A young boy was walking along a beach filled with stranded starfish. He began picking them up one by one and tossing them back into the ocean. A passerby watching this asked him, "Why bother? There are so many; you can't make a difference." At this, the boy picked up another starfish, he tossed it into the sea and replied, "I can make a difference for this one."
Probably most of us have heard or know this story but it won't hurt to reiterate the lessons we can learn from it:
1. Even small actions can make a significant impact.
2. Every effort counts.
3. Every person matters.
Let's apply it to our context:
Every action, no matter how small, has eternal consequences.
Every effort matters so don't shy away from doing them with all your heart.
Every person we work with (women, youth, children, men) matters and what we do for them is important in saving that one life.
At Purnata, we are making a difference, one woman/child at a time. One person at a time. Here is a window of what's happening in Purnata.
Thank you all for the hard work done faithfully everyday and for those partners & well wishers who support us with funds. We are always grateful for our staff and partners.
Yours sincerely for a traffick-free world.
Updates on the women we work at Aashray:
Nine ladies and two men came for the motivational session on Friday. It’s good to see that slowly women are taking part in our motivational talks and are interacting better with us. Their outlook & behaviour is becoming more positive.
Our staff have been encouraging Sweety for computer classes. She was trafficked from West Bengal and has completed her 10th grade in Bengali medium.
Our Tailoring classes are happening regularly and the women who attend are improving in various skills (like cutting, adding designs, etc.) related to sewing. They hope to use these skills to move out and get viable jobs. As our staff have been talking to Mahima, she has shown interest in tailoring. She is from the Upper Chawl. We have been showing her videos about different job opportunities. However, due to pressure from her brothel keeper, she avoids talking with us.
Mahima was regular for our tailoring training. However, for over a week she has not come. When our staff followed up, we found out the reason. She has many debts, like most women in the area, and to repay it quickly she works very late into the night and early morning, leaving her little or no time. This has affected her health, and she hasn't been getting sufficient rest.
This is the same story with Neha and Kashish. They too haven't been coming for literacy and beautician classes as they too are working overtime to raise the money for the EMI for their House they have bought in Kalyan.
Updates on the women at Jeevan Asha:
Roshni is from one of the districts of West Bengal. She was married and had a son but she had an affair with her neighbor. They decided to run away and they came to Mumbai but she did not realise he was a trafficker who sold her off in the RLA where we work. She tried going back to her village but the person blackmailed her, saying he would spread the word in the village that she is a prostitute working in the RLA and also her husband would know. He bought her back again in the area, left her high and dry after stealing all the money that she had and ran away to Kolkata.
Bhavani, Kalyani, Chanchal, Damini, Deepa, Vikram have moved from the RLA to another area. Often such movement happens when the "business" is slow or difficult.
Eshana and Falak, moved from Grant Road. They were working in a Simplex building. Falak has been in this work. In last month's raid which happened on 12th August, they were arrested. And they were at Mankhurd home. They paid 95 thousand and came out this week.
Gauri needs our help for her sons to be placed in a de-addiction centre. They are addicted to different kinds of intoxicants. Our staff are connecting with a suitable place in Thane where he can be placed and expect to hear from them soon.
Updates on the children we work with:
At Aashray DCC, 15 children and at Jeevan Asha DCC, 22 children regularly are part of the literacy program at Aashray. They are provided regular support for their studies and homework. While all of them are provided a snack and milk, five of them are from the area for whom we provided extra nutrition support as their mothers wake up late and neglect giving them food on time.
We are planning to visit different schools in the neighbourhood. We want to strengthen our relationships with schools so that we can help more students who need to be placed back in school and track their progress. When we have a full strength staff team we also plan to help build capacity of the schools by providing training and extracurricular activities.
Living in constant fear:
Women in the RLA are constantly having to look over their shoulders and be on tenterhooks as they do not know when a police raid will happen. And when it happens, the entire area wears a deserted look. Often, we have had times when they run to us for help to hide.
On the evening of 5th Sep, as we were celebrating Teacher's Day, Geetika, Vikram and Ganga from the red light area were arrested by the police. We got a call from Geetika, who happens to be the mother of Rahim, one of the children who are regular at all our programs. Our staff contacted the Police and found out that these ladies were forcefully pulling people walking by, inside the brothels. They were also extorting money and abusing them. This is what happens often when the women get desperate when the "business" is down.
The Police station got the order from higher authorities to take immediate action on the women and sort out the matters, based on complaints received. We are grateful to the senior police for their cooperation and sharing the reason for the raid. This will help us to help the women understand what they can and cannot do and ensure no one else is arrested for the same.
Our staff were in touch with Geetika as she had a two and half year-old son with her and her older son, Rahim (14 years) was out. We tried to help him but a man from the area whose wife also got arrested in the raid was taking care of him.
In a day or two all three ladies were back in the red light area. We got to know that each one of them paid some amount to the cops to release them as they were housed in Byculla jail.
A special concern:
Seema was supposed to move out to another shelter home last week. However, she has been going through a lot of pain in her chest for about a month.
When she had joined us, like all the other women who joined, she underwent a basic medical examination. However, due to her pain, we had her checked up.
After undergoing a battery of medical tests and consultations it was found that she has a lump on her right breast. Seeing her sonography last week, the doctor was unsure if it was tuberculosis or cancer. On Friday 9th Sep she had her biopsy test and the report will come on 12th Sep.
We are hoping that she may not have any major issues as she has a daughter, Ananya who is under Purnata's care in Aastha Home.
Seema’s brother and sister are not willing to support her for her actions in the past even though she has changed now. We can shift her now only after her medical issues are sorted out.
Looking at Damini's interest in cooking and particularly baking, we are exploring more options for Damini’s bakery training.
She has an opportunity with YWCA Byculla for a one month bakery training which is costing about Rs. 3500.
Including her travel the total cost will come up to Rs. 5000 for a month. We are looking for someone to support her with that.
Damini has been putting more effort in learning Hindi and English and pushes her sister to put efforts in studies and stitching especially.
Tia is taking an interest in learning tailoring classes and doing well at that.
She is also trying to make some jewelry by watching Youtube videos.
However, she gives up when she finds something hard. For example, last week she practised sitting on the industrial machine and found it slightly difficult having just begun, she did not want to learn anymore.
Her sister Damini, house mothers and training staff encourage her to put more effort into everything she does even if it gets difficult.
She needs to understand the importance of putting effort, hard work and being consistent.
Hiral, one of our rescued majors from the red-light area whose daughter Rohima we rescued in 2019 from Bareilly, is still struggling with her illegal migrant case.
Having to wait, she ends up blaming Purnata thinking we are not doing anything about it.
To understand all the court processes, our legal partner Justice Ventures International (JVI) took a session with Hiral to help her understand all the legal procedures and court processes.
Waiting to join school:
Bharti was able to meet Radha, whom we had rescued early this year.
She was able to meet her after some months so it was a very emotional moment for Radha as her father is not in touch with her.
We are trying to trace her father and to get all her documents so Radha can be enrolled in school.
Long pending Medical Camp:
We have been following up with a dentist contact we got, Dr Sandhya from Navi Mumbai.
She visited our center with her husband on 7th Sep.
She has agreed to plan a medical camp on the 22nd Sep tentatively.
She will organise other specialists for skin, bone, etc.
She plans to provide a basic hygiene kit consisting of mouth freshener, brush, toothpaste, etc.
They will do a basic check up and for any further treatment the women can go visit her clinic at a subsidised rate.
A Teacher's Day celebration with a difference:
At Aashray, On 5th Sep we celebrated teachers day in a very different way. Every time we do an event, we invite the women and children. This time we thought differently.
We went to every house and met the women present, gave them a rose and a chocolate and spent time with them. The rationale behind it was that no matter how many teachers we may have, a mother is the best and most effective teacher for her child.
We explained to each woman about Teachers Day, asked them about their memory of a teacher as a child if they had been to school, and explained the important role they play as mothers in the lives of their child.
We asked them questions like, Did you go to school? Do you remember your teacher's name? Who was your favorite teacher? What is the one thing you remember what that teacher taught you?
Reminiscing, many of them recounted stories and experiences. When I asked about their "Teacher", most of them said we didn't have "Teacher" but we had a "Sir". We explained how a teacher can be a man or woman.
We encouraged them that in spite of their circumstances, they can be beautiful and amazing teachers for their children. They can be good examples by leaving the trade for a better life of dignity.
Assisted by our team, I handed out the rose and chocolate. They were shocked and not knowing how to respond as all the men in their lives have only been there to take, grab, use and abuse them and here was a man talking and treating them with respect.
We were well received and we saw tears in many eyes and gratitude for this gesture.
One of the women had tears in her eyes when we asked her the questions. She had just lost her newborn baby girl last month. We all expressed our sorrow for her loss and empathised with her..
Another lady had lost her husband last month and we expressed our deep sorrow for her loss.
Nilima, one of the ones we had rescued in the early days of Purnata, is back there due to various reasons. She was not well so went in and encouraged her. Discreetly she tried to tell us that she is not free to talk due to her brothel keeper and wants to leave from there soon.
In total we gave away about 137 roses and chocolates that day! So many of the women who usually don't talk to us have started talking and greeting and responding to us.
The children at the centre made greeting cards for teacher's day.
At Jeevan Asha, we celebrated Teachers Day on 6th Sept with the children. 18 children were present, and we helped them to understand that our mother is the first teacher in our lives, and she is the one who teaches us all about life.
We encouraged the children to share good things about their mother.
We got some responses like, she cooks food, she cleans the house, she washes our clothes, and she loves us.
We were able to explain how she does more than that and how her sacrifice is what makes them what they are.
As we reflect on this Teachers' Day celebration, it reminds us of the significance of compassion, support, and dignity in the lives of these remarkable women. We continue to hold them in our thoughts hoping for brighter days ahead.
In the Source Area, the children in the DCC surprised our staff with a Teacher's Day celebration. They decorated the centre and bought a cake for their teacher. There was some singing and playing during the celebration. It is always such a pleasure to see the ones we serve take initiatives like this.
Tumpa, one of the ladies whom our staff have been following up regularly in Sonagachi RLA, is struggling as she is facing difficulty in managing her day-to-day expenses. As with so many others, a customer with whom she had fallen in love and befriended, stole all her savings and ran away. She was too distressed to speak to us but heard about this from one of her friends.
Our pursuit of getting the centre (In West Bengal) got delayed as our landlady's grandson has been hospitalised for some sickness. The good news is that our friend David has transferred the money to start the centre. We are hoping to get the agreement signed next week, begin renovations and start the program by 1st October.