(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)