India - SISP

SISP stands for Sebastian Indian Social Projects and was founded in December 1996 by Peter Paul John (Kerala, India), Werner Fynaerts and Paul Van Gelder (Mechelen, Belgium) SISP concentrates on the poor and those who get little or no chances in the Indian society, specifically in the little villages that are located in Vizhinjam in Kerala.

SISP tries to positively change the life quality of these people by offering them free schooling, training in social resistance and leading them in financial help for medical care, food and school fees. SISP works very close together with local authorities.

Ask anybody that has visited the projects in India and they will always tell you how thankful the kids and families are to be part of this wonderful project!

Kids can go to school for free, even the girls! And they get the chance to break through the cycle of poverty. They get an upbringing in the most important meaning and always start from the rights of the kids, which is not always an easy job to do in India. Women learn to read and be independent with their income through the borrowing project. In this way they can take better care for their children without being fully dependent on their husband. The ill, poor and weak from the local region get help and support straight away. For them, SISP is what gives them the strength and chance to heal form all the pain and worries.

In the different work ateliers from SISP, high ecological products are being made. These are sold as well as on the local markets in India as here in Belgium in all kinds of different ways.

The coconut unit

There is one thing that symbolizes the state of Kerala for every visitor: the coconut palm.

You simply cannot miss the sight of millions of these trees lining the golden beaches, roads, and filling up every free space. The fruit of this palm is of vital value for the locals: the milk, flesh and husk of the coconut can be used to make oil, food, fuel, cosmetics and fiber, while the shell has been traditionally crafted for centuries to make utensils. This is where SISP got the idea to upgrade these traditionally handmade utensils into high-end, beautifully designed items, both with a functional or purely aesthetical purpose.

Every month the younger members of the coconut unit make their tour in the area and collect hundreds of shells, which are otherwise sometimes even being burned, simply because there are too many of them. These shells are than stripped of their milk, flesh and husk and the shell is being cut, drilled and sanded into the desired shape. After hours of fine handwork by our skilled staff the coconut unit delivers a variety of items like bracelets, earrings, candleholders and penholders which we proudly present to you.

The paper unit

A proper waste policy is still a distant dream in India. Kerala is one of the greenest states in the whole of India, but even here one can simply not deny the huge amounts of waste that are piled up everywhere. With SISP we try to do our share in keeping Kerala green, by using dumped paper as a raw material for our paper handicrafts. Old newspapers and magazines are normally being burned or tossed away somewhere. Neither of these procedures offer a green solution: burning the paper helps polluting the air even more, while India already has the highest percentage of fine dust worldwide. While throwing the paper away will eventually lead to the paper polluting the soil, rivers and ocean.

Nearly a decade ago SISP send off a small group of women for a training in paper handicrafts. These women have been ever since refining their skills, designing new items and training other destitute women and youngsters. What started off with a small unit making simple paper bags out of recycled newspapers has grown into a professionally organized unit, employing at least ten people, creating a variety of refined items and satisfying customers worldwide.

The stitching unit

India has a multibillion dollar fabric industry that delivers the raw materials for a big percentage of the global textile industry. But what happens with the meters of left over fabrics and with all the worn off shirts and saris of the local families? Can’t we give these textiles a second life? This is the question we at SISP asked ourselves before finally setting up a stitching unit.

On a regular basis the members of the stitching unit pay a visit to the local tailors and ask for their left over rags. These rags are then being used as the raw material for our fine selection of handmade stitching items. Unfortunately we are sometimes obliged to purchase some new fabrics, because we can’t find proper matching fabrics to finish one of our items, but we try to minimize this as much as possible.

Kovalam Surfclub

The Kovalam Surfclub is located in Kovalam, South-India and was founded in 2005 as a part of the bigger NGO SISP. The idea behind the Kovalam Surfclub is to get the children of SISP off the streets outside of the school hours and to act as an extra motivation to keep these kids going to school on a regular basis. The main rule to participate in the surf classes is: 'No school—No surfing'!

The Kovalam Surfclub started off with 3 old boards and 5 to 10 kids, eager to become good surfers. Today, the Kovalam Surf Club has around 40 members and is a registered sportsclub the first official surfclub in India. Now the Kovalam Surfclub also runs a small surf related business offering a fair career to three local youngsters. With the profit of the commercial side of the Kovalam Surfclub we sustain the free surfschool for local underprivileged youth, pay the wage for the staff and sponsor the social activities of S.I.S.P.