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Nozomi Project Blog

Ten Ideas to Make Your Holiday Season More Meaningful

Ten Ideas to Make Your Holiday Season More Meaningful

We all need extra ways to feel good this holiday season! Two of our Nozomi team members, Claire Foster and Sue Takamoto, team up to share ten ideas to make our holidays even more “merry and bright.”

  1. Find fun and wonderful ways to wrap your gifts and have a lower impact on our environment. (Did you know that glittery holiday wrapping paper generally is NOT recyclable?) A few of our favorites: using old maps, butcher paper, or – Sue’s choice this year – even old telephone books! And scarves (second-hand or new) can serve dual purposes – use the gift as wrapping!

  1. Choose ethical brands for gift-giving. There are so many amazing brands out there that are making sure to care for people and planet from start to finish. A couple of our favorites are Outland Denim and Noonday Collection. Interested in sustainable Japan-based gifts? We love Minimal Living Tokyo that sells everyday items for a zero-waste home. Check out this article in Timeout Tokyo (starting page 12) that includes Nozomi Project and other companies in Japan joining the green revolution.
  1. Join the wave of quarantined friends who are returning to the art of making their own Christmas cards! Last year Sue’s family chose to photoshop their family photos into Christmas movies for their annual card; Home Alone 4 anyone?

  1. We’d be remiss if we didn’t highlight Nozomi’s own ethically-sourced Dara Collection! We intentionally chose whimsical, irregularly shaped pottery for our new Dara Collection. Our Dara jewelry parts are ethically sourced, and each purchase is shipped in a denim gift bag hand-made by vulnerable women in Cambodia and packaged plastic-free with recyclable paper products. 

  1. Choose consignment when gifting! We’ve found the quality of clothes, the rating system, and even the wrapping at online consignment shops like Poshmark and ThredUp to be completely gift-worthy!
  1. 2020 is the year of reading – we love ThriftBooks, Biblio, and Book Depository for finding and giving favorite books. (Besides, we think ear-marked and slightly worn books are the best finds!) For the last few years, these have been Sue’s go-to when looking for books!
  1. We love the idea of repairing and repurposing! One book on Claire’s Christmas list this year is Wear, Repair, Repurpose, a book to help jump-start our sewing and mending abilities.
  1. Find small companies that make items you love! Uzumati Ceramics is a female-owned small business that does incredible work. Claire ordered a Yosemite mug for her husband last Christmas, and they received a utensil rest from them as a wedding gift. Super cool and unique!! The gifts from Metalbird make unique and wonderful outdoor gifts that just get better over time. It's the perfect year to support small companies. Last year the tea towels Sue gave her sisters printed with their favorite family recipes have become beloved part of their kitchens ever since.

  1. Instead of a gift exchange, choose a project with your family or your group that will make a difference for others! Angel Tree (providing gifts for children with incarcerated parents), Compassion International’s gift catalog to help the very poor, and you don't need the red kettle to give through the Salvation Army as they respond to some huge global needs.   
  1. Finally, no holiday list is complete without sharing a favorite recipe! Sue’s family-favorite drink during the holidays is homemade eggnog, which tastes worlds better than the store-bought cartons – at least according to her kids! Though it won’t happen this year, she has brought this along to many holiday events in previous years. Our wish is that with all the challenges of this year, your season is filled with hope and unexpected simple pleasures. 

Sue's Homemade Eggnog (makes enough for 6)

1) Separate 8 eggs.

2) Beat egg whites until stiff.

3) Mix together and beat well the following ingredients in a mixing bowl or your blender:
8 egg yolks
1/3 C. sugar (regular or Swerve/monkfruit)
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/4 t. cloves
1/4 t. nutmeg
2 t. vanilla
1/2 C. heavy cream (optional but so yummy!)
3 C. milk (regular or almond milk)

4) Mix the egg whites in for just a few seconds; pour into your favorite goblets. (Optional happiness: add a dose of regular or non-alcoholic rum).

5) Sprinkle tops of each glass with nutmeg. Enjoy! 

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My Journey towards Ethical Awareness

My Journey towards Ethical Awareness

True confession: Even though I am the founder and director of one of the very few social enterprises in Japan for women, I have not been very aware of the issues surrounding the fashion industry and ethical sustainability.

That all began to change two years ago.

After some deliberate consideration, my husband and I canceled our planned seaside  vacation to instead go as a family to Cambodia. Let’s just say our four children were not excited about this decision! Upon arrival, we were hosted by wonderful Cambodian friends also working with our organization. We told them that our goal was to see and experience “real life” in this developing country.

Those eight days changed our views of the world - our children included. We all fell in love with the children in the orphanage; we walked through the Killing Fields museums and our eyes and hearts could barely handle the pain we saw; we were deeply moved by seeing the poverty of the children and families surrounding the urban school built near the trash heaps. Yet as we walked through a new rescue center being built for vulnerable women, and talked with our new friends who are sacrificing to make a difference there, we felt new hope being born. 

And we wanted to be involved.

“What is your greatest need right now?” I asked our Cambodian partner one day in the van. I expected the obvious answer of finances, but Meng’s response surprised me:

“We need jobs for women and girls!”

Those words stayed with me as we returned to Japan. Here in Ishinomaki, we've gained experience creating jobs for women by operating Nozomi Project since the year after the 2011 tsunami. But... would that work in Cambodia? I couldn’t forget the teens and women I had met there who had no good options for their future. We had to try!

In February 2019, I returned to Phnom Penh, this time with my daughter and two of our Ishinomaki Nozomi team members. Three months later, we were able to make another trip with three Nozomi teammates. Each of these women was able to see, with their own eyes, the beauty of the Cambodian people and the incredible need for sustainable work. With each trip, my heart grew more committed to somehow making a difference. And with each trip, we gained clearer understanding of how we might be able to do just that. 

We are not alone. During those week-long trips, we made some amazing connections with others who are committed to finding new employment options for girls and women. We began exploring different partnership opportunities. And we have connections outside of Cambodia; could we use those to create jobs inside Cambodia? 

One evening I went out with two of our local friends. In one of the many “red light” districts in Phnom Penh, we went into several establishments and started talking with some of the young women who were not busy. One new friend "SH" said her parents pushed her and her two sisters to do this because they were ill and needed medical help. Another friend "L" shared that she could not find any other way to buy food for her young daughter. Heart-breaking story after heart-breaking story, these women became real people to me; they shared their lives with me and    the reasons that pushed them into such degrading work. 

We discovered that most Cambodian women learn how to sew — it is a nation-wide industry that has unfortunately led to widespread unethical practices and slave labor, even among children. We connected with women near the new rescue center who are willing to teach sewing skills to the rescue center's new and future residents. And through a chance elevator encounter, we have begun partnering with a wonderful denim company in that city that has built a fantastic ethically-sourced business. They are now selling quality-failed denim pieces to the women near the rescue center, which are being made into our new Dara Collection gift bags. It’s a small but important beginning. 

Although COVID has prevented further trips in 2020, we are so pleased to launch our new Dara Collection at this time. We are creating this new “sub-brand” from ethically sourced materials as we seek to be more intentionally ethical at Nozomi.

Even the name Dara (meaning “star” in the Khmer/Cambodian language) connects us across the ocean to something beyond our Ishinomaki world here. I hope and pray that our influence can expand in places like Cambodia, and that together our united efforts will help teen girls and women have new opportunities like what we would want our own daughters to have.  

Through my trips to Cambodia and seeing how the “fast fashion” industry has created an abusive system of manufacturing in countries like Cambodia, I have moved away from non-ethical retail purchases for my own clothes. I'm a regular at our local second-hand stores now, and I’ve found it worth saving up to buy a piece of clothing that has been ethically manufactured. It’s another small step that I can make.

 I feel like I’ve just started this journey of ethical awareness, with so much more to learn and consider. And I believe that each of our small steps can make a difference for young women like "SH" who deserve a better life.


Founder, Nozomi Project

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Giving Back: Collaborative Effort of Hope in Cambodia

Giving Back: Collaborative Effort of Hope in Cambodia

The cycle of sex trafficking is a hard one to break. Nozomi Project is partnering with leaders in Cambodia to bring dignity and hope to vulnerable women in Cambodia. Each purchase from our Cambodian Collection is making a difference in the lives of women around the world. 

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Flash Back and Give Forward

Flash Back and Give Forward

Yesterday, I walked downstairs and saw a woman I didn't know, sipping tea with one of our team members. Chipped pottery was strewn on the coffee table around them...

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Giving Back: Flood Relief in Western Japan

Giving Back: Flood Relief in Western Japan

Western Japan was flooded after continuously heavy rains in July 2018. We caught up with Chad, who coordinated a team of volunteers on a relief trip. Read to the end for stories of beauty in brokenness in Kure!

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