By Hasanthi Jayamaha; Edited by Katie Hackett
At the age of 11, Priya made a decision to be “independent” when she grew up. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to do. She only knew she wanted to have her own source of income.
"Although my parents worked on the tea estate, they did other things too to provide for us," says the now 23-year-old. "My father made garlands to sell during temple festivals and my mother stitched clothes sometimes."
Priya helped with both projects, but it was sewing that captured her attention.
"I would watch my mother pedal the machine and be so entertained,” she says. “Later I began to make paper clothes for practice. By the time I was 19 I was convinced I should stitch clothes and earn an income."
She also had a knack for aesthetics and got attention for being especially good at doing makeup and dressing people for weddings. She was encouraged to pursue work as a beautician. Those plans took a back seat when her mother passed away suddenly, leaving Priya and her father to provide for the family, especially for her sister who was still in school.
During this difficult season, Priya met World Vision. She joined a job training program where she received updated teaching in aesthetics as well as business skills.
"Youth like me were given career guidance and I also learned about marketing, business and financial planning and savings," she says. "As my business grew, I used the knowledge I received to stabilize and improve my financial planning. It in turn helped me strengthen my family economy."
The biggest lesson Priya learned was to invest in the quality of her work, rather than fancy advertising. Sure enough, she gained a reputation for excellence and the loyal clients followed.
“I was able to take care of all expenditure with regard to my sister’s education while my father took care of other home expenses,” she says. “I even saved enough money for any medical emergency."
As Priya helped clients prepare for weddings, she saw an opportunity to create better garments as well and returned to her childhood love, expanding her business to include tailoring.
"The quality of my work not only brought me a stable and improved income, but also brought prestige," she says. "Girls who didn’t talk to me in school because they had a better life began to talk to me and ask for my services. But I don’t forget the girls I went to school with from my community, who are now plucking tea to provide for their families. I talk to them often and encourage them."
Priya has bigger dreams now. She wants to open another parlour in town and teach beauty skills to other girls. And of course she wants to see her sister get through to university.
Help a hardworking family provide for their children. Invest in a small business.