How Cobblers, Recycled Tires and One, Incredible Idea are Changing Lives

by | Oct 27, 2022 | Heartivist Of The Week

Do cobblers still exist? As R. Senthamarai discovered during the COVID-19 pandemic when she met with an impoverished community of cobblers in the village of Vilvarani of Kalasapakkam Taluk, Tiruvannamalai District, Tamil Nadu, India who had been out of work, the answer is yes. As the Founder and Director of The Social Improvement Voluntary Association, a nonprofit based in Tamil Nadu, Senthamarai works to uplift the lives of community members that no one else is helping, especially women and children, so meeting the cobblers sparked an idea that would benefit two communities. 

Senthamarai comes from a poor family and was, fortunately, able to own some land as an adult. Having seen poverty early one, Senthamarai wanted to serve and uplift people. So with the assistance of her husband, she registered their nonprofit organization with the government in 1988. Since then, they have been blessed to serve many disadvantaged people with special attention to women and children. It’s been more than 30 years now and they continue to help as many people as possible through different programs. 

While assisting people distressed by the COVID-19 pandemic in May 2022, she came across a community of cobblers in the village of Vilvarani. “Their living conditions were horrible. The children were starving and pregnant women did not have access to nutritious food. Their lack of education and healthcare facilities did not help either.” Therefore, Senthamarai decided to help them to become independent. 

“Our project aims to train the cobblers in making ropes and footwear by recycling tires. As you may know, the buying power of the lower middle-class section in India diminished monumentally. They were looking for cheaper alternatives. With the implementation of the project, the cobblers started getting opportunities to sell shoes to people at a much lower price. This enabled them to have an additional source of income.” explained Senthamarai. Since the cost of the raw materials is so low, the profit margin for sale per shoe was high. For example, during the Full Moon, Tiruvannamalai is flooded by over 300,000 people and that presents a huge market opportunity for their cobblers. 

So far, Senthamarai has trained 20 cobbler community members. “I am also happy to share that some nonprofit organizations in our vicinity have joined the movement and are modeling our program as well.”  

Talking about a few challenges she faced, Senthamarai shares, “Unfortunately, we were affected by the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting our activities. Due to the strict protocols, we conduct training on a one-to-one basis which takes up a lot of time but we are learning to adapt. Thankfully, our instructors are really generous and accepted this way of training.”  

A highlight of Senthamarai’s journey in helping cobblers has been seeing one of her beneficiaries open a shop in Tiruvannamalai (about 20 kilometers away from her residence) during the Full Moon Day. “Seeing her thriving, I felt our objective of empowering the cobblers, specifically women, was accomplished. We are proud of this achievement. ”Senthamarai said, “I truly believe that everyone is capable of developing on their own. The only thing they need is proper guidance and encouragement. Illiteracy and poverty should not be impediments to achieving your dreams.”

Compassion could often be a lonely and long path. “We were happy to find another institution that was willing to listen and help those who no one else was helping. This Pollination Project grant is an indication that the cobblers matter and that someone is there for them.”


Do you know someone like R. Senthamarai who is working to make a change and needs microgrants to keep them going?  

Let them know The Pollination Project is here for them. We help both individual and small organizations. Learn more about our changemakers here



Academic professionals Carla Forte Maiolino Molento and Rodrigo Morais-da-Silva founded Cell Ag Brazil at the end of 2023 with support received from The Pollination Project. The objective of the newly created association is to reflect, contribute, and promote the development of cellular agriculture in Brazil through proactive promotion and unifying actions among different audiences interested in the development, production, and commercialization of food through cell cultivation processes. 
With a seed grant, they founded the organization and designed a logo that represents their mission. They are now inviting people and organizations to participate in the association so that it gains greater relevance. 
Their members will be distributed across three chambers: 1) academia, 2) private sector, and 3) third sector and civil society. With this, they aim for diverse representation and to create a positive movement to act in different areas to promote and accelerate alternative proteins in Brazil and Latin America.
Billions of animals involved in food production in Brazil will be impacted in the medium to long term from this work. Data from IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) indicates that approximately 6.1 billion chickens, 56.5 million pigs, and 30 million cattle were slaughtered in Brazil in 2022. 
With this association, Carla and Rodrigo may help reduce the number of non-human individuals involved in food production as they help to speed up the replacement process with alternative proteins.
In this World Day of Social Justice we celebrate the transformative impact of The Pollination Project and our dedication to seeding the essential change our world needs. Since its inception, The Pollination Project has been at the forefront of empowering grassroots initiatives, providing the crucial support needed for small-scale projects to blossom into powerful agents of social change.

Our unique model of micro-granting has enabled a diverse array of projects across the globe, touching upon various facets of social justice including environmental sustainability, poverty alleviation, gender equality, and human rights. From providing clean water solutions in remote villages to empowering women through education and entrepreneurship, we always believed in the power of individual action to create a collective impact.

Each project funded is a testament to our faith in the inherent goodness and potential of every person to contribute meaningfully to the betterment of society. These initiatives not only address immediate community needs but also foster a culture of empathy, equity, and inclusiveness - essential pillars for achieving true social justice.

On this World Day of Social Justice, let's draw inspiration from the myriad projects The Pollination Project has nurtured. Their work reminds us that each small seed of kindness and action can indeed grow into a mighty force for good, paving the way for a more just and compassionate world.