At six years old Monika fled Communist Poland to live a better life in Canada. As a child she didn’t fully understand the situation she was in, but looking back realizes how lucky she was to have the opportunity to improve her life. What she did realize was her fascination with knitting. These two elements would come together after years of experience working for NGOs and perfecting her skill.
“When my mother and sister started knitting hats and sweaters, I knew I had to get in on the action. I demanded to be instructed in the fine art of crochet and armed with a crochet hook and a string of yarn, I made my first chain. I was so proud of my creation, I wore it as a necklace and sometimes as a headband. I remember the fascination and awe that stitch by stitch, a new entity was slowly created by my own two hands.”
After working at NGOs for a few years in Cambodia, she made the link between knitting and helping people help themselves by providing fair, flexible, rewarding employment at a decent wage.
“My driving force has always been ‘helping people’ at least trying to. I didn’t always know how to apply myself effectively to do that and had been searching for a way to make a effective contribution for years. The idea of using knitting as a way to spear change seemed crazy, of course, but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. “
The similarity between creating a successful social enterprise and something beautifully knitted is quite similar. It’s a laborious, slow—sometimes monotonous—and always meditative process.
Monika founded Cambodia Knits in June 2009 and has a team of 25 knitters, in two communities creating dolls for two product lines. Her main focus is helping people who have relocated from urban centers, especially people from forced evictions. The model is to help the bottom of the pyramid and enrich the communities they come from.
“Running Cambodia Knits has been a huge challenge, but a rewarding and refreshing one. Making it a success is going to take a lot more hard work! However, seeing the impact that we have had on the lives of the people we employ is incredible and I hope we can continue to sell more products, grow and reach more communities.”
Learn more about Monika’s story and follow her progress on Changents.com.