Monthly Archives: February 2011

REtreat

(most of the FF staff @ Retreat)

This past weekend was staff retreat in Coonoor which is about an hour’s drive from Ooty. It was really nice to get away for a bit. Most of my time was spent with the children of the Freedom Firm staffers. The amount of kids I was primarily responsible for ranged from about six to ten, as some of the youngest kids remained with their parents. Overall things went well, though at some points it was a little more hectic and tiring when I didn’t have much help or when communicating was nearly impossible. I was able to sit in on a few of the sessions though which were great. I was also assigned the task as photographer for the weekend… at least what I could do.

Being at retreat gave me such a deeper appreciation for FF, the people involved, and for all they do for this cause. I love it. Freedom Firm’s staff currently mostly consists of Americans and Indians. There are technically four offices: two in India Ooty being the main one, and where the aftercare program is located, and one in Pune when the legal side of things is… the lawyers, investigators, and social workers are based in this office. There is also a small branch in the U.K. and then one in Minnesota. It was great to get to meet the different staff and get to know more of what they do. I especially loved meeting the Pune staff and seeing things through their eyes. Hearing bits of what it is like to go in to these brothels and find out information to rescue minor girls and the challenges that the lawyers have to go through as brothel keepers frequently to not show up to court. It’s quite remarkable really.

This week I will be filling in for teacher three mornings which feels like a bit of an undertaking for me, but today went really well. 🙂 Again teaching is not one of my giftings and it’s usually during the class hours that the girls can be more challenging. But I’m hopeful and positive. The Roja girls stayed with different families from the church we go to here while the staff was away at retreat and it seems to have gone wonderfully! The girls shared some highlights with me… and when I asked Zoe* what the best part of her time was she said, “Everything!” Yay God! I am so glad the girls also seem refreshed.

Tonight we got some bittersweet news. Harmony* and Naomi* who are the two with children, will be leaving FF… tomorrow. In some ways it has come as a shock mostly due to the speediness, but on the other hand it isn’t as they have both graduated from FF’s program and have stayed to work. We are thankful that the girls shared with us that they are leaving and what they will be doing, that is on good terms, and they seem to appreciate what FF has done for them. They will be missed no doubt, and leave some holes in our jewelry making as well as our hearts. All in all it really is great that they are moving on with their lives and pursuing new things, and doing so safely, with out going back to the red light area or putting themselves in some sort of vulnerable position. Their children will be in our hearts as well. It really is incredible that I have been here to witness four girls leaving, which I think has never happened to FF firm before in such a short time. But we are glad for further independence, and know that more girls will eventually come as well.

The last few days I felt an increased sense of loss of American culture— and I am now wondering what it is going to be like to get back to the states and… not communicate by doing the head booble nod, to wear a seat belt, to not live cheaply, not eat much spicy food, to use utensils frequently, to drive on the right side of the road instead of left, to not hear incessant honking, and to not see the girls. I have feel I have renewed endurance and excitement for this last half of my time here. I can’t wait to see what God is going to do in the lives of the Roja girls I am gaining connection to daily. I have already seen growth in the time I’ve been here, and look forward to more.

If you feel lead to give to what Freedom Firm is doing here in India, we are grateful: http://www.freedom.firm.in/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=213&Itemid=189

(two of the kiddos at retreat)

 

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half way

This past week was probably my most interesting thus far. I got out of the house for the first time in a week on Tuesday… it felt so good to feel well, feel alive really, and be with the girls. When I met the girls at the bus they said, “You sick sooo long.” Tell me about it! Once we got to Smyrna Harmony’s* boys Gabriel* and Aaron* dashed inside and brought out a bike still wrapped in plastic and paper. I was thrilled to find out the previous day the bike was given to them. I had to convince them to get off the bike as they were riding around on it plastic covered squeaking wheels and all. It took a while and quite a lot of patience on their part, but once Zoe* and I got all the plastic off they hopped on that thing and put Naomi’s* little daughter  on with them. It was a joy to watch the happiness flowing out of them. Wednesday I felt even more physically back to normal, however frustrations with Zoe’s* attitude really got to me both Wednesday and Thursday. One of the greatest problems we have with the girls is their attitude and disrespect. For whatever reason it seemed to be at a high those days. I had to remind myself what God was just teaching me a few days before.

We had some visitors from the states this week checking out Freedom Firm to find out more of what we do, our mission, and as way of being able to further support FF. Seeing such fresh faced and wide eyed people here was both refreshing and amusing to me. It made me realize how much I have gotten used to living here and the ways that some things have begin to ware on me- both culturally and with the girls. Just six weeks I was the wide-eyed one never having been to India like most of them. Now I’m half way through my time here with six weeks more!

The day I got my appetite back while I was sick I began to crave so many foods… most of which I cannot access here, or at least not very easily. What did I crave? Creamy mashed potatoes and the biscuits from Red Lobster to be specific… and then pizza, which is weird to me because I’m not really a pizza lover, but I guess it’s just so American. While I was in France I certainly missed foods, but here most things are even harder to get, or they are the Indian version which most of the time might as well be something totally different. After thinking about food I began to think of all the things I want to do when I get back… things like— getting a pedicure (my feet are getting quite gross), wearing a sun dress (without pants etc or worrying about being more covered), and going to a nice movie theater (ok, any movie theater in the states would qualify here). I also look forward to not having to carry toliet paper with me everywhere (Indian toliets are usually “squat-a-pottys” but even when there are western toliets there is not toliet paper because the Indian method of cleaning oneself is by splashing water where necessary). One thing I found this week that I was really excited about was more types of cheese! Most of the times I’ve been to Modern Stores there has only been one kind of chesse, “cheddar,” which tastes fine but is not like the cheddar in America.

This weekend, both Saturday and Sunday, I successfully got the girls out of the house! It felt like quite a triumph as they never seem to want to leave especially on a Saturday. Saturday we went to a botanical garden, though the garden wasn’t what I expected I was glad to do something more interesting with them and pleased to see them in good moods. After the garden I bought us all something drink at a little bakery sort of shop. Sunday after church I took the girls to lunch to the restaurant of their choice and we stopped in some shops etc before going back to Roja so, we were out of the house almost the entire time I was with them. The girls said, “Thank you” too, Zoe* even did a second time before I left Roja (this is quite an accomplishment as they don’t say thank you or have the best manners often). Faith* and Zoe* both held my hand/arm at different times on the way home as well (another thing that felt like a big step). It was lovely.

While I was walking back to Roja with the girls on Sunday I had one of the strangest experiences of my life. As we went through a sort of back alley I was stopped by a swarm of about 20 women and children just looking at me. I couldn’t go around them very easily as they basically lined up in front of my path blocking my way just to look at me. After some time of just standing there and not knowing what to do, I looked at Zoe* who was standing next me, and then after some of them talking amongst themselves, one girl said something in Hindi or Tamil (more people speak Tamil than Hindi in Ooty). I looked at Zoe* and asked her what she was saying and she told me nearly laughing, “They want to know where you come from.” I smiled at them and said, “I come from America.” They got wide eyed and said, “America? America?” Than there was another long pause of them just looking at me curiously, and I again did not know what to do as they were refreshingly friendly and interested seeming rather than just glaring judgementally. Again, I looked over at Zoe* wondering what to do and then, the same girl asked me something that Zoe* translated, “What is your name?” Then many of them began to say, “name, name,” in English. I smiled and said, “My name is Dori,” as slowly and pronunciated as I could. They looked confused as they tried to pronounce my name, so I repeated it a few times as they all tried to say it. Then they asked me again, “You from A-m-eer-ika?” “Yes,” I told them as they looked at me in awe. Then Zoe* grabbed my arm to take me away……. I had more of these sort of experiences this weekend than usual, though this was something more extreme than I’ve experienced. I told Zoe* I know my light skin is different, but I know than my hair is something else; she laughed (as she was the one who would not believe me when I said I didn’t put anything in my hair to change the color and also doesn’t believe that my sisters and I can have the same parents because of our different skin tones and hair color). Standing out so much physically definitely wears on me especially as I find myself feeling like less of an outsider because of the increased familiarity I have now. I try to look at people less when I’m walking, even when I since the stares and this has helped.

Leah, who I’m working with to get things organized and better functioning for Ruhamah, the micro-enterprise jewelry business, got here this weekend and will be here for a couple of weeks. So, this week I will be doing a lot with that with her. I’ve also been asked to do some more photo projects for Ruhamah and FF which is kind of fun. This coming Thursday through Sunday is the FF staff retreat. I will be helping with the childcare during the sessions so that the parents will be able to dive in. It will be nice to get out of Ooty and do something a little different.

Things to pray for:

*More FF staff/volunteers have gotten sick… it seems like everyone’s sickness was a little different, mine being the longest and the shortest only being one day. Prayers for health for us all would be appreciated.

*The retreat to go well as well as the girls as they stay with families… that their time would also be refreshing.

*For convictions in several cases where brothel keepers are on trial and FF rescued minor girls are testifying. Justice to prevail.

*There are several different changes and transitions for FF this year with staff/volunteers leaving as well as ways in which FF is becoming more independent. For God to bring the right people to fill these roles, for further finances, and easy transitions.


Where I’m at

I think God is funny. Isn’t He? He likes to speak to us at some of the oddest moments… He’s so clever to meet us right where we’re at. I’m the type of person that is in constant desire of growing, moving forward, and looking on to the next thing God is going to teach me. I suspected in the midst of my sickness this week God would teach me some things. I was right.

By Friday evening, the day I made my last post, I was thrilled to be feeling almost entirely back to normal. I felt like dancing. It felt so good to not feel bad. I was excited that it was just in time for me to spend both Saturday and Sunday (day time) with the girls at Roja. Then, Saturday came. I woke up feeling awful. My stomach was bothering me more than it had any other day of the sickness. I finally dragged myself out of bed to get ready for the day, but my stomach was not having it. I was so frustrated. I had my mind made up I was going to Roja, I hadn’t been at Smyrna Wednesday or Thursday and I was tired of being confined to my bedroom/bathroom. Finally, realizing what my body was telling me I broke down (my pride included) and humbly called Anika to tell her I didn’t know what to do, but I felt horrible, and I felt almost worse about not being there. She told me, “It’s ok. Don’t feel bad. Just rest. Don’t come, I’ll stay with the girls today.” That’s exactly what I needed to hear. So, back to my pajamas and bed I went. Later that day, after so much frustration with my body, my many trips to the bathroom, and not being with the girls I said to God, ” Lord, how am I suppose to love on these girls if I can’t even be with them???” It was as if at that moment everything clicked within me and I could sense God speak into to me…

[ “Because they are sick like you………. They have so much stuff inside of them that needs to come out. It’s awful, painful, and disgusting, but it’s got to go. If you’ve “gone through it” you know what it’s like.” ]

I don’t know about you, but there have been things in my life that I have had to let go, to mentally and spiritually be freed of, and it’s been messy. These girls have so much from their past, so many fears, trust issues, and insecurities. They need to go through the  process of getting freed of them.

God is good at meeting us where we’re at… even if where we are at is the bathroom. Ha.

Sunday, I again thought I would certainly meet the girls after church at the least, even if I didn’t feel up to being in the service. But my stomach was in knots. Anika checked on me to see how I was doing and if I  thought I could handle being with the girls… at first I though I’d say yes, but then I felt my body say no. Again, she said it was ok, and better for me to feel rested. So, I did. And today was my day off, I’m feeling much better than even yesterday and almost back to normal. I washed my clothes (only the second time since I’ve been here), changed my sheets, and took a HOT shower. This was my first shower since Monday night (There’s not always hot water, so I have learned to be patient with bathing. I did take one bucket bath this week though). While I was in the shower I think I could almost hear a choir singing. It was probably the most wonderful shower of my life. It made me feel so alive– who knew a shower could have that power? (and you haven’t seen the shower here…) So, I’m thankful to be feeling better, to have clean clothes and skin, and to be leaving the house for the first time in a week tomorrow with new insight! Smyrna here I come!

What does doing laundry here consist of? Filling buckets of water and dumping them in the machine and adding some soap… (left to right) there is a wash section, then a spin, then a rinse section, and lastly spin again. We re-use the water, so hopefully the clothes aren’t filthy. Then you have to drain the water out in to buckets and dump them. I end up getting really wet. Oh, and we dry our clothes on the line.

By the way Happy Valentines day everyone! May you know the love of the Father more profoundly today.


(India’s) sickness strikes

Well, at the end of my last post I mentioned being thankful for not having any stomach issues/ sickness…

I’m afraid that only one day later, the report changed. Yup, I got sick. Terribly sick. I couldn’t sleep Monday night, when I got up Tuesday morning I had a bit of a sore throat but didn’t think much of it because I had one a couple weeks before. During the day I began to feel increasingly achey all over, and by the afternoon I felt like all the energy I had just the day before was zapped out of me. I spent most of the afternoon lying down in the staff room at Smyrna as just standing up my head and back begin to throb intensely. By the time I got back to Farley (Anika took me back a little early) I couldn’t believe how awful I felt, though I was glad I didn’t have any stomach pain etc. I was able to take a short nap, when I woke I know I must have had a fever… and later that evening vomiting ensued. I hadn’t thrown up in three years, I suppose you could say I made up for it that night. (So, much for it not having anything to do with my stomach.) Wednesday, I  had no appetite and spent the day and night either in bed with hardly even energy to sit up in it, or making way too many trips to the bathroom… I’ll spare you the details of that. Thursday, was similar with less intensity. I’d like to say I am back to normal today, but I’m not. I’m getting there. I think I will bathe today for the first time in four days… gross I know, but I’ve been too weak to deal with it. I’ve never dealt with a sickness quite like this before, and frankly have been amazed I’ve been able to keep going like this… it’s just exhausted me. I didn’t think it was possible to make as many trips to the bathroom in a couple days time as should be in a week. They say when you come to India you get sick (like what I have had) at least once, obviously I have not been an exception to this. I’m not entirely sure what the root of this is- a bug that’s going around, some sort of bacteria, or maybe something that I ate (though at this point I don’t think is the cause as I’ve figured most of the risky foods I’ve eaten with others who did not get sick- though I suppose my immune system could be weaker). Now that this sort of cruel initiation is over I am hopeful this will be the only time I deal with it.

I am thankful my mental/spiritual state has been good through out this, had it not I know the last few days would have been ten times more trying. I wasn’t at Smyrna at all Wednesday or Thursday, because of this of course. I am hoping I will be back to normal health tomorrow as I am suppose to be with the girls at Roja. I would really rather not have any leftover sickness. I would appreciate prayers for health. Thanks.


Didi

Didi, it’s what all of the girls call us staff ladies. It means “older sister” in Hindi and is used as a sign of respect. So, I am either called didi, Dori didi, or sister. I like it. In fact, I think I am liking it more as I develop more of a relationship with the girls here.

I would like to thank you all for your prayers. God’s peace has certainly been prevalent. For the most part the girls have reconciled, though there seems to be some leftover tension. Zoe* seems genuinely sorry and has been able to stay at Roja and Hope* seems to have forgiven her. Saturday was an incredibly calm day with the girls. They had horse therapy in the morning so by the time I met them back at Roja at lunch time they were all very tired and took naps. I got to read a lot. 🙂

On Sunday, after church, the two girls that have children (Harmony* has two boys and Naomi* has one daughter) had us all over for lunch at their home. (They do not live at Roja since they have children.) So, the two of them, their children, the three Roja girls, and I went to their house on foot… 9 of us total. It took well over an hour for us to hike up the mountain where they live. We all took turns carrying bags, carrying Naomi’s* daughter Grace,* and passed around my water to share. Hope* held my hand the majority of the way (at least when I wasn’t carrying Grace*) and Harmony’s* boys, Gabriel* and Aaron*, took turns holding my hand as well. When we finally got to Harmony* and Naomi’s* house we were all quite tired. (Understatement?) We ate some snacks while they began to prepare dinner. Then I brought out my camera. Two of the girls in particular, Hope* and Faith* became quite enthralled. It was the first time I really took photos of the girls. Smiles and laughter ensued as I began to snap photos, and they took turns behind the lens as well. I am in awe of the joy that was captured. After taking photos on the roof top, we all ate poratas, chile chutney, rice, and dal sitting on the floor of their home which is probably 1/3 of the size of my bedroom in Fresno. (They have only one cot, the rest of them sleep on a mat on the floor, there is no bathroom, and no kitchen. They have a small hot plate that is on the floor as a stove.) I felt like I bonded, laughed, and smiled more with the girls this Sunday than any other day thus far. I am truly thankful after such a challenging few weeks, but especially after what took place Thursday. I felt like I really became their “Didi” that day.

Faith*, Harmony’s* oldest son Gabriel*, Naomi’s* daughter Grace*, and I sit on Harmony* and Naomi’s* roof top.

Something that has also taken place in the last week or so is that Faith* revealed some more information to her story to one of the volunteers. A little bit of Faith’s* story… Her mother died when she was young, her sister committed suicide, and she was abused by her new stepmother. Her uncle (her father’s brother) was the person to traffick her. She was in a brothel for five months and upon getting out she had an abortion (this was the newly shared information), she has had to deal with the loss of this child as well as the loss of relationship with her father (they were close before she was trafficked). It is really important to note how meaningful it is for one of the girls to open up about their life’s story, to be vulnerable, and also so that we, the staff and volunteers, can better know how to love, counsel, and understand her. This is a good thing!

I ate an amazing meal a few nights ago at one of the better restaurants in Ooty. It is incredible how much I have come to appreciate good food… food that I choose to eat (as opposed to having only one option in front of me). I ate poulet cordon bleu and strawberries with cream and ice cream for dessert. Had I eaten the (French) chicken dish in the states I would have probably said it was ok,  but I was sooo happy. The dessert though- the four of us volunteers that ate together devoured it. Strawberries are my favorite fruit, and not eating them as well as many of my favorite things for over a month… well, let’s just say my tummy was extremely pleased. And I have yet to have any tummy problems or sickness since I’ve been here too! Yay!

Another thing to note- I have been sleeping better! I still wouldn’t mind some prayers for even better though!

All in all I see God is on the move. He is good. He is faithful.

He’s the hope of nations.

* All names changed:

curious about some of the meanings?

Zoe- “life”
Naomi- “My delight”
Gabriel -“God’s able bodied one; hero of God”
Aaron- “light bringer, brightness”


Prayer need!

I already posted today, but I know some of you get email notifications and may not see changes made to the previous post.

***Urgent prayer need: I was just informed one of the girls, Zoe* attacked Hope* in a fit of rage…  hit her in the head with her high heal, pulled out some of her hair, kicked her in the stomach, and threw a brick at her. Zoe* is the girl I referenced previously about her improvements with containing her rage, as she has had a history of being violent. This disturbs my spirit as earlier today seemed to be peaceful, and I know that Zoe* has changed and can change. This will likely alter the dynamics with the girls greatly. I will be the “house mother” at Roja Saturday and Sunday. Peace Peace Peace is what we need.

And right now, at 8pm here, there is a raid taking place to rescue at least one girl by FF’s Pune team.

We need prayers for victory! Both, in rescuing and in the situation with Zoe*.

————————————————-

An update– right about the time I posted this Zoe* went in to another rage minutes after Anika (a fellow FF volunteer) came to Roja to be of support to the other two staff persons there. Anika and Anik had to physically hold her down for about ten minutes until Jayson was able to come to talk to her. In the process of kicking etc. she bit Anika twice… As horrible as this is, the thing to praise God for is that Anika was there to help hold her down because she was not successful in attacking Hope* again, also that Jayson and Greg (He and his wife Mala are FF’s founders) were able to talk to her to the point of her calming down. Today they are meeting with her again to talk through things.

*names changed


“You look like dolly.”

I love the bus. Taking the bus in the morning with the girls to Smyrna (where they have school/work) is such a funny experience. I’ve gotten use to being the only non-Indian (99% of the time) but besides that… The particular buses I take to Smyrna are incredible. They are green. The first one is complete with green flowery curtains throughout the inside of the bus and incense. The second has these decorative flowers hanging over the front windshield, and the driver must be Catholic because he has stickers of Mary and Jesus. Oh, and the buses here BLAST music. Most of the time it is so loud, I once had a phone call on the bus and had to keep asking the person to repeat themselves because I could not hear. I am constantly amazed that the bus can make it up the hill to Smyrna. I can almost hear it saying, “I think I can, I think I can….” I’m also in awe of the fact that the bus fits on the road. It’s challenging enough when there are no other vehicles, but add an auto, scooter, or dare it be even a car or svu… it is quite something. Someone ends up backing up this way or that, we end up scraping the bushes etc. The other day, one of the girls was sitting next to me, Hope*, and she was somewhat distraught by the fact that the trees’ branches were hitting me through the window, so she pointed for me to close it. Squeakkkkk Squeakkk I tugged on the window, barely getting closed in time before the branches whacked against it again.

The second bus to Smyrna

One highlight of my week, was when this same girl Hope* held my hand. In India it is very common for good friends (males or females, but of the same gender) to hold hands as a sign of affection and friendship. She was the first of the girls to do this, and yet she is the one who has the least ability to communicate verbally with me as she hardly knows English at all.

Speaking of English, it’s nice to see the bits of improvement in the girls. They seem to really enjoy “story time” as I read a children’s story they gather around really close, and often ask for me to read another. We have been reading out of a “Treasury book for Girls.” They really like these stories, it tugs at my heart  because most of them had their childhood, their “girlhood” so to speak, and innocence taken from them. Perhaps, this is why they enjoy stories of tea parties, fairies, and ballerinas so much. It’s funny how much being a nanny has prepared me for this! I read countless stories, practiced letters, and writing with the now nearly 4 year old girl I was a nanny for. Now, I am doing that with these girls.

The “squat-a-potty” at Smyrna was painted this week! It looks lovely!

I am increasingly glad I like Indian food and chai tea as I eat about six meals a week with the girls. The usual meal is white rice with some sort of curry or spicy mixture with potatoes and other vegetables. The girls were initially shocked at the level of spiciness I could handle, and now I think it pleases them as some of them offer me food they have made at home and have brought to eat as a snack during tea time. I frequently tell them they make great food. 🙂 Though, in my spare time, when I cook for myself I am drawn to non-Indian foods. Typical days Indians drink chai twice in a day, and I almost always have some; I love chai. The ladies that prepare lunch at Smyrna seem to have taken a liking to me as well often telling me, “You very nice looking.” This weeks addition was ,”You look like dolly.” Ha ha. It’s shows just how much I stand out here… fair skin, blue eyes, and red hair.

Tea time at Roja

I began measuring all the jewelry pieces for the purpose of posting the information on the website and documentation for the workshop. Also, Anika and I tackled the photo project of cards and bookmarks for the website. We collaborated, and I took all the photos over two afternoons. Here is a little glimpse.

http://www.ruhamah.in/ Cards and bookmarks to be listed soon.

The most challenging thing this week has been a continuation of challenges with a particular girl, Joy*, I don’t care to get in to the details much, and didn’t prior intentially, however I will give a brief explanation. Joy* is the most recent girl to start FF’s program, she was rescued about 9 years ago, and was in the program for the main purpose of working and having a place to stay. She has decided to leave, and it’s not on good terms. She has had some conflict with particularly one of the girls here, and her pride has stopped her from dealing with the issue. She has been increasingly manipulative as well. In many ways she seemed to be the most spiritually mature girl here, but she has other underlying issues that are holding her back. FF has tried to offer her connections to a hostel as a place to stay, or to remain in FF at Roja, but she has decided not to. She does not seem to have a place to go and we are concerned about her being in a vulnerable state, for her safety, and need of maturation instead of escaping her conflicts. Today, was our FF staff prayer meeting, and I ask for you to partner with us in prayer for her safety, growth, and well-being. I also humbly ask for your prayers over the FF staff as this as well as some other challenges have made the past couple of weeks exhausting to those of us involved in the aftercare program, especially Anik, the aftercare director. We have joked that we are all getting gray hair.. or losing it, but in all seriousness it is emotionally wearing. God is the ultimate peace-giver, and we believe he can supernaturally refresh us. We need it.

Thanks for all of your support! This week I had another $80 come in. So, I’m at $2,890! Ha! At this point, I truly don’t think I will need more! God has blessed me so much through those of you I know, and those I have never met.

Anika, a fellow FF volunteer, holds up the daughter of one our rescued girls. She has been talking up a storm this week! 🙂

 

Oh, and another thing just to humor you all, I had my first 3 person scooter ride today. Certainly if three grown Indian men can do it, three caucasian girls can. A hilarious thing to imagine I’m sure. We got a kick out of the locals facial expressions!