Long Term Immersion

Looking for a longer term educational experience abroad? Take part in our long term immersion program to achieve a deeper understanding of Indian culture, sewing and  embroidery techniques, and take part in our production process. 

We offer experiences ranging from 1 month up to 6 months depending on your level of commitment and preferences. 

During this time you will be able to take Hindi classes starting at the basic level, enroll in traditional Indian dance classes, and learn Indian cooking alongside your host family. 

This experience is ideal for those who wish to play a role in an international NGO while gaining a deep understanding of the technical aspects involved in the  production processes of an ethical fashion studio. Beyond learning garment construction techniques, you will also take part in various aspects of IPHD (girls education program, health education, IPHD office work).  

Lodging: You will be placed with a local middle class Indian host family

Cost: $700 a month which includes room and board and 3 meals a day. 

Please note is is required for foreign citizens to obtain and Indian tourist visa beforehand. 

Our Founder’s Story

It started with one woman. From humble beginnings to inspiring community leader, founder Madhu Vaishnav began IPHD in 2014 with the goal of community development through female empowerment. 

Married at the age of 23, as a part of her marriage contract, Madhu was forbidden from working outside of the home.  Even though she had a masters degree in Indian History she was unable to seek a job. Two healthy sons later, Madhu was a young mother and housewife with a desire to do more.  As her sons began to grow, she became more involved in their education. She even began taking classes to learn English. In an effort to enroll her son in a prestigious English medium academy, she met with the school director and was miraculously offered a position as a teacher. Although Madhu was still an intermediate English speaker, she convinced her family to allow her to accept the offer, and committed herself to teaching during the day and learning English in the evenings.

Although Madhu was a successful and beloved teacher, after four years of working in the school she shifted to work in the nonprofit sector as a social worker. For five years she mainly worked in the slum areas outside Jodhpur as a program coordinator with an American NGO. Her work spanned many areas and she was able to assist in supporting female sex workers, HIV/AIDS awareness, microfinance, skills training, and sex worker education.

When attending a wedding in Bhikamkor, the rural village of her husband’s family, Madhu was exposed to the disadvantaged status of the village women.  She was so inspired by the women’s ability to support their families with little means. From her encounters with the village women, Madhu decided to educate herself more on sustainable development and enrolled in a certificate course at the University of California Berkeley. 

With only $100, the first humanitarian workshops in the village were established. Unfortunately, the women were unable to use this new information because they had no income. However, Madhu saw that every woman in the village owned a sewing machine as part of their marriage dowry.  She saw this as an opportunity to begin a skills training course as part of a fashion social enterprise. 

This came to be known as the Saheli Woman Project, which comes from the Hindi word for ‘female friend’.  This project began to grow and more brands began to partner with the women producers. As Saheli grew, Madhu realized that the young girls in the village needed support, and started the girls education project. 

The philosophy of IPHD revolves around sustainability.  Every aspect of the organization is designed consciously, with the goal of preserved growth.  The main revenue source of IPHD comes from intern fees, not donations. Through this consistent stream of college age volunteers, IPHD is able to utilize students’ various skill sets in a sustainable way, so that the relatively short stay of volunteers does not negatively impact the village people. IPHD trains Bhikamkor locals to act as managers, teachers, and education advocates, individuals that will have a lasting presence in the community. 

Her hope for IPHD is to use Saheli Woman as a tool to empower women as a means of community development. In the future she hopes to expand Saheli Women into nearby villages, and enroll every young girl in the village in school.   

“No girls should be deprived from their education just because of small barriers.” 

-Madhu Vaishnav

Pictured Madhu (center left) with ladies from the Saheli Center

Girls’ Education Program: Celebrating Olivia Arnold

IPHD is proud to congratulate Oliva Arnold, one of our past Girls’ Education Program interns, for being one of three students to receive the 2018 Harold D. Hodgkinson Achievement Award from Northeastern University.

During her time as an intern for IPHD, Arnold ran the Girls’ Education Program, which included training the government teachers in phonetics, engaging in fieldwork with our education advocates, and organizing bags, uniforms, and other school supplies. She was also a strong supporter of the campaign to provide Classes 1-5 at the Government Primary Girls’ School with desks and chairs.

In addition to her work with the Girls’ Education Program, Arnold marketed Saheli Women to a number of companies and helped IPHD create links with different universities in the U.S.

After her graduation this spring, Arnold plans to continue in the field of education by working with Teach for America. We look forward to seeing all the amazing work she will accomplish!

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Girls’ Education Program: Classroom Furniture

IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 5, 2018

CONTACT: Xandie Kuenning, Girls’ Education Intern | xandiek.iphd@gmail.com

As of Republic Day, Jan. 26, the girls attending the Girls’ Government Primary School in Bhikamkor no longer have to sit on the floor during class.

To succeed in school, children need a proper learning environment. Thanks largely to the support of Girls’ Education intern Olivia Arnold, IPHD was able to purchase 20 desk sets in addition to 2 teachers’ tables and 4 teachers’ stools to help create this setting in the Girls’ Government Primary School in Bhikamkor.

The newly-furnished classrooms were officially reopened on Republic Day with ceremony celebrating education and a ribbon cutting by the Sarpanch (elected village leader). The additions to the school were also covered by a local newspaper.

IPHD is now looking towards improving the school facilities in other ways, including providing the students with a drinking water facility.

Saheli Women: New Juki Sewing Machines

IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 25, 2018

CONTACT: Xandie Kuenning, Girls’ Education Intern | xandiek.iphd@gmail.com

Launched in 2015, Saheli Women is an ethical fashion social enterprise, developed as a social initiative by IPHD, that includes 24 women in the village of Bhikamkor, providing them with fair wages and a safe work environment free from gender, religious and caste discrimination. From the very start, the women have dreamt of working on professional sewing machines. On Jan. 24, that dream came true.

After going through the IPHD budget, the IPHD team and the women decided to have IPHD invest in new machines. IPHD facilitated the purchase of four Juki sewing machines which arrived, in addition to a technician to help assemble the machines, to Bhikamkor on Jan. 24.

Following the set-up of the first machine, a ceremony was held by the Saheli Women to celebrate the arrival of the new machines. The youngest in the group tied a red string for protection onto the machine while the rest of the group sang. It was a celebration for both the women and their children, all of whom received sweets at the end of the ceremony.

The Saheli Women worshipping one of the new Juki sewing machines.

The technician spent most of the day and part of the evening working to set up all the machines and teach the women how to use them, even persevering in the dark due to a power cut.

Saheli Women is always striving to provide the best quality for our partners and these sewing machines are yet another step towards progress and improvement.



Girls’ Education Program: All Beneficiaries Receive School Enrollment

IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 21, 2017

CONTACT: Olivia Arnold, Girls’ Education Intern | oliviaa.iphd@gmail.com

For the past two months, the 50 girls who are being sponsored by IPHD have been going to school and working hard. In the second week of September, we learned that 19 of our girls were going to be dropped from the government school because they did not have Aadhar Cards (Indian ID cards).

Birth certificates are needed to get Aadhar cards and because the girls were born in the village, they never received birth certificates. The government school teacher told us she could not enroll the girls without official documents proving their Indian citizenship.

Immediately, our education advocates Rukiya and Leela got to work — seeking out the 19 girls, gathering their identifying information and taking them to get birth certificates and Aadhar cards.  The process is very complicated and time-consuming, and after one week of tireless efforts by the education team, 10 girls still did not have their Aadhar cards — with the government enrollment deadline quickly approaching the following week.

On Thursday, September 14, Rukiya, Leela, IPHD Founder and Executive Director Madhu Vaishnav and Girls’ Education intern Olivia Arnold went to the house of Bhikamkor’s Sarpanch (elected leader) with the 10 girls to deliver a letter urging him to immediately issue birth certificates for them. Unfortunately, we were told that the Sarpanch was not home, so all we could do was leave the letter at his home and hope that he would read it.

To our pleasant surprise, the Sarpanch personally called IPHD founder Madhu the very next morning to tell her that he would support our mission to keep the girls in school and sign the birth certificates. We were so relieved and overjoyed!

Education advocate Rukiya helping the last few girls receive their Aadhar cards.

Again, our education advocates Rukiya and Leela immediately began doing all the hard work: getting the girls’ birth certificates filled out, bringing them to the Sarpanch to sign and then bringing the girls to get Aadhar cards.

On Wednesday, September 20, less than one week after our original plea to the Sarpanch, Rukiya and Leela were able to get Aadhar cards for all of the remaining 10 girls.

All of our 50 girls will now be officially enrolled and are no longer at risk of getting dropped from the school. IPHD would like to extend a big thank you to the Sarpanch for joining our mission in support of girls’ education.


Girls’ Education Program: Uniform Distribution


Without a doubt, gender inequality starts from very early on in a girl’s life, this is especially evident in education. Education is the key to beginning to bridge the gap between genders. IPHD recognizes this and the impact that proper education can have on a woman’s life in the long run. Thus, the Girls’ Education Program’s primary goal is to ensure the enrollment into school of all girls in the village so that women are empowered and gain independence from men.

If efforts to motivate girls to go to school, all girls who enroll through IPHD’s program receive financial assistance which includes uniform and school supplies. After much struggle to obtain the uniforms due to a national strike that took place in all the fabric factories, a total of 38 girls received their uniform this past weekend, just in time for the school festivities that take place during Independence Day.

A recent study that we conducted revealed that 38% of the girls that form part of IPHD’s education program decided to reenroll because of the economic support that IPHD is giving to the students and the public school since they now feel like they are receiving quality education.

This is just the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year. There is a lot more in store for IPHD’s education beneficiaries, so make sure to stay check-in soon!

Health Program: Saheli Health Clinic Inauguration

IPHD team and supporters at the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Saheli Health Clinic.

Finally! After almost a year of planning and fundraising efforts, IPHD has opened the doors for Bhikamkor’s only female health clinic, staffed by a female gynecologist, nurse, and supported by IPHD’s own health outreach team.

Although the right to health is a human right, it is not always a reality. Until now, the only health center in Bhikamkor has been a small government hospital that was staffed by one part-time male physician. Women and adolescent girls rarely seek care from the male doctor due to deep cultural and social taboos.  The consequences, not surprisingly, have been profound for the thousands of women and children living in Bhikamkor and the surrounding dhanis (farmer communities). As revealed in a series of health scans conducted by IPHD, the majority of women and children are highly anemic and severely malnourished. We found that the plight of poor health status is further compounded by early marriages, gender inequality, multiple pregnancies, and complicated childbirths. One in every four women interviewed gave birth at home, without the assistance or supervision of a certified health professional. Approximately 40% of children had not received the recommended vaccinations.

The major barrier in achieving healthy practices for women and children in Bhikamkor is not one related to interest or initiative; the women want to receive the healthcare services necessary to keep their families healthy. However, they simply had no way of accessing a physician.

Thus, on the inauguration day of the Saheli Clinic, we were encouraged by the enormous crowd in attendance and the 44 women and children who were treated by our physician. Through the services provided in the clinic, IPHD hopes to improve the health literacy of women and children in the village, and impart important preventive care practices regarding family planning, disease prevention, and basic hygiene.

The Saheli Clinic will operate on the 1st and 3rd Saturday of each month, from 10:30am-1:30pm. Stay tuned to hear more about the progress IPHD’s clinic makes in Bhikamkor.