WARNING: this post is intense, and probably NSFW. It has taken me a long time to process and be able to write. If it is too much for you, I won’t be offended. You can go back to one of my happy posts about the girls of India.
All identities have been hidden for the protection of the people pictured.
At Christmas, I was invited to a shelter home to view their Christmas program and to participate in their celebration.
This particular shelter home houses girls rescued from sex trafficking. These young girls are offered a safe place to recover from the atrocities they have suffered. They are fed, sheltered, rehabilitated, educated and given help with finding alternative jobs. A majority of these girls are HIV positive, along with their children. The shelter is also home to orphans who are HIV positive, and those children who have been orphaned by AIDs, their mothers former sex workers who have passed away from AIDS related illnesses.
The girls’ stories are horrific, sold into sex slavery by their poor families, kidnapped, trafficked and sold to a brothel, far from home, never to see their village or their families again. Many are HIV positive because they are forced to have unprotected sex, forced to become pregnant by their captors to prevent the girls from running away from the brothels. Their children in turn are born HIV positive, poor, and children of prostitutes, shunned by society. It is so very very hard to rise up and recover when you are born into this kind of disadvantage.
This was by far one of the places in India where I witnessed the worst suffering, and came face to face with things I had only vaguely read about, confronted with the harsh realities of what can happen to poor girls in the developing world. Young children so very very sick, with full blown AIDS, missing hair, with growths on their faces and limbs, listlessly sitting and watching the Christmas program. Recently rescued young teenage girls with dead eyes, sitting against the wall, nearly comatose from their recent trauma.
After I left this shelter I went back to my room at the street home for girls and I cried and cried. I cried for the suffering, the trauma, the illness and all that these girls and young children had lost. In a way, perhaps I cried for my own lost innocence, the last shreds of my former Western white female privileged self slipping away. I cried because I was overwhelmed when confronted with the truth. How could I possibly help girls like this? It seems such a daunting task.
And yet, among the suffering I saw that day, I witnessed hope and joy. Girls joyfully dancing, acting in a Christmas play, singing, smiling, grasping my hand, teaching me to dance, singing with me, welcoming me warmly with a smile. Spunky boys, acting naughty, jumping around, playing, being boys and children. I met and immediately fell in love with this young child, clearly beloved, given the place of honor as the King in the Christmas play, held, caressed, cuddled by all, full of beauty and innocence, with a spark in their eye.
This is one of the populations that benefits the most from jewelry income generation projects. The very process of learning a useful skill gives these girls hope for a better life, an alternative way to make money so that they don’t have to return to prostitution, they gain self worth as their skills improve, and they can earn money to provide for themselves, their children, to have money to educate themselves and their children. Jewelry income generation projects are a worthwhile long term solution to poverty and sex trafficking not only in India, but in the rest of the developing world.
One of the goals of Priyasha this year is to set up a permanent workshop/training center in Bangalore. We want to raise enough money to make this goal a reality, so that we can help girls like the ones I met in this shelter home. I was so honored to be invited into this shelter home, to be an honored guest, and to experience what I did that day. I want so badly to return the kindness and courtesy I was shown by this shelter home and these children by being able to call up the woman that runs this charity and tell her she can send her girls to us for training. I mean, how one look at this child, see the light in their eyes and not just simply want to help? I can’t deny this beautiful child. I am called to help these girls. I must.
This is India, heartbreaking sad and heartbreakingly beautiful in every moment. That is the beauty and the joy that is India, and why I love it so.