In the first of our series of interviews with the people behind our four 2018 partner charities, we speak to Karri Cole founder of LoveTree Co and co – director of Khusi Hona.
Together with the guests of Azulfit we have raised enough money to meet the needs of the Khusi Hona women’s empowerment project for 2018. Read below to see how one yogi can change the world.
Q. Was it a big leap to leave stability behind, move to India and dedicate your time to this cause?
Life has a way of pushing you into your path unexpectedly. In April of 2015 Nepal had a terrible earthquake. I was living in Miami at the time and wanted to support in any way I could. I thought to myself “what can I do?” — I DJ and co-created many yoga events over the years. So, I thought I could create a Yoga + DJ event, raise funds and awareness to the cause. A friend connected me with Matthew (Khusi Hona Founder) who was already on the ground providing aid in Nepal. In this moment, I realized that I had a network of givers and supporters and I was the one to rally them together. We had an amazing event! I was so full of love that I felt my body could not contain it! After the event I was so on fire, I reached out to Matthew to see how I could get him the funds.
This one call turned into 5 months of talking via Skype and FB Messenger. After the relief was complete Matthew returned home to Tampa, FL (about a 5 hour drive from Miami). So I hopped in my car and drove up to meet him! We met in person there were all kinds of fireworks. We fell in love and became inseparable.
We knew we had to design our lives together. He was creating the Goa women empowerment project and I thought I could teach jewelry making classes to the girls. I had made malas and jewelry as a hobby for years, so this was such a joy for me. We decided we needed an outlet to sell the goods the women made and we created Lovetree Co.
Lovetree Co is our ethical fashion company that supports the artisans in Khusi Hona’s empowerment program with skills training and jobs.
The jewelry we make is just a beautiful bi-product of our mission. We later married in December 2016 and continue to kick ass and change lives.
“Love is what made me make the leap from stability. Love is what pushes me when it’s challenging. Love is what fuels me to make powerful requests. Love is what tells me I’m enough and that I deserve it. And this love is what I choose to give freely because there is enough for everyone.”
Q. What are your goals for the next three to five years? What barriers are in your way?
A. In the next 3-5 years we plan to grow on our mission in creating a world where the cycle of poverty is replaced by a cycle of progress. Our goal is to provide economic development solutions that strengthen our current projects and the communities that we support.
An example would be teaching jewelry making at one of our women’s programs and that artisan now being able to start her own small business with the support of Khusi Hona. She can now earn an income, while having a family or other responsibilities. This makes her an income generator in her family and possibly gives her a voice for the first time ever. This breaks the cycle of dependency and fully empowers these individuals for their lifetimes.
The barrier that we face the most is trust building. Trust takes time, It’s built by being consistent, keeping our promise and being there in times of need.
Q: What is the hardest decision you’ve made recently?
A: One of the hardest decisions we have had to make recently is the decision to move our home base from Goa to Dehradun. We felt our impact would be greater if we could focus on the projects that are directly related to our mission and vision of poverty eradication. Those key areas are women empowerment, access to education and economic development. We feel giving people tangible life changing skills empowers them to pull themselves out of poverty.
We know we cannot do it all alone! We chose Dehradun because Khusi Hona has already worked on many projects in that area with a long time friend and fellow world changer Shaila Brijnath, founder and director of Aasraa Trust – Aasraa works with the slum & rag picking communities, focusing on getting those children into schools. Khusi Hona’s empowerment program will be able to expand it’s impact with the support of this amazing organization.
We’ve been working in Goa now for almost 3 years. Continuing to mentor and support this women empowerment project is something we are very passionate about. Azulfit and their lead teacher, Rachel Blunt, have been huge supporters of this program’s success. Our goal for this project, like all our projects, is to nurture them until they have the knowledge, tools and resources to be able to be fully self sufficient, true empowerment at it’s greatest.
Q. What do you, personally, spend most of your time on? How do you stay inspired? How do you maintain your self care routine and your yoga practice?
A. I’m constantly designing, teaching, learning, researching and inventing! It takes relentless drive, fueled by a spirit of love, of action and self discipline to stay focused. My yoga and meditation practice allows a special space to reconnect. I take this quiet time to pray for God’s guidance and wisdom to show the way. I’m constantly unplugging from what I think it’s “supposed” to look like and allow things to evolve and just be, (easier said than done 😀 ).
When life gets challenging I focus on what I am grateful for and put my energy there. Living in India your perspective of what we “need,” changes. There is beauty in the simplest of things and inspiration is everywhere.
Q. How have you seen the lives of the people you train and work with improve?
A. As the young women come to the program day after day they began to open up and express themselves more freely. Their confidence is growing with every new lesson and accomplishment.
We teach them more than just jewelry making and tailoring, we teach them to be entrepreneurs. Our approach is to show a way that enables them to see that they hold the keys to their futures. Our coaching methods teach them to use every resource in their environment that allows them utilize their skills (i.e. making clothes for local village women).
In India for a certain class of young woman to think of your future or what you “want to be when you grown up” is not an option. They grow up, they get married, they have children, and they take care of the house. The example of our brilliant teacher Nazia, shows all of the students that they can have it all. A career, a husband (who is loving and supportive of her dreams), children and a home.
All the girls are special and each of their stories are inspirational to me, one that stands out is, Heena.
When she began, her reading level was at zero. Through the tailoring program she has learned her numbers, how to take someone’s measurements and following (tailoring) patterns. This hands on approach allows here to take it one step at a time, reading the lessons in a context where she can understand with hands on application. She is now confident in what she is able to do and has the fuel to push ahead in furthering her reading lessons.
Q. How would you encourage others to follow their passions, or take small steps to following their dreams?
A. I have 3 key things to anyone wanting to do anything:
- Focus and start now! Let go of the need for PERFECTION! You can figure it out as you go along. Things will change regardless and you will iron out the kinks along the way.
- Surround yourself with people who believe in you, even when you do not believe in yourself. We cannot do it alone and we don’t have to!
- Be passionately curious and courageous. Your curiosity must override your fear. Pursue your dream no matter what! … Remember, you got this!
Blessing and gratitude to the Azulfit Team & my darling Rachel. Because of you I am able to shine my brightest. Thank you for believing in our work and our team here in Goa. We love you!!! The continuation of the training of the girls is our utmost concern and responsibility. While they are learning to be entrepreneurs and finding their own way we have raised enough money to provide them with supplies and materials for training to the end of 2018.
I have total confidence in the success of this project. And am excited for everything that they will achieve by this opportunity for empowerment and independence.
Your funding has been paramount in the continuation of this project we began 2 years ago. Gratitude for your team radiates from every part of my being.
Thanks for giving me and our Goa team this opportunity to continue.