During the summer of 2005, 19-year-old Alia Whitney-Johnson arrived in Sri Lanka as a tsunami-relief volunteer. During this trip, she encountered a heartbreaking reality: Girls as young as 11 who had survived rape or incest and had the courage to stand up for themselves in court were cast out of their own families, denied the right to formal education, and locked-up for their own protection.
A jewelry-maker since age seven, Alia decided to host a beading workshop to get to know the girls better. The act of creating jewelry soon became a tool for transformation, uplifting the girls’ spirits and ultimately helping them to overcome the emotional, social, and economic obstacles they faced. Emerge was born as a way to help girls heal while learning critical life and business skills through jewelry design. Bead by bead and girl by girl, Emerge has enabled hundreds of girls to develop healthy, self-sufficient lives.
Our new Emerge Center provides a residential empowerment program for young women as they transition from Emerge programs in shelters into their independent, adult lives. Emerge also supports this transition by connecting young women to a variety of local resources and service providers, providing general support and check-ins, and hosting annual alumnae reunions.
Beading frees my mind.
Every Monday, we were waiting for Emerge with a heart full of happiness.
This money I earned form Emerge have contributed to building my house. This money will be reimbursed to me as my family is involved in a housing project spearheaded by the Government. When I get my money back I hope to re-save it for the future of my family.
An unexpected event changed my life one day. It left me at my lowest, heart broken and lonely. At that time, when I was without any help, feeling sad, it was the Emerge beading workshop that helped ease my pain and loneliness and helped me make up my mind and console myself. The satisfaction I feel in combining beautiful colors, designing and completing a beautiful necklace or bracelet is hard to describe in words. These workshops have helped me succeed in life and face life as a successful human being to this day. Now as my career, I have dedicated myself to teach girls that have faced the same challenges as me. I do it with immense happiness.
My favorite part of the program was playing shopkeeper at the Emerge Store. I calculated the supplies vouchers to check if other girls’ math was correct. I like to teach others and it makes me happy to share what I have learned.