MESH (Maximizing Employment to Serve the Handicapped) was created as a charitable, non-profit organisation in 1981 with the aim of creating income-generating opportunities to disadvantaged people in India. The first handloom and poultry projects were started at a village called Bethany near Delhi in 1964. People living in this village suffered from leprosy. By 1981 two similar villages were working on the projects and a permanent organisation was needed to coordinate the projects and market the goods.
Today, MESH works directly with four villages, buys from 32 groups in India and exports 89 per cent of its production. MESH aims at providing opportunities for social and economic development and it achieves this by acting as an intermediary between the disabled artisans and the market place.
The organisation helps add value to the artisans’ products by telling their stories. It also provides training in best business practices and helps the artisans secure 50% advance payment if required so that they can buy their raw materials without taking loans.
Through their work, MESH enables hundreds of disabled people in India to move from begging to a more stable, independent, dignified life. An estimated 600 people - most of them deformed by leprosy - currently benefit directly from MESH's assistance. Ostracized and feared by society, they had no job opportunities before connecting with MESH, and often turned to begging to survive, even though many have families to support.