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Jeana – India

Apologies for the lag in writing! These last couple weeks have been packed with a lot of travel, some exciting adventures and the rescue of 8 girls from a brothel! I went to Ooty, Mumbai (Bombay) and Nagpur. Traveling in India is not for the faint of heart- overnight buses and trains are an adventure in and of themselves- and are not conducive for anyone over 5’6”!

In Ooty I had the opportunity to visit the aftercare center that Freedom Firm directs. They provide the rescued girls with education, counseling and the opportunity to earn a meaningful wage making jewelry for Ruhamah, a Freedom Firm microenterprise (jewelry made by the girls can be purchased online – click here). I was able to spend a day with the girls in the workshop and talk to them about their struggles and experiences. Many of them have large families that are spread over the country, most had been trafficked across state lines and bought and sold more than once before they were rescued by Freedom Firm. Each one of the girls has her own painful story, but they are learning to make the decision every day not to let their tragedy define their future- a lesson we all can learn.

Ooty was a beautiful area; it sits up in the mountains and is surrounded by a tiger reserve and safari park. On the way there I was able to see wild elephants, peacocks and monkeys- it was truly an experience of a lifetime!

After returning from Ooty I was able to travel to Mumbai, specifically to the Bombay High Court where Freedom Firm is following a case that has been appealed to the High Court. The building was built by the British Empire; it had incredible architecture and has been virtually unchanged in the last century. Bombay is a bustling city, hot, humid and chaotic. I saw the gateway to India and some of the most heart wrenching slums you can imagine. India is a country of juxtaposition; the richest of the rich living feet from the poorest of the poor is mind boggling. I saw a pair of teenage boys literally step over an elderly man lying on the sidewalk, afflicted with leprosy, as if he were garbage. I have been praying that people here begin to see each other like God sees them, that they will begin to value the life and experience of those who are less fortunate.

This past week I was in Nagpur, the geographical center of India. Freedom Firm conducts investigations in the Nagpur red light district and has been doing raids in Nagpur since Fall 2010. This week the raid took place on Friday, a tip off prevented the raid from happening on Thursday, the day it was originally scheduled. Despite the fact that there had been a tip the day before, 8 girls were rescued from a brothel and charges are being filed against the homeowner for facilitating the business. Four of the eight rescued are expected to be minors. The team was telling me that in Nagpur it is more common for the girls to be purchased as babies and then raised in the brothels. This makes it less likely for the girls to attempt to run away. It also allows for the brothel keepers to claim to be the girls’ mother so if they are rescued the Child Welfare Commission will release the girls right back into the brothel keepers arms. It is truly a horrific cycle as most of the brothel keepers were once trafficked girls themselves.

I have gotten closer to many of the Freedom Firm team members and have truly enjoyed learning so much about Indian culture, music and the delicious food! Each member of the team is so special and has helped to make me feel welcome, they are truly working as God’s hands and feet, I am proud to know them. Outside of Freedom Firm staff I have been struggling with constantly being called “foreigner” since arriving in India over a month ago. There is such a strong negative connotation that comes with being an outsider; it makes even the most basic tasks like purchasing groceries immensely difficult. I am constantly accosted by street children, beggars and “holy wanderers” for money. The perception of “western women” is overly sexualized, making it a struggle to be taken seriously. Although I have gotten used to it; it still feels wrong to be singled out constantly.

Please pray for the Freedom Firm team as they fight these battles daily. It is truly an incredible work that they do. I am honored to be a part of it.