We were invited to be on a panel at an inaugural conference by PRISM, the social enterprise club of Saint Joseph’s Institution. In light of the current climate, the conference on 1 June was moved online and attended by about 200 students from different schools.
For the past 6 years or so, we have been facilitating income-generation projects for women who were unable to hold full-time jobs mainly because of care-giving responsibilities at home. Baking has been the main activity and last year sewing took centre-stage when safety measures disallowed it. The sewing of reusable face masks proved viable and now our members have the option of participating in baking and sewing projects.
I guess we demonstrated some enterprise all this while, but we would not go as far to call ourselves entrepreneurs. While our members appreciate the modest seasonal income, our focus has very much been on their personal development, their continued ability to fulfil their care-giving responsibilities and the mutual help and cooperation among them. So, the biggest takeaway for our members is not money but the satisfaction of getting a job done well and the sense of belonging to a community where one gives and receive support.
The experience of participating in our projects has added another dimension to their identity. Like many of us they would identify themselves as a parent, a son or daughter or sibling but unlike many of us, they are also identified as welfare recipients, low-wage earners, and members of a segment of our population that is disproportionately affected by health and social challenges. These latter identities are not life-giving and when the cause of their disadvantage is understood to stem from a deficiency within people, their hope for a better life dim.
Hence, we are glad for the 30 minutes in which 2 of our members fielded questions on their efforts to generate income for their families. They were not there to pitch for support but to pass on the message that no matter the setbacks, one must keep trying. The opportunity to deliver this message at a conference was a first for them but I guess in character, they had to give it a try.
Wishing you good health and peace of mind.
Identity in not what we were but what we have become, what we are at this moment. – Nick Joaquin