When riders pull on their favorite pair of TuffRider boots or zip into their stylish Equine Couture breeches, they know they are putting on a quality made product. But what goes generally unknown are the people behind the scenes, the people devoting their life’s work to making the products that quality. It’s for those people that proceeds from the sales of Equine Couture apparel are used to make the Salvation Tree Foundation possible.
For popular equestrian brands, Equine Couture, Henri De Rivel and TuffRider, those dedicated workers are part of India’s impoverished lowest social class. In a country where an astonishing 80 percent of the population is living in poverty on less than $5 a day, employment through Equine Couture, Henri De Rivel and TuffRider has helped a large number rise above the odds.
But for the brands’ owners, Timmy and Laurie Sharma, that alone was not enough. In 2010, the Sharmas started personally funding the Salvation Tree Foundation and the Salvation Tree School. Through the foundation and Sharma’s generosity, Equine Couture, TuffRider and Henri de Rivel have been able to provide the children of their employees in India with an entirely free education, including books, supplies, mid-day meals, transportation and uniforms unlike anything could otherwise receive.
“A lot of the kids there [in India] don’t go to school at all,” Timmy Sharma explained. “Many of them are the ones that are there to take care of their young siblings while their parents work. The education is just denied to them completely. So what we started out to do was provide them with a world class education.”
Timmy continued, “A year after we started, we met with all of the parents, and we asked them what their aspirations were for their kids. To hear people that got up and said ‘I want my son to be an engineer or a doctor,’ was amazing. These were people who, for generations, had completely lived in abject poverty with no hope of ever breaking out. Now their kids are going to be going through and impacting the area and making these kinds of changes.”
Since its inception in 2010, the Salvation Tree School has grown every year, and by April 2014, the school will provide free education for 250 students from pre-K to 6th grade.
Children from the Salvation Tree School
Beyond its incredible impact in India, part of what is truly so unique and special about the Salvation Tree School is the opportunity it presents for equestrians – the opportunity to give back to those who give them the apparel and products that they wear and use on a daily basis.
“I can design and think of what a product should look like, but there is somebody behind that sewing machine that’s putting tender loving care into the product,” Laurie Sharma said. “Without the people physically making each piece, there is nothing. Our entire operation is built around equestrian clothing and equestrian apparel, and our employees put pride into making each and every piece they produce.”
Laurie continued, “It really comes full circle. These people are the ones who make the apparel possible and put the clothes on the backs of the horses and riders here, and in turn, equestrians can give back to these people who live, eat, sleep and breath equestrian clothing. That’s really what we want to do is give back to the ones that are helping us. Give back to those families and to those children that dedicate their lives to this.”
-Emily Riden for Phelps Media Group