It started as a one off thing. When Bobbi Paidel traveled through Northern India in 2014, she saw so many kids that needed help. Bobbi started a straightforward crowdfunding campaign to raise $5,000 for a single project, working with local orphanages to provide kids with winter wear. The concept was simple; donations = gifts for the kids AND gifts for you, acknowledging donations with handmade items from India – scarves, jewelry and bags, Phil Haley traveled to India and caught the end of Bobbi’s first project. When he arrived in the Himalayas where Bobbi was working, Phil spent 1 day working on the project that changed the course of his life.
Bobbi turned this one project into an ongoing effort, establishing a non-profit organization, selling scarves and jewelry to fund future projects. Phil immediately said count me in, and he became the group’s marketing director. Soon thereafter, Bobbi spoke to her childhood friend Dani Shaw, who had a business and accounting background. Dani came on board, set up the Tribe’s accounts, registered as an official entity in Canada and officially put Tribe of Lambs on the map.
In January 2015, the three created a business and marketing plan that began with getting a low interest $15,000 loan. The Tribe bought jewelry, created an online store, started blogging , formed a following of like minded, caring people and started selling jewelry to fund compassion projects. From the initial winter wear project, the Tribe partnered with a care giving organization, Gramiksha, to initiate and complete ongoing projects across India.
A crucial part of Tribe of Lambs is that every step of their jewelry and clothing production is done ethically, with true transparency throughout – sweatshop free, fair pay and good working conditions.
Tribe of Lambs hit a turning point in 2016, the organization changed from working on a project-to-project basis to focusing on orphanages that served HIV positive children. The more research they did, the more they realized that HIV/AIDS is a shunned topic in India. Parents disown and abandon children discovered to be HIV positive, dropping them off at orphanages, or even sadder the parents not realizing they have HIV themselves, leaving an entire family un-medicated and vulnerable.
Furthermore, no government run orphanage will take in a HIV positive child, and if tested and found to have HIV, a child will be put out on the street. HIV positive children (and adults) are pariahs in Indian society, shunned by their communities.
Tribe of Lambs began working with Rays Home for HIV Positive Children, located in Jaipur. When they began their partnership, Rays was struggling to be able to pay its bills – its rent, staff salaries, medication for its children, etc. Tribe of Lambs is now paying children’s tuitions so Rays can pay its bills and expand its capacity, which is essential if Rays is going to impact a major portion of Jaipur’s estimated 2,500 HIV positive children.
In fact, expanding its reach, serving more and more children, becoming self-sufficient, and ultimately leading to more people employed and greater HIV education. Their goal is to build co-ops where HIV positive men and women work in the HIV homes and factories to make jewelry, the proceeds of which Tribe of Lambs return to HIV positive children, who eventually become ambassadors showing how HIV positive people can succeed in Indian society.
It was when Bobbi and Dani completed their Landmark Advanced Course in December 2015, and Phil participated in The Landmark Forum in March, 2016 that this larger picture jumped into focus for the Tribe. As Landmark Graduates, the group began to work together even better – standing for each other, having integrity in everything they do, accepting no excuses, and creating an even larger vision for what they see is possible.
Complete self-sufficiency of co-ops that make jewelry to fund the homes for HIV positive children is the ultimate goal, along with a breakthrough in public awareness and education about AIDS in India.
Currently, some of the most common outcomes for HIV positive children include stealing, passing on HIV/AIDS to others through prostitution, and simply dying. Stemming from un-education and fear in Indian society about HIV/AIDS – many people think it’s airborne, can be spread through touch, sharing water, kissing, etc.
Because of this, in many places HIV positive people are not allowed in parks, on buses, in stores – they are simply shunned, ignored, and feared. By reducing the stigma and increasing education, people in India can see that HIV positive people can live safely together with rest of society. This togetherness is what Tribe of Lambs is all about – ‘Together we give’ is the organization’s motto and it really is about togetherness, tribe, and inclusion for the three founders, it’s customers, the kids and society, both the Western World and India.
“We truly are all in this together,” says Haley.