Meet the Makers! Vijaya and Yashoda tell us about what it's like working with Secret Projects!



Vijaya and Yashoda are part of our Nature Maker Group in Hindupur in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh. Due to its geographical location, the state does not benefit from the southwest monsoon nor the northeast monsoon. It therefore suffers from complete lack of rainfall and drought is endemic to the region. This means that unlike in most rural locations, agricultural and livestock rearing do not provide a sustainable income for inhabitants of the region. This makes it one of the most impoverished and disadvantaged states in the south of the country.

Secret Projects connected with the women who now make up Nature Maker Group through a Catholic Brotherhood that provides community outreach and vocational training in the area. They have a fantastic training unit set up with treadle sewing machines where local women can come for training and to use the machines. This is where we meet up with the women of Nature Maker Group once a month to quality check their creations, provide feedback and to host training sessions for new products. This month we trained them in the production of our Secret Shopping Bags. We were deeply impressed by how quickly they grasped it!

These visits are an important time for us to check-in with our Makers. This month we sat down with Vijaya and Yashoda for a chat...

Vijaya (48 years old) is from a small village in Hindupur called Kirikera, where she has lived her entire life. She went to school until the 10th grade (16 years old), and she then got married and became a housewife. It was 15 years ago that she learnt how to sew through friends and neighbours in her village. In 2014 she connected with the Catholic Brotherhood through a community outreach programme they were hosting in her village. She became a sewing and dressmaking teacher at their production unit and estimates that she has now taught over 400 women and girls how to sew. This makes her feel proud that she can have an impact on other women's lives. She says it is her way of saying thank you to the women who taught her all those years ago and improved her situation, as sewing has changed her life. Through the money she earns from Secret Projects, Vijaya has been able to pay for her son's electrician course. She now plans to purchase a Xerox photocopying and printing machine to help him start his own business. We are so moved by the support you give to all those around you Vijaya!

Yashoda (28 years old) is the leader of Nature Maker Group. She coordinates production and organises meetings. Yashoda is originally from the state of Karnataka but moved to Hindupur 6 years ago for marriage. She learnt to sew at the Catholic Brotherhood's training complex. Making for Secret Projects is her first job, before that she was a housewife. She says it makes her feel more important now that she is able to contribute to household expenses. She is able to contribute towards her two children's school fees and her house rent. She has also been able to purchase her first treadle sewing machine and launch a micro-enterprise stitching sari blouses along with two other Makers that she runs from her home. She dreams of being able to purchase a power sewing machine and open a tailoring store on the main road in her town. With sustained order from Secret Projects, this dream is possible! As customers of Secret Projects, your choices make real and significant impact on the lives of our Makers throughout India and enable dreams like this to become reality.

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We have a vacancy for a Production Manager - India based.

We have a vacancy for a Production Manager - India based.

We are currently recruiting for a Production Manager to be based in our Production Support Unit in Bengaluru, South India. This is an exciting . . . development for us as an organisation. To read the full job description and details of how to apply, please click here. Working with Secret Projects is so much more than a job. By joining our utterly dedicated team, you will play an important role as we work hard to realise our vision of a world where all women have the confidence and resources to make choices, thrive and contribute to the strengthening of their communities. No one team member is more important than another... It's a chance to use your skills and expertise to create a fairer world, as well as developing new ones as our business moves forward and grows.
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Secret Projects Community Benefit Society - first ever Special General Meeting.

Secret Projects Community Benefit Society - first ever Special General Meeting.

The first meeting of Shareholders of Secret Projects Community Benefit Society took place on Friday 24th July 2020 via Zoom, chaired by Secret . . . Projects Global CEO, Fritha Mason. Presentations were given by Fritha, Secret Projects Company Secretary and Finance and Operations Director, Banke Ajayi, Country Director for Secret Projects subsidiary company, Social Power India, Nirmala Rani, Communications Manager, Margaret Ring and our Indian Subsidiary Compliance and Tax Consultant, Sneha Shah. We admit to practising many times beforehand, supporting each other and giving feedback, which meant that we were all feeling as relaxed as we could be as the meeting commenced and actually really enjoyed the entire process! We would like to say an enormous and heart-felt thank you to all our Shareholders who attended and to those who sent their apologies. A recording was taken of the meeting that will be sent to all Shareholders. 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Get to know us better by reading our monthly e-newsletter With Heart Head to our new website and read about the various ways Indian NGOs, Universities, Schools and Community Groups can work with us Find out the many different and creative ways people can help drive our social business by visiting our How can I help? section of our new website. And... last but by no means least, consider increasing your investment or joining our Social Investment Core by providing us with a loan. We had a number of really interesting questions to answer - we weren't surprised to receive these, as our Shareholders are such a committed bunch of people! Question 1 Can Secret Projects introduce a system for Shareholders to forgo interest to further support you? Banke: A resounding yes! We are putting this system in place. Question 2 Can the 'Business Dec' (a presentation we are currently working on to support our approaches to Social Responsibility Departments of big businesses), Fritha spoke about during the meeting be shared, as Shareholders may have ideas and contacts? Fritha: Yes, we would absolutely love to hear our Shareholders ideas and will share the presentation separately. If anyone has any contacts they feel may be interested in hearing from us, please do let us know. Question 3 How long do we envisage the postal issues affecting India for? Fritha and Nirmala: Our Fulfilment Officer in India, Rozario, recently asked staff at the Post Office when they envisaged the post being back on track and was told August 1st - but we have had similar answers for the last couple of months! We are going to add 'Speed Post' to our website that will mean we will be able to post to the UK and the US, but at a premium price, should our customers wish to buy Secret Products and pay this additional cost in support. We can post to a few other countries in South Asia, for example South Korea and Thailand, but unfortunately we are still not able to post to the majority of countries. We are constantly in touch with the Post Office to keep abreast of the latest situation. Question 4 When do we hope to begin expanding our network of Maker Groups again? Fritha and Nirmala: We set up a WhatsApp group for our Makers right at the onset of lockdown and are hearing from some of them, asking us when we are going to be able to begin production once more. We are also in the process of getting in touch with Makers that we haven't heard from during lockdown to establish contact.  Many women travelled to be with their families in other parts of India, or due to lack of income, do not have any 'phone credit, but we are determined to get in touch and will keep persisting. Throughout lockdown we have worked hard to really strengthen our bases, so we can reach our Makers and further groups of women living remotely under any circumstances. We believe that our strong partnerships with Indian NGO's and our newly created Virtual Training for Empowerment Programme will help us achieve this and we are waiting for lockdown to end to cement our plans and begin making headway with our new systems.  Question 5 Can Secret Projects post goods to the Middle East, as there is a large community living there who have strong ties to India? Fritha: Yes! Anything is possible and we will be in touch to discuss this in more detail to get information and ask for advice and guidance about how to achieve this.Thank you for the suggestion! Question 6 Is there a minimum amount for investment? Banke: The minimum investment amount is £50. As always we can answer any further questions at invest@secretprojects.org We can’t wait for the next Shareholder meeting….  
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Secret Projects Social Investor Core Loan - a loan that empowers women in India and supports leadership.

Secret Projects Social Investor Core Loan - a loan that empowers women in India and supports leadership.

In March this year we had to completely halt sales of our Secret Products as the effects of Covid-19 took hold and countries around the world went . . . into lockdown, something we were so sad about, but our main concern was for the safety our Makers and Team, so it was absolutely the right course of action. As lockdown begins to tentatively ease, we are now in the process of throwing ourselves into planning for our autumn/winter sales and, of course, as an international retailer for Christmas, Diwali and Thanksgiving. It's exciting to be making these plans - our creative juices are flowing and we can't wait to begin selling our wonderful products, made so lovingly by our Makers and telling the story of Secret Projects once again. We became aware that we needed to find a solution to help us bridge the gap that has happened as a result of not being able to sell our merchandise for the last few months and, we have decided to open up our Social Investor Core Loan.  Secret Projects Social Investor Core is a group of passionate and committed social investors that Secret Projects has borrowed funds from, offering a competitive interest rate on these loans in return. Over the last four years, we have been able to borrow £37,000 from this core group and have repaid £21,000 of the money borrowed at maturity date with interest. We would now like to open this up to other social investors who share our vision of a world where all women have the confidence and resources to make choices, thrive and contribute to the strengthening of their communities. The loan terms are: Loan Period - 3 years Interest rate - 3% interest per annum. Minimum loan - £500 Interest will be paid yearly, but an investor can choose to have their interest rolled over to the following year. These loans have made a huge difference to the impact we have been able to make in India. Using the precious money wisely we have been able to create more Maker Groups to give women an opportunity to not only earn a good and fair income, but to also have an opportunity to develop their leadership and entrepreneurial skills through our 4 stage Training for Empowerment Programme. If you would like to help bridge the gap and loan us money, or want to discuss our Social Investor Core Loan in more detail please email invest@secretprojects.org
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 16th Apr 2019
 Fritha Mason

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