Nozomi Project trains Cambodian women in reclamation

By Tianna Haas | East Asia Office in East Asia

The Nozomi Project, a gospel-fuelled enterprise, celebrates beauty from brokenness. Now they extend their vision of creating jobs and renewing hope to Cambodian women trapped by the sex industry.

The project’s beginnings

In 2011, north eastern Japan was devastated by an earthquake and subsequent tsunami. Waves as tall as a 12-storey-tall building crashed down on to homes, businesses and people.

SIM workers Sue and Eric Takamoto entered the scene in Ishinomaki to minister amidst the disaster.

Sue, from New Jersey, US, and Eric, from Hawaii, US, met while attending Fuller Seminary and preparing for ministry. Sue had previously served in Japan from three years, but Eric joined her on her second term of service in 2001, shortly after they married.

Before Ishinomaki, the Takamotos were in Sendai, another area badly affected by the 2011 disasters. Then, the Takamotos planted churches in western Japan for eight years. The Takamotos also adopted their four children throughout this time.

Their prior connection to Sendai drew them back to northeastern Japan, where many were mourning the incredible losses.

The catastrophe had left piles of once-loved possessions damaged and strewn across streets. One day, Sue removed debris in a park. She began to collect shards of pottery as though they were seashells. She saw the beauty in these fragments and wondered if they could become something more.

The thought lingered as Sue began to befriend mothers in her community the next year. Her friendships inspired her to foster hope by using discarded pottery pieces to create jewellery.

Once the jewellery-making process was underway, the seeds for the Nozomi Project began to grow. (Read the full story about how collaboration birthed the Nozomi Project.)

From the beginning, the Nozomi Project sought to employ women in an economy that was badly bruised and had few places for them. Sue shares about the rescuing power of Jesus with these women and seeks to honour the Lord as the project grows.

Sue said: “It really is our faith that leads the way in every decision that we make… I’ve had some amazing chances to share our story of hope and beauty in brokenness with people around the world because of this door that God has opened for Nozomi Project.”

As a faith-based social enterprise, the Nozomi Project is now a flourishing business that sells its redeemed jewellery around the world.

Sue said: “One of the comments that we hear so often is that Nozomi is unique in our city because it allows for women to take off whenever they need in order to take care of their children or attend doctor appointments.”

The women have a plentiful store of material to work from, even though it is now eight years since the tsunami struck. During the first two years, volunteers gathered broken pottery from the fields and washed-up zones. They would return with buckets full of remnants.

Sue said: “We still have crates of that pottery left. In addition, we are getting donations from a nearby second-hand store, as well as people in the community who know what we are doing and lend boxes of donations. We have plenty of pottery to work with and are so grateful for that!”

Sharing hope in Cambodia

The Lord has now allowed the Takamotos and some of the members of Nozomi Project to extend that passion for restoration to women in another country who are experiencing hardship. The Takamotos heard that, in some areas of Cambodia, women feel pressured to make a living in either the sex industry or sweatshops. SIM connected the Takamotos with national partners and pastors in Cambodia, who were rescuing and rehabilitating women from sex trafficking. The Takamoto family began to travel to the area to see how God could use them. (Read about a Cambodian woman’s dream to support her son outside of the sex industry.)

Sue’s yearning to provide women with a viable trade deepened, and after much prayer, she followed God’s call to offer practical help.

To cast a vision for this project, she took Nozomi employees on two trips to Cambodia. They discovered that sewing may be the answer. Many Cambodian women have sewing skills, so that offered a natural opportunity for income.

Sue said: “We are working with an ethically-run denim company in the same village as the rescue centre and purchasing their quality-fail jeans. We are training these women to sew items from that denim.”

The first order has been placed, and the women will begin to make 1,500 denim gift bags for the Nozomi Project, which will accompany a new line of ethical jewellery, due to release this spring.

The Nozomi Project is also helping to sponsor its Cambodian partner’s safe house, which protects survivors of sex trafficking, through a collection of jewellery made from Cambodian pottery.

Sue’s conviction to offer purpose and dignity to what’s fractured is the same one that those on mission have as they share God’s love with the world. Jesus reached out to us in our sinful, fallen state and made a way to repair the rift between humanity and God. The next step is to extend the good news of restoration in Christ to others – just like the Nozomi employees are doing for Cambodian women.

Pray for:

the Cambodian women escaping sex trafficking to find healing in Jesus.

the Takamotos as they seek to work with local Cambodian leaders to create sustainable jobs.

the Takamotos and the Nozomi Project employees to continue sharing gospel hope with those affected by the 2011 disaster and other adversities.

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