When the tsunami swept across south Asia on 26 Dec 2004, it devastatedmany fishing villages along the south east coast of India. UmaPrajapati, living just miles from the shore in the universal townshipof Auroville near Pondicherry, gathered her young colleagues from herclothing company Upasana Design Studio to brainstorm how they couldhelp.
The group conceived the idea for Tsunamika and offered it to the local fisherwomen to help them generate a new source of income.
Nearly 480 women from six villages took part in the Tsunamika training.Although 60 per cent of them had never threaded a needle before, around150 women are now creating these little dolls from material left overfrom the Upasana studio.
In the process, the women have discovered far more than a livelihood ñthe project has given them trauma counselling, creative expression,self-esteem and a chance to become trainers themselves. As one of thewomen said, ‘Tsunami came for Tsunamika.’
Funded initially by the NGO Concern Worldwide, Upasana guaranteed thewomen a monthly payment for their work ñ but insisted that theTsunamikas were always gifted and never sold.
What makes Tsunamika unique is that she is freely given to whoeverwants her. Unconditional giving is one her characteristics ñ a beliefstemming from the work of the Indian spiritual teachers Sri Aurobindoand the Mother, who believed that trust and goodwill would replacemoney in economies of the future.
Taking a leap of faith, the Tsunamika team found that many people wereinspired to help. In just one year, they have become self-sustaining.Now, ten voluntary ambassadors distribute the dolls all over the worldthrough a network of love and friendship ñ with no price tags,advertisements or salaries involved.
‘Tsunamika is a young girl with a life of her own and these ambassadorsare her parents,’ explained Uma who toured Europe spreading Tsunamika’smessage in April. ‘Don’t contribute unless you really feel for it.Tsunamika will bring the funds she needs and will bring her parents tosupport her in a new gift economy.’
The Tsunamika team intends to spend their donations on developing theconsciousness of all the people involved, not only the people in thevillages affected by the tsunami, but also the people who receiveTsunamika. ‘We are exploring an integral method of economicdevelopment, sustainability, education, creativity and spiritual growthof society as a whole, not just one section of the society,’ said Uma.
Already almost half a million Tsunamikas have been made and Uma isaiming for a million. This is a clearly story that will run and run.
A Tsunamika book has been produced and is being translated into sevenlanguages. It tells the tale of the daughter of the tsunami who hascome to be a friend to those who suffered loss and now to peopleworldwide. And it conveys the extraordinary power of a little doll inSouth India that has turned a tragedy into an opportunity to supportthe poor, and give hope that we can live in a world where the joy ofgiving is what inspires us.
What you can do?
ïGive children Tsunamika and tell them her story
ïUnconditionally receive her and share her
ïUse Tsunamika in creative ways
ïShare who you are, send us a small note, picture, your thoughts or acts of compassion inspired by Tsunamika
ï If you are interested in becoming a Tsunamika ambassador please write to [email protected]
ï If you want to send a donation please visit www.tsunamika.org
By Peter Lloyd
First published by Positive News Hong Kong