Beauty in Brokenness: Nozomi Project Vision Expands
by Rebecca Gutknecht
HOPE. IT WAS NEEDED AFTER JAPAN’S TRIPLE DISASTER IN MARCH 2011, THE COMBINATION OF THE EARTHQUAKE, TSUNAMI, AND NUCLEAR PLANT MELTDOWN. THE PEOPLE IN THE DAMAGED AREAS WERE IN SHOCK AND DESPAIR. BROKENNESS WAS EVERYWHERE.
Hope emerged, initially from those who helped. The Japanese Church gave supplies, care, and empathy. People also came from around the world to provide support and comfort for those left in disaster’s wake. Many organizations responded, including Asian Access. After initial relief efforts were underway, it became clear that economic hope was needed for long-term recovery.
The Japanese word nozomi (のぞみ) means “hope”, and, at just the right time, the Nozomi Project was born.
Birthing a Business that Lifts
Sue Takamoto, pioneer of The Nozomi Project, originally started the enterprise with their Be One church planting team after the heartbreaking events of 2011. Sue and Eric uprooted family from Osaka to the center of Japan’s disaster area in order to bring help to the hopeless. After witnessing the pain and suffering of so many women in their new community, she desperately wanted to find a way to help.
One day, Sue was working with a volunteer team to clean out a park that was littered with pieces of trucks, broken glass, dead fish, etc when she noticed hundreds of pieces of broken dishes everywhere. Those shards inspired her to use the broken pieces to bring hope. With that broken pottery, she had the idea to jumpstart a jewelry-making business that would provide jobs for women who lost their jobs, homes, and even family members.
The Nozomi Project is a “social enterprise bringing sustainable income, community, dignity, and hope to the women in Ishinomaki, Japan by training them to craft high-quality jewelry products.” Asian Access’ tagline “Changing the few who change the many” is fitting. With just one person’s idea, an entire business can thrive and support communities in need.
Today, having sent over 45,000 pieces of jewelry around the world, the company boasts hundreds of stunning necklaces, earrings, and rings—all native to Japan’s disaster area. Their motto “beauty in brokenness” is not only inspiring but holds so much truth to the mission and to the women involved.
Bringing the Blessing of Hope to Cambodia
With the Nozomi Project in its eighth year and thriving, Sue Takamoto was inspired to expand this microenterprise to other countries. She and her husband have been praying for a few years about expanding their work to help more women. Now they hope to start a social enterprise to empower women in Cambodia. The country is among the poorest in the world; they have their own form of devastation from sex trafficking and the still-hindering effects of the Pol Pot regime in the late 1970s. Takamoto saw this firsthand when their family first visited in August 2018, and subsequently has made several trips back this last year with members of their Nozomi and local church team to prayerfully consider how they could make a difference.
One in particular, Kiri*, was forced into prostitution when her family could not afford health costs. Another woman was rescued out of the business with her young daughter but was diagnosed with HIV soon after. If a social enterprise could get off the ground, those women could not only make a decent living, but also provide for their families and themselves. Takamoto hopes they can bring a “hope project” similar to that of Nozomi Project to help women in Cambodia.
“These stories are the fire under my feet that ignite my passion to want to make a difference!”
This is a new venture for members of Nozomi Project. The partnership with Cambodia would not be possible without the help of Asian Access. Based on President Joe Handley’s recommendation, Sue Takamoto reached out to the national director of Asian Access/Cambodia, Pastor Meng Aun Hour and his wife Rady. The couple has already opened a school in the slums, an orphanage, and a few house churches across the country.
When the Takamoto family first visited them in Phnom Penh, they were touched by the couple’s leadership, humility, and vision. When asked what they needed, Pastor Meng was quick to answer...
“We need job for women and teen girls!”
Partnering & Collaborating in Cambodia
The long-term dream for the Nozomi-Cambodia partnership is to join with Pastor Meng’s ongoing projects in Phnom Penh to open a holistic training center for teens, teaching them everything from sewing to biblical principles. For now, Takamoto and her team will be focusing on the Cambodian church rescue center. Women coming out of sex trafficking will learn new skills as their dignity and hope are being restored.
“[My husband] Eric and I quickly felt drawn into the culture and people, and we felt God’s calling to make a difference. We love their hearts.”
Jewelry & Jeans to Help Rescue Lives
Many Cambodian women are naturally gifted at sewing. With that common resource, the focus of this social enterprise will focus on a trade that is naturally found in that culture.
“We are partnering with an ethically-run denim company in the same village as the rescue center and purchasing their quality-fail jeans,” Takamoto said.
Fortunately, Takamoto met with one of the local church leaders’ wives, Chorvey, and she has agreed to help manage and teach the budding project. With her extensive sewing experience, Chorvey will teach the women coming out of sex trafficking a new trade. As the project is in its beginning stages, a trial period is in motion.
Sue was excited to share that, “We’ve placed our first order—1,500 denim gift bags that Nozomi will use for a new ethical line of jewelry we will release in the spring. It is an exciting process for all parties involved.”
Now Available for Purchase
The Nozomi Project has a current Cambodian product line available for purchase. It is a gorgeous collection of blue Cambodian pottery, from earrings to necklaces. The proceeds from the line will be used to get the ball rolling for the startup of Nozomi Cambodia. Sue Takamoto is hopeful for the future of this new sub-brand and can’t wait for the dream to blossom.
Members of the Japanese Nozomi team have already visited Cambodia on multiple occasions and the results are heartwarming to say the least. Some of the women already involved in Nozomi are more than willing to share their blessings. The Nozomi Japan manager was the most encouraging to witness.
Takamoto expressed her joy over the manager's response: “I think this is what God has made me to do,” she said.
Finding Beauty in Brokenness
Through her own brokenness, she was able to find beauty. The prospect of a Nozomi-inspired project in Cambodia is nothing short of a godsend.
“It is so powerful to see our Japanese women reaching out to the women of Cambodia. Only God could have thought of this cross-cultural partnership. It is beautiful.”
Why Not Give Hope this Holiday?
We hear about hope a lot during the holidays. So on this Thanksgiving week and holiday season, why not choose to actually bring hope? Choose the gift of Nozomi. With your generosity and prayers, Cambodian women will be able to come out of harmful careers and thrive. The Nozomi Project is a wonderful way to bring hope to the women of Japan and Cambodia. Follow the link below to make a contribution or purchase a unique piece of jewelry.
SHOP Now Browse Nozomi Project's Cambodian Collection
GIVE Now to Nozomi Project — Use the form here to donate.
Rebecca Gutknecht is a freelance writer native to Los Angeles, California. She specializes in creative content relating to travel, self-help, and weddings. With a background in education and the arts, she can flex with various writing styles and content areas. Always up for a challenge.
- *Name was changed for privacy.
- Nozomi Project (website) | Instagram | Facebook
- Sue Takamoto's Asian Access staff profile
- Photos courtesy Sue Takamoto.
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