One small story that has occupied consistent space in my life this year in Delhi has come to a natural and ever-so-nice conclusion. It started with a rare (for me) passionate response to a play I saw at a leadership conference last fall. The passion spurred an idea, the idea developed into a community theatre project and the project led me to Courage Homes, an NGO that hopes to heal young girls rescued from sex trafficking.
(Anyone unfamiliar with this thread can read back here: longleggedfly.wordpress.com/2011/02/09/one-man-in-his-time-plays-many-parts-his-acts-being-seven-ages/ and here: longleggedfly.wordpress.com/2011/03/22/can-one-voice-make-a-difference/)
The idea for the home is the love child of Roger and Hiroko Seth. It was an unexpected serendipity after a few challenges that life lobbed at them. Their persistence and dedication to the often tiring and bureaucratic details of establishing a legal entity in Delhi is impressive.
When I met them and other team members earlier this year, Courage Homes was not yet open. It had staff, an operational skeleton, legal support, and licensing underway. But it didn’t have a house. Moving from model to practice had its challenges: finding a landlord willing to rent to an NGO working with former sex workers wasn’t easy in conservative Delhi.
We staged the play, SEVEN, and we made good money to give to Courage Homes. Still, they had yet to find a place to house and work with rescued children. Many people in the audience donated appliances and furniture to the hoped-for facility. Then, March 30th I received a note that Courage Homes had found a landlord sympathetic to its work. Roger and Hiroko signed a lease for May 1.
This week Roger gave me a tour of the home. He met me at a popular shopping center nearby and I transferred to his car. Rightfully, he doesn’t want drivers knowing the address to protect the girls. Drivers are notorious gossips.
The House … It Was Beautiful! Large and cheerful and perfect for the needs of Courage Homes. Work inside is underway – they are building a dorm with bunk beds, preparing common space, art rooms, gardens. The counseling staff is spending the next month with a similar home in Calcutta to observe the operation.
Roger and Hiroko’s wish to open Courage Homes is rooted in a complicated combination of factors. Their story is unique and it led them to the energy and commitment it takes to realize this project. They may not change the landscape of sex trafficking in Delhi, but they may, just may change the course of a few lives.
And who knows what awesome things can come of that?
Courage Homes will accept its first rescues in September.
(I’m adding this later – just noticed that Nick Kristof wrote about the raid of a brothel in Calcutta this week. I followed his tweets in real time and they were stunning. Read this if you get a chance: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/26/opinion/26kristof.html?_r=1&hp)
Ritika has graduated to seventh grade. Her class is small over the summer because many of the kids at the Deepalaya school return to their villages in rural India. The students who stay in school take enrichment classes and work with college students on life skills, public speaking, and other practical applications.
There are a 10 new students from Afghanistan. They are Hazara refugees from Bamiyan Province. This is the place where the Taliban imploded the ancient giant buddhas carved into the cliff side. The Hazaras are a minority Shia Muslim community and have been miserably persecuted by the Taliban. Hazaras are ethnically Mongolian, most likely descendants of Genghis Khan’s sweep west. Culturally, the Hazaras are Turkic. They speak Dari, which has persian roots. Hazaras look east asian , with lighter skin and often lighter-color eyes. It’s a stunning face.
Next week will be my last post until August, when we return to Delhi.
Ritika’s summer class. The two Afghan students are on the left and right in the front. Ritika is second from right:
The boys in class love working with circuits. They built this car with a plastic box and bottle caps for wheels. It’s powered with a simple circuit and D batteries:
Georgie fixing Daddy’s rough heels with a Pedicure:
One of the nicest opportunities of living abroad is the ease in meeting strong and interesting women:
And finally – a professional shot of Seven: