Respect for the artisans is central to everything MarketPlace does. Programs, for example, are driven by the women, from conception through implementation. In 1999, the artisans established the Armaan Club. Armaan means "wish" and their most fervent wish was to educate their daughters and sons. And, they want their children's wishes and dreams to come true. Armaan Club was designed to provide the children with academic support and extracurricular learning experiences.
The club operates as a collaborative effort between the artisans and staff social workers. Each artisan group chooses two Armaan Club leaders and they meet to plan activities. The social workers may help by finding resources and information while MarketPlace funds all activities.
One goal of the club is to improve the academic performance of the children. Social workers, parents and leaders evaluate the children's test results and devise a plan for each. They set goals for each child and may even visit the teachers. Career awareness and career guidance programs are held for both the children and their mothers, so they know their options and how to proceed. In addition, gender sensitization and sex education are tackled.
Academics are not the only way to learn, and Armaan Club also coordinates programs teaching life skills and encouraging creativity. Every Saturday there are judo classes, dance classes and soccer games. Such activities involve discipline, cooperation and simple pleasure. During the school vacations children can enjoy craft sessions, song and drama activities, picnics and overnight camps. Being part of a community of kids from different backgrounds, religions and areas is broadening and educational.
Among all the great strides the women have made, all the accomplishments and success stories I hear, meeting the children and seeing them grow up respectful and happy gives me the most joy. When one of the girls told me that her dream was to be the President of MarketPlace, I knew that the Armaan Club was doing a great job.