Life is extremely hard for women living in desperate poverty. Things most people can take for granted – providing regular meals, keeping homes safe, making sure children go to school – are often unachievable when a family of five lives on less than US$2.00 per day. Red Rope was born out of a vision to empower women struggling with the realities of poverty to provide income for their needy families.
Red Rope began in 2006 when the Hong Kong office of ICM decided to auction a handmade quilt in their annual banquet. Deanna Sutherland, Red Rope’s founder, worked with a group of women from ICM’s programs to design and construct a hand-sewn quilt. Much to the excitement of the women who made it, the quilt raised US$10,000 to support ICM’s work. The name Red Rope comes from the Biblical story of Rahab in Joshua 2:21. The red rope she hung out her window represented a way out of desperate life circumstances and a new life of dignity and hope.
When Red Rope started, only a few of the 22 ladies worked on sewing machines. Most did hand-sewing (paid by the piece) to make the cushion covers, quilt squares and table runners which were sold in Hong Kong by ICM. At the beginning, the Red Rope women had to learn the basics: how to us a tape measure, how to cut fabric accurately and how to make patterns. But over time they have become very skilled seamstresses, making export-quality products. In 2009, the ladies presented a proposal to ICM and won a contract to make the 2,220 uniforms for ICM’s Jumpstart Kindergarten scholars. In 2009, Red Rope also completed all the necessary requirements to become an independent cooperative.
Suzette Ceballos is the manager of Red Rope. She reflects on what the job has meant to her. “Working at Red Rope for over nine years now has helped me earn a stable income which I can count on and help my husband with the finances.”
When Suzette’s children were very young, most of her income went towards paying for their milk and diapers. Now her income is enough that she is able to pay for her children’s uniforms, school fees and transportation. Suzette says that her Red Rope job allows her kids to stay in school and for the family to stay healthy. Thanks to Suzette’s salary, when their fresh water supply ran out, the family was able to pay for their well to be dug deeper.
Not only does Suzette receive financial benefits from Red Rope, she also finds personal satisfaction in the job as well. “The best part of the job is when I am able to create the sample that Ma’am Deanna wants. It’s a fulfilling feeling of success when she approves the design I made. Once the sample is approved, it means more work and more income for all of us.”
Suzette loves working at Red Rope. “I enjoy sharing the skills and ideas that I know because this has always been the desire of my heart. I like the feeling of teaching others how to sew and us working together to finish a project. My children call me “astig” or “cool” because they say that I can turn an idea in an email into an actual product.”
The Red Rope team has just finished making the uniforms that the children attending ICM’s 75 Jumpstart Kindergartens will wear to school each day. Suzette reflects on the chance these children have been given, “I wish that the children will not only finish at the Jumpstart program, but continue their education until they can hopefully finish college someday. I hope that they and their parents see the value of the help that they get, appreciate the privilege, and make it their stepping stone to a brighter future.”