Living with good intent is one of the ways we can attract good karma – and for some people, it comes very naturally. An inspiring example of this is the Tiny Miracles Foundation, founded in 2012 by Laurien Meuter and Pepe Heykoop: two people on a mission to eliminate extreme poverty in a small community in a city slum in India.
I first heard about the Tiny Miracles Foundation when our creative director Eva Elias told me about her friend Laurien Meuter,’ Rituals’ Raymond Cloosterman tells us. ‘Laurien gave up a successful banking career to pursue the ambitious dream of breaking the poverty cycle of a small community living in the slums of Mumbai.’
‘The kindness and passion she showed towards complete strangers on the other side of the world triggered something in me. It was the idea of implementing real and lasting improvements there by creating awareness, healthcare, employment and education, rather than us just donating a sack of money. Improving health care meant hiring a doctor and introducing everyday rituals of using proper hygiene; by teaching them about washing their hands, brushing their teeth and providing them with medicine, they were able to reduce the number of people that fell ill, thus preventing unnecessary deaths. However, they needed support to help cover their costs. For Rituals it was the perfect fit, and we gladly contributed to their cause and have been doing so ever since,’
‘We’ve recently dedicated our new Tiny Rituals collection for babies to the foundation: ten percent of the proceeds goes towards providing doctors, teachers and medicine for the community,’ says Raymond. ‘So it made sense to visit them to witness firsthand what they’ve been able to achieve so far.’
GENEROSITY AND WARMTH
Raymond’s visit to India with his family opened his mind to a world of extreme contrasts: the richness of ancient traditions, golden palaces, temples and breathtaking nature, versus the extreme poverty of many Indian people. ‘Visiting the Pardeshi community in Mumbai was undoubtedly one of the highlights of our trip,’ he says. ‘We were welcomed with such incredible
warmth and kindness; they gave us freshly baked chocolate cake and flower garlands, and put on a celebration performance in the middle of a tiny courtyard, with hundreds of happy smiling people around us. It was truly a very emotional experience.
‘But it wasn’t so much the poverty or the bleak living circumstances that moved us so deeply,’ Raymond continues. ‘It was the energetic vibe of hope and positivity that filled every corner of this community. Seeing people be happy and grateful when they have so little. That really put things into perspective.’
One of the women from the community told Raymond, very proudly, that she and her family of four now have a tiny room to eat, sleep and live in, thanks to help from the foundation. And what a journey: just four years ago, this family lived under a sheet of plastic on the streets, and she was permanently searching for food. She now has a job, has learned how to read and write, and her children attend school. That change has empowered her and given her back her dignity; she has hope and is optimistic about a better future. She’s not alone – over 100 women are working because of the Tiny Miracles Foundation. Their lives, and those of their families, have changed for good.
The foundation’s methods are obviously working, as the Pardeshis are now well on their way to becoming a fully self-supporting community. (The foundation estimates it will take seven years for this group of 700 people to become self-sufficient.) It’s admittedly a small group, but it is an important first step – and there will always be new communities to support in other territories.
Next year, the Tiny Miracles Foundation will start a new project just an hour’s drive from Mumbai, where they’ll introduce the same concept. ‘We’re immensely proud that we can be a part of all this,’ says Raymond.
A STRONG FOUNDATION
The Tiny Miracles Foundation was founded in 2012 by Laurien Meuter and her cousin,
designer Pepe Heykoop. Both fell in love with the beauty of India, its spirit, its colorful traditions and its kind people. But they also felt overwhelmed by the misery, bleak living conditions and poverty they encountered in the city slums. Abuse, severe health problems and addictions thrived, children didn’t go to school, and many families were living on the streets. Laurien and Pepe decided to focus their attention on the small Pardeshi community, in an area that borders the city’s red light district. The foundation’s mission is to eliminate poverty through a holistic approach that simultaneously deals with all areas of life: firstly, they provide basic health care, medicine and weekly doctor’s visits; followed by education and employment (by providing work for the women). They also focus on observing and cultivating the community’s special celebrations and traditions, and of course, their happiness.