by the public. UK viewers can watch it on Channel 4's catch-up platform All 4 or view on YouTube There is a fitting end to this story, Fritha's own home is now filled with Secret Pillows and she feels proud to have helped make many people's houses around the world comfortable, as having a home to call our own is so important. Fritha actually suggested that she and Olaf 'go for' Grand Designs as she thought it was a great way to get Secret Pillows on television!!! They never for a second believed that they would make it on to the show, but thought, nothing ventured, nothing gained! The rest is history, as they say and watch out for Kevin McCloud sitting at Fritha and Olaf's firepit, surrounded by Secret Pillows! And... there is one final fitting end!  Fritha's other dream has always been to fill her home with children! She and Olaf are both foster parents, caring for a young man, with plans to look after other children too. Their own daughter Lagertha (to be known day to day as La La) took a while to appear, but after a couple of years of 'trying' and a round of IVF she sprang into the world in March 2021 bang in the middle of building the house with Grand Designs deadline looming! So... the house has 4 bedrooms and 3 of these will be filled with children among the many Secret Pillows! Secret Projects is proud to share this story of hope that highlights dreams can come true at the same time as helping others to achieve their dreams too. We are proud to sell a full Range of Secret Pillows on our eBay for Change store. Click here to shop!
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India recipes from Marigold Secrets - a book by Charlotte Marsh

Recipes from India from Marigold Secrets by Charlotte Marsh Charlotte is from New Zealand. Her mentor and teachers took a trip to India with Secret . . . Projects and return with so much enthusiasm and joy. Charlotte a keen traveller herself lapped up their stories and photographers. She felt inspired to combine them in a book with recipes from her favourite cooks and from Nirmala, a great friend of Secret Projects. The book is called Marigold Secrets and we hope that you enjoy cooking your own India food with the recipes below. Speedy Dosa This is a super speedy dosa recipe adaptaed from Nadia Lim's Vegeful. These make for a quick dinner and delicious dosas in just 30 mintutes. Serve with Potato Masala and chutney Serves 4 (2 dosa per person) / Diary Free / Vegan Time 10 mins prep + 20 mins Incredients 1 cup chickpea flour 1/2 cup plain flour 1/2 cup of rice and gluten flour 1 tbs mustard seed 1/2 tsp baking soda 1/2 tsp salt 450-500 ml water Oil to cook Instructions: 1. Place flours, mustard seeds, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl. 2. Whisk in the water until you have a smooth runny consistency similar to pouring cream. 3. Heat a drizzle of oil in a large non-stick frying pan on a medium to high heat and rub the oil across the pan with a paper towel. 4. Add 1/2 cup of batter to the pan while twisting and swirling the pan to spread the batter evenly in a thin layer. 5. When the surface is covered in bubbles flip the dosa over and cook the underside for a minute. 6. Transfer to a plate and serve.   Potato Masala Serves 4 / Gluten Free / Vegan Time 40 minutes to prepare + 25 minutes to cook 300g potatoes, 1 cm dice, boiled for 5 minutes, drained and cooled 2 tbsp oil 1/2 tsp mustard seeds 1 tbsp channa dal or split gram, soaked in 1/4 cup hot water for 30 minutes 2 large onions, thinly sliced 2cm ginger, finely chopped 1/4 tsp turmeric powder 1/2 cup water 3 tbsp chopped coriander leaves 1/4 tsp sugar (optional) Salt as required Instructions: 1. Place a large frying pan over a medium heat. Add oil and mustard seeds and let them splutter. 2. Add the chana dal or split gram and saute for 2-3 minutes on a low flame or till they turn light golden or golden. 3. Add the sliced onions, curry leaves, green chillies and ginger. 4. Saute until the onions soften and turn translucent. 5. Add the turmeric powder and mix very well. 6. Add water. Mix well and simmer for 2-3 minutes or till the mixture thickens a bit. 7. Add the boiled chopped potatoes and mix very well. 8. Season with salt. Also add 1/4 teaspoon sugar for a slight sweet taste (optional). 9. Simmer on a low flame for 3-4 minutes stirring occassionally. The water will reduce and the potato masala with thicken. 10. Remove from the heat and add chopped coriander leaves. The potato masala should be moist and easily spreadable on the dosa. Lay out dosa and top with potatoe mix, fold, or roll and serve.
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