This Learning Tea Center provides a safe and balanced learning environment for girls to live and study. The Learning Tea pays for all living expenses. (Courtesy of The Learning Tea)
This Learning Tea Center provides a safe and balanced learning environment for girls to live and study. The Learning Tea pays for all living expenses.

Courtesy of The Learning Tea

Dr. Bombay’s: A local shop solving the world’s problems

December 4, 2018

Female empowerment is exploding and across the world women are being brought out from under the shadows of men. There are now women in high decision-making positions in the government of the United States and opportunities for low caste girls in India to become educated, giving them the option of having a life free from sex trafficking and ill-health.

Katrell Christie, the owner of the tea shop Dr. Bombay’s Underwater Tea Party, is a prime example of a woman in power because she opened, designed and keeps running her quirky tea and pastry shop. She is an advocate for women empowerment and does everything she can to further the cause.

When Christie first opened Dr. Bombays in 2008, she wanted it to be a community center where people could get together and spend time with one another. Her vision has come to life.

“I think Dr. Bombay’s has a great atmosphere and is very conducive to learning,” said Grady sophomore Kristen Hart. “I enjoy doing my work and getting a cup of tea while I’m at it.”

When you walk through the deep garnet red double doors of Dr. Bombay’s, you are immediately enveloped in the essence of Candler Park. The tables are all sizes and none of the chairs match. The tea cups, all collected over the years from flea markets and antique shops are not part of any matching set. Right on top of the ice cream counter, next to the scones, is a fishbowl with a little note on it.

The short note describes Christie’s adventure to India and asks the community to make donations so that she can help to educate girls in India who barely have any of the opportunities US citizens take for granted.

India was never a destination for Christie until a customer who had a Rotary Ambassador Scholarship sought her out to come to help with her international project of aiding handicapped women in Hyderabad, India. At first the idea seemed absurd. Christie was running a small business, which meant 80 hour work weeks, but after much persistence, she gave in.

“This one day I had one employee quit, another steal, and a third not show up for work and she walked in that day and asked me if I wanted to go to India,” said Christie. “I said absolutely, I will go if you help me book the ticket right now because otherwise I will lose my mind over this business.”

When the scholarship project finished earlier than expected, Christie took advantage of her extra time in India by spending time at an orphanage in Darjeeling that housed about 50 girls ages four to sixteen. The orphanage was government funded and at age sixteen, the girls were kicked out onto the streets with no education and nowhere to go.

“I was there for about a month and I went every day to color and sing songs,” said Christie. “I just kind of spent time with them. We drew pictures to overcome the language barrier”

Over the month that she spent there, she grew to love the girls and when she figured out that three of them were going to time-out and be kicked out of the orphanage, she decided that she wanted to do something to help them.

“I told them I would figure something out and be back in six months and that they could count on me,” said Christie. “I was going to go back and tell my community what I had seen.”

This is where the fishbowl was born. In just six months, her little shop had collected enough money to rent and apartment for 6 months, buy uniforms, pay school tuition, purchase household items, arrange a food stipend, and pay for a gas tank. Christie managed to set up a life plan for the three sixteen year old girls who had no future in a mere six months. Her plan was called The Learning Tea and Dr. Bombay’s was at the heart of it.

Dr. Bombay’s hosts monthly Indian dinners where all the proceeds go towards the orphanage. In addition, the books that line the walls of the shop are all on sale for one dollar, and that money also goes towards The Learning Tea.

“I love the idea of books and I like the idea of tea and I like the idea of people having a space where they can get together and talk and meet each other, but I don’t know if it would have ever worked if it weren’t for this community,” said Christie.

Over time the idea of a community meeting place slowly morphed into a to center for raising funds to open up opportunities for women in India.

When she returned to India for the first time, she was excited to be the bearer of good news because she knew the girls didn’t get much of it. Christie expected to see looks of genuine surprise as she opened the big doors to the orphanage.

“They looked out the door and saw me and I said ‘I actually came back, can you believe I came back?’,” said Christie. “It was a big deal for me because I was worrying about them all the time. The girls responded with “No you said you were going to come back and nobody had ever said that to us before.”

Christie returns to India every 6 months and now with the help of the Candler park community funds 12 girls’ education, rent and any other basic needs. Christie made it possible for low caste girls from an orphanage to graduate high school and move on to a college degree. Girls before them in the same position are more often than not brought into the world of sex-trafficking or turn up missing.

“I wanted to solve things instead of putting a bandaid over them,” said Christie. “College education is key to getting out of a vicious cycle of poverty.”

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