The Desert Flower Collection was inspired by the resiliency of women like May Yu Zin, who come to Eden after experiencing overwhelming injustice, betrayals, and trauma. They are like the desert flowers that miraculously flourish in the harshest conditions, their leaves surviving even under the fierce desert sun.
Growing up in a large poverty-stricken family in a large slum in Myanmar, May Yu Zin left school early to help her mother care for her eight other siblings. Her father lost his job due to ill health, forcing the family to borrow money from a loan shark with crippling interest rates. May and her family spiraled into increasingly overwhelming debt until a neighbor came with an attractive solution. He offered the family to send May to a well-paid job in a factory across the border. When they agreed he introduced them to an agent who gave the family a month’s salary up front. May kissed her parents goodbye, packed up her few belongings, and left with the agent.
After leaving, she grew increasingly suspicious when she kept being handed from agent to agent. Eventually, after illegally crossing the border to a foreign country, she was taken to a house full of other girls like her. The door was locked and the windows barred. May and the others were told that men would soon come and purchase them as brides. Although very introverted and shy, May had an advantage of being very perceptive and observant. Within twelve hours of being in that house, May noticed that one of the guards habitually left a door unlocked, and she planned her escape. The next time the traffickers were distracted, she ran out of the house on to the busy streets.
May ran through the city unable to ask for help as she did not speak the language. However, miraculously she faintly heard someone in a house speaking her ethnic language. A language that few people spoke outside of her state. May shouted for help through the window; and when a woman came out, May sobbed as she told her story. Still trembling with fear over what had happened so far and what could have happened if she did not escape, the woman comforted May and helped her connect with the authorities.
After returning to Myanmar, May suffered from PTSD from her traumatic trafficking experience. She was referred to Eden by a YMCA counseling center as her panic attacks began to worsen, and she felt as if her life had become a desert - meaningless and barren. Our counselors at Eden began to teach her the tools to take back control over the fear and panic, allowing her confidence to begin to grow. May told the counselors that before being trafficked she dreamed of becoming a dress designer.
We supported her studies in a three-month tailoring course, in which she showed so much ability and natural talent that we approached a French designer based in our city about an apprenticeship for her. May continues to thrive in this apprenticeship, even helping in the creation of a beautiful wedding dress for one of our jewelry designers. Women like May show astounding resilience in desolate places even when they are expected to wither. The Desert Flower Collection serves as a reminder that persevering and flourishing in a desert experience is possible, as so many women in Eden have shown.
(Photographs include new pieces available November 2020)