Tag Archives: India

He knows.

I thought you may all be interested to know that today I was re-calculating all of my India expenses (to the dot, instead of ball park) and just figured out that $1,172 was given in a church offering and my living expenses in India: $1,172.58! hahaha! My flight cost $1,574.60… So, my flight + living expenses= $2,827.27. And then I had about $50 dollars in oversees transaction fees. The total amount given in support: $2,880. HA HA! 🙂 🙂

Just a reminder that God knows what He is doing! He is in control. He’s faithful. He’s good.

He used many of you to send me to the girls to love in to their lives.

And yesterday, I got to meet with a group of people from Bethel Church here in Redding that is starting a group home for girls that have been in the domestic sex trade and rescued. All because of a girl I met at a BBQ… I got to encourage and share with them my experiences so that my input can give them a better picture of what the program will look like. And I am invited to the next meeting! Ha! I am thrilled and excited where this may lead. I am planning to live in Redding for the summer, but who knows what will happen?

He knows.

A prayer for India

(Near where I transfered buses with the girls to go to Smyrna)

A few mornings ago, I woke realizing I dreamed of India.

A few days before left India, something really hit me- India is a land in need of healing. Certainly there are places all over the world in need of God, but India has something different about it. It’s obviously a land in need of spiritual healing, but what surprised me was that it is a land in need of physical healing as well.  I can’t even begin to tally the amount of people I saw with some sort of physical problem, specifically I noticed many people with problems with their feet and legs. Legs! The very thing that helps you move forward.

India is a land of pain and heartbreak. Before going to India I may have thought of this as being dramatic, but after not only my experience with the girls, but hearing and seeing so many truly sad stories I can see this reality. So many children who have lost parents, parents who have lost children, so much loss. I watched many Hindi films while I was in India and besides the music and dancing (“Bollywood”) one other thing seemed to tie them together as a common thread. They are dramatic. Really dramatic. The older ones especially. There are traumatic accidents and sudden deaths or other forms of heartbreak. After seeing so many films that have such elements I began to wonder why… Indians like drama? Is that it? While, I think that’s part of it, I believe there is more to it than that. Many Indians themselves have seen and experienced such horror and pain first hand; they relate.

There is known to be a lot of corruption in India. The government and some persons in general who are leaders are unfair and crooked. (The caste system also plays in to this, I believe.) The culture is accustomed to the corruption, but some are willing to fight it. The presence of Freedom Firm is an example of just that! And the dream can be realized.

India, a country of 1.2 billion people, is only 5.6 percent Christian. There are many religions represented in India– Hinduism, Buddhims, Jainism, Sikhism, and Islam to name some. It’s fascinating how much these religions have influenced it’s culture through out history. Of course a country in need of healing is going to try to find their hope in something. It’s so sad for one country to be so lost.

I may not have a “calling” to India, but as a Christ follower, this hopeful heart would like to see (and believes) India can stretch out it’s legs and move into a new future. My prayer is for India to do just that.

(at the highest (in elevation) Tea Factory in South India)

snap shot

So, I realize those of you who receive my email updates often get my typos in all their glory as the original published blog is sent automatically often prior to my corrections. Ha. So, I hope you all got a kick* out of my “foot” instead of food typo. No pun intended, okay yes it was intended. 🙂

(at the Taj Mahal in Agra!)

So, I got back to California Tuesday. I was supposed to fly in to San Francisco Monday, but had flight delays etc and had to spend the night in a hotel in London. So, nearly 48 hours after leaving India, I arrived in America. My body clock is still adjusting and I have yet to have a night without waking in the wee hours of the morning. My second day here I actually didn’t wake up until 4:30 pm! Ha, jet lag. But, it could be worse.

(The Taj Mahal)

(from inside the Taj Mahal looking out)

(The Red Fort in Agra)

Overall my time in Delhi and Agra was good although I had a “Delhi belly” (I vomited in the morning before leaving for the train… and had a funny tummy through out the day) on Saturday which was the day we went to the Taj Mahal in Agra. I felt like I was in a haze all day because of it. But I suppose it was the ultimate Indian experience. I still got to laugh at moments like when we (10 of us– Anne and I met up with others in Agra) rode in one small Indian truck– 3 in the front, and 7 of us in the bed (“That’s your ride?!) and when two Indian girls wanted to take photos with me at the Taj Mahal (I felt like a character at Disneyland). Besides the Taj, I also got to visit Agra’s Red Fort, the National Museum in Delhi, and the Craft Museum. I even got to see the capital and India Gate. The woman we stayed with was a HUGE blessing (more than I can say really). I definitely experienced culture shock in New Delhi. Besides it being a big city (Ooty is a smaller town), the increase in traffic, cleanliness, and modernization felt bizarre. Truly, Delhi to London to San Francisco made culture re-entry less intense coming back.

(The sisters that took photos with me… they paid for the Taj’s photographer to take them!)

(Anne and I sitting outside the Taj Mahal)

(riding in the back of a tempo (small Indian truck) 3 Indians in the front, 2 in the back and 5 of us foreigners=quite a sight)

It’s been nice to see family and friends and I even got to see one of my sisters and brother-in-law this week-end which has been lovely. I feel so blessed.

I feel like there is so much more I can and want to say… but I hardly know where to begin. 😉 More to come?

Thank you all so much for your prayers and words of encouragement!

“India girl”

“Fall down,” it’s the nickname the girls established for me a few weeks back. They like to come up with silly nicknames for much of the staff and volunteers. For example, things like: “Horse, *uh ha uh ha* (coughing sound), Katirina (after a famous Bollywood actress), and Mom….” My nickname came from a time when i slipped on the hill at Smyrna going to lunch. One foot slipped, then the other, and yes, I fell down. The girls ran to my aide and then laughed about it once I did and the nickname came from then on. There are worse things that they could come up with and though it’s silly I know it is a sign of affection.

I got a new nickname added on this weekend, “India girl.”

I had my last weekend staying with the girls! On Saturday, I wanted to go to a restaurant for lunch with the girls and they decided we should all go wearing saris… so, we did! It was really fun to wear a sari (for the first time) even though they aren’t very comfortable, they are beautiful. Hope* started saying, “You no America girl, India girl!” I (and the girls) got some good laughs out of some of the looks I got from local nationals. I even had a few people literally walk backwards just so they could get another look of the white skinned, red haired girl in a bright sari. Ha… It was a really fantastic thing to do with the girls before leaving. It felt special… and I couldn’t believe the amount of “thank yous” I heard from the girls! (Their manners really have improved since I’ve been here! 🙂 )

(the girls getting ready at Roja)

(wearing the sari I got to borrow from Hope*)

This week I had my last days of teaching! I am extremely thankful my last day, Thursday, probably went smoother than any of the other days I taught (about a dozen times total). This week, Leah added a lot of my photos to Ruhamah’s website so, now it has 15 or so of my photos up of newer jewelery designs. She joked that I should stay and be FF’s designated photographer. I’ve also had the chance to pass on my best photos of the girls as requested by Jayson (another FF staff person).

(Faith* practicing reading English with me at Smyrna)

I’m feeling further peace about leaving India and saying good-bye to the girls. I have had the chance to talk to them about my leaving (and other FF staff persons who will be leaving these year). It’s important to me to allow them to understand that leaving does not equal rejection. I know from their life experiences they can easily feel this and I desire them to know how much they are loved and how supported they are by all of FF. They have frequently reminded me of my departure, asking when, why, boo hoo-ing, and joking that they are coming with me. One of the girls, Hope*, was even joking this week that she would take my passport and was going to America instead of me. I asked her if we looked a like and we all laughed. Then she came up with a plan to disguise herself by putting white on her skin, putting henna in her hair, and wearing glasses. Her explanation made me laugh so hard. SHE often makes me laugh really hard. 🙂 The best part was when she said once she got to America she would say to my parents, “Mom, Dad, me America coming. Dori India staying.” Ha ha!

(I walked out the door to see Hope* twirling at Smyrna)

I officially say good-bye to the girls on Wednesday and Friday I leave Ooty for Delhi. I know this next week will go by fast and I would love prayers for God-filled days and joy-filled moments.

Some news: Hope* will be going to court in April! This is an exciting chance for justice to prevail! Please be praying that her Madame will be convicted.

What I will miss about living in India:

  • tea time, I love chai
  • watching Hindi (Bollywood) films
  • living cheaply
  • simplicity
  • GOOD Indian food
  • the frequent use of the words “sir” and “madam”
  • the random children saying “Hi!” and other Indians that chose to be friendly
  • seeing women with their henna, bangles, and saris
  • observing the way people do things
  • riding scooters (?!)

New friends & scooters

Well, my culture shock has seemed to lessen each day thus far. I’ve begun to try to throw my Western thinking out the window. I’ve already seen my fair share of monkeys, cows, goats, and other animals roaming about the streets. Yesterday, I did something I thought just the day before I would never do. But hey, life in India is different.

The Freedom Firm volunteers and workers I’ve met so far are wonderful. They’re really the kind of people I can see myself loving. They are genuine, fun, and such sweet lovers of Jesus. Upon getting in to Ooty (pronounced as it sounds) I was taken right to Farley, the guest house that is my home for these three months. Farley is a lot larger than I expected which is fabulous for volunteers to stay. The house has “charm” and is considered very nice for India. There is a host family here: Annette, David, and their children. There is also another family staying for a few more days, and then there is Anika, who has been here for five months and will be here for another 5 or so. She is a 19 year old Missionary Kid who grew up mostly in Pakistan and Afghanistan. She is the only other volunteer that is doing what I am here to do (she separates her time into different aspects of FF).

After meeting most of the Farley dwellers and getting a tour by Anika, Tarrah Palm, my main FF contact stopped by and invited me to dinner at her (family’s) house. So, I got to shower (yay!), rest (but not sleep), and unpack some. Later Tarrah picked me up in her van with two of her four kids. Tarrah and her husband Jayson work with Freedom Firm and have all the volunteers over at their house once a week for dinner (the more Western the better). They changed the day of the week for my arrival. 🙂 Once we got to their house I got to meet her husband, the rest of their kids, and the other FF volunteers: Kristin and Pete (they are fairly recently married) and Anne. Both Kristin and Anne are FF returners- meaning they volunteered with FF for three months and now they are back for a longer amount of time. They’ve been back here for a year or two. They are part of FF’s horse therapy crew. In case I haven’t mentioned this aspect of FF, I honestly don’t know much about it, but I’m sure I’ll find out more while I’m here. It was great to sense the volunteers’ genuine excitement of my arrival– and new addition to FF.

In some ways I feel like I’m catching up because all of the other volunteers have been here for quite some time. But for the most part it’s really great for me because they understand what I am going through in my transition and will make great resources for me. This has already begun. Yesterday afternoon after I relaxed a while, Anika, Kristin, Pete, and Anne came by to take me to lunch… via scooter. Oh yes, they all have scooters. Pretty hilarious to me because just the day before during my car ride to Ooty I was blown away by not just the amount of people on scooters, but by their sense of calm as cars, trucks, etc. passed by. I thought there was no way in the world I would be that calm— or ride a scooter for that matter. HAHAHA! But again, India is different. There goes my Western thinking… I was nervous first getting on to the back of Anne’s scooter (she gave me her helmet :)), but once we got going it wasn’t bad at all! It’s a new experience… never have I been on a scooter, moped, or motorcycle in the states, much less somewhere like India. In Ooty vehicles don’t really go that fast which makes it better (I think). Anywho, we ended up going to lunch at what is probably the nicest restaurant in Ooty. He he. It wasn’t the original intent, but the French restaurant they wanted to take me to didn’t work out because the chef had just left. The area of the restaurant seemed so quaint and lovely (British influence). So, it wasn’t exactly the typical Indian experience, but it was nice and the food was good. They offer “conti” (continental foods aka Western). The other volunteers were excited. 😉 After that, Anika took me around Ooty hitting the main spots: The Modern Stores (Indian version of a grocery store meets Target), Market (outdoor market of stalls of fruits, veggies, clothes, etc. sold), and the ATM. I was able to pick up some groceries to get me going. Later in the evening Anne picked me up to meet at the Palms to watch a Bollywood film (oh yes!) called “3 Iditots.” It was an entertaining introduction to newer Bollywood. We all ate lots of pizza made by Tarrah and Jayson and caramel pop corn. It was great. After the film, since Anne’s headlight went out she borrowed Pete’s head lamp and I held Jayson’s flashlight as we followed Pete and Kristin back to Farley. Yeah, did you need to re-read that? Jayson took a picture of Anne and I before we left because it was such an amusing welcome to India. Tarrah asked me if I would rather she drove me back in their van, but to be honest I really didn’t mind at that point. I mean just the day before I never even thought I would get on a scooter in India and now I’m holding a flashlight on one?! hahaha! Jayson said that I am, “Diving in to life in India more than any volunteer they’ve ever had.” (The looks we got passing nationals made me giggle.) Being here in such a different culture I’m already trying to flip the Western switch in my brain to “off” to better adjust.

Today was a really low key day. Tomorrow I will meet with Tarrah at the Freedom Firm office to get things going. There are a lot of girls right now, so FF really needs the extra help. Five girls were rescued from the Pune red light area the night before I arrived! (An answer to prayer) Wow.

( Here are photos of some of what I saw on my way up to Ooty on Friday and a bit of Farley: )

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I made it!

part 1:

Well, this post is in two parts: the first part from an extremely tired dare I say down right exhausted red haired, blue eyed, fair skinned girl (that sticks out like a sore thumb) sitting in Bangalore’s Airport waiting to be able to check my bags. ((I should ask you to free me of any spelling/grammatical rules before you read on because at this point I’ve maybe had two hours of sleep in the past… 30 hours?)) A mere hour and a half ago I would have said, though very long and draining, my journey has been quite smooth and uneventful. Until I landed in Bangalore, noticing upon entering India you are required to a give an address of where you will be staying. This would not have been a problem, had the address been in my carry on… or checked bag. 😦 I thought I put my packet of contact info in my checked suitcase by mistake…. but alas I must have left it behind in CA. I hoped being able to give the town and a contact phone number they would let me get by. Nope. After quite the escapade of talking to this man, that man, another, that stern one, and then the younger more understanding one…. they agreed to first let me call my contact to get the number, it being the first time using my international phone there were some problems, then agreeing to give me an escort to the package claim as long as they kept my passport at the security point. After waiting for and then digging through my bags, there was no sign of the address. After the younger more understanding man (my escort) and a young woman waited patiently I reiterated that I thought I had the address and did not mean to create such issues. The woman then decided she would use her phone to call my contact (which was a nice gesture in my book), but there was no answer— likely due to the fact that it was 5:30 am India time! After looking through my bag yet again and starting to get really frustrated and kicking myself, they seemed to feel bad and talk to me about where I will be staying etc. I suddenly realized (Thank you, Lord!) my computer! I knew if I had internet access I would have it in a flash, but wasn’t sure I had it saved to my laptop. My escort told me he would find out how I could internet. While, he went and asked I found the info I put aside for my parents on my laptop! Longggg story short (kinda ;)), I literally started laughing when I got it all figured out (Ok, Lord, thanks for helping me out of that one! I don’t know what would have happened…) This helped break the ice because then “my escort” was more friendly and understanding as I apologized and thanked him for his patience while joking that I felt like I was getting “special treatment.” He smiled saying, “Well, it’s your first time in India so you should get special treatment.” Then back to the security entry man we went, he was quite as a mouse, entered everything in and everything cleared. I laughed again. The fact that I had four and a half hours between flights in the end was wonderful because it let me know I have the time. I got my bags, went through “customs” (aka a man standing there looking at my passport?). Tugged my bags to the KingFisher Airlines transfer window and found out I have to wait an hour and a half to even be able to check them in. So, here I sit dry eyed (literally, I think it’s from being in the air so long), in a half zombie state humored that things could have been a whole lot worse.

part 2:

Soooooo….. I waited another three hours waiting for my short one hour jaunt of a flight to Coimbatore. Then I was picked up by the driver sent by Freedom Firm and we made the two and a half hour trek to Ooty. Wow. The driving was mostly what I expected- lots of honking and swerving around other vehicles, people, animals, etc. However, I didn’t realize the last hour and a half would be so windey (add on the driving style) up the mountains. To be honest, I got the closest I’ve ever come to ever being car sick– yes, I almost got sick in my first two hours of being in here. It’s a little embarassing. I’m just glad in the end I didn’t. I got to Farley (the guest house I’m staying in) at about 1pm, sooner than I anticipated. I got introduced to the house and most of the people here. Though mostly it has been overwhelming taking it all in. Though, I know they understand that.

I shall update again soon. Perhaps tomorrow or the day after. I would love prayers for restful sleep and quick body clock adjustment as well as all the other adjustments in store. Thanks 🙂

Oh, by the way I’m 13 and a half hours ahead of all you West Coasters (10 and a half ahead of East).

Tomorrow I willy try to give a more significant update as far as where I’m staying and photos etc.

“There is power in the name of Jesus… to break every chain”

A couple months ago I listened to a message by Kris Vallotton, and he said something so simple, yet new to my ears: “Fear is faith in the wrong guy.” Ha. Fear is the opposite of faith. Of course! This can be related to so much in life. After a conversation on this topic with my best friend last night, I pondered this more. I thought about how I’ve had several people ask me the same question in reference to me going to India, one that is an honest and a valid one,

“Are you scared?”

Most of the time I respond with saying that I am nervous about some things, but overall I’m just excited. Of course no one wants to go with fear, but I have decided that more than anything I don’t because it is partnering with something I don’t believe in. Fear says a giant such as sex trafficking can’t be taken down, faith says it can. We need to pursue truth, and defeat the lies because the truth is God wants to see people set free. Physical, emotional, spiritual freedom…. God doesn’t want just one for us. We’re meant to be free… entirely free. Free of bondage- that includes fear!  I am going to India because I want to see women and children free of sexual slavery, I believe it can happen… AND I want that same sort of freedom Jesus gives in every aspect of my life.

I had $100 more come in, so I’m now at $2,800! God is so good. I appreciate those of you who have partnered with me in God’s desire to see the chains broken. I would like to leave you with a song from an album that I recently got off itunes… one that is inspired by “Nefarious,” a documentary on the sex trade. You can check out the album here: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/hold-on-music-inspired-by/id409382758?ign-mpt=uo%3D4

What is Sex Trafficking?

It can become overwhelming to understand something so huge as sex trafficking. There is some topic specific language that can make it even more difficult at times. I will do my best to be clear in describing sex trafficking leaving out the details. Sex trafficking can occur in a variation of ways and circumstances, but here I will be primarily describing the most common situations in India. Due to the nature of this topic, please approach this with caution.

When first defining sex trafficking, it is important to address human trafficking. Sex trafficking essentially fits under the umbrella of human trafficking, just more specific. (Urban dictionary’s definition of human trafficking:http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=human%20trafficking). Usually when someone is trafficked (usually girls or young women, but sometimes boys too) they are sold, kidnapped, and/or promised a job. These people may be someone they trust such as a family member or friend, or a seemingly friendly stranger who offers to “help.” Often times victims are drugged by something being put in their tea and then sold to a brothel. Brothels are where most of those trafficked end up; being sold and often told they need to repay “debt” before they can go home. This is a lie meant to put fear into place. They are also frequently threatened by their brothel keepers or madams (women in charge) that their families will be killed if they try to escape. In some extreme (but not rare) cases girls and women are beaten and locked in their rooms. At these brothels they are forced to prostitute themselves typically seeing 20 or more “customers” a day without receiving any of the “profit.” The customers are local men or tourists. CNN reported of a story earlier this year of a Nepalese woman trafficked across India’s boarders and sold to a brothel by a member of her extended family, “Geeta was 9 when she began wearing makeup, staying up until 2 a.m. and having sex with as many as 60 men a day.” Geeta was later rescued at the age of 14.

In addition to the horrible mental and physical abuse, there are other things that may be left unconsidered. Some brothels insist they practice “safe sex,” but the reality shows most do not. Many girls and women end up with sexually transmitted diseases and/or pregnant. When pregnancy occurs,  if the child born is female she is almost certain to grow up in the brothel with the intent of being raised to be a prostitute as well. Women and girls are also commonly drugged if they are being “difficult.” This can make leaving many times more difficult when addiction occurs.

If those who survive sex trafficking are able to get out, they have a challenging road ahead of them. The first step is getting out—escaping or being rescued. The physical and psychological affects are enormous. Due to the cultural norms women are assumed to marry, but with a past such as this they may not be easily accepted. They may not be able to find their families and will need a way of supporting themselves. It is important for these girls and women to get to a point where they can have a normal life. Yet, the most crucial thing is that they reach a place of healing: mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

The last thing I would like to mention here is that of the legal side. It has only been in very recent years that sex trafficking has been recognized for what it is… modern day slavery. The United States and other countries as well are finally deciding to take a stand. Most countries do not put a firm hand on justice for these victims. If justice becomes common practice it will be the next step in fighting this issue.

Why Sex Trafficking? Why India?

Hello friends, 

I would like to share some exciting news: I am going to be volunteering for three months (January-March 2011) with Freedom Firm, an organization that seeks to end sex trafficking… in India. For about four years I have had a growing interest in sex trafficking. The more I have learned, the more I have had a desire to do something about this world-wide issue, particularly in India. 200 women and girls enter the sex trade in India every day, 160 of whom do so under coercion [United Nations Centre for Development and Population Activities]. Currently, India is considered by many to be the epicenter of the sex trafficking industry.

I have spent much time researching organizations that combat sex trafficking. Upon looking into Freedom Firm, I was thrilled to find exactly the kind of organization I hoped to be a part of. Freedom Firm is a Christian based organization involved in three main areas: rescuing victims of sex trafficking, the restoration of these victims (or as I like to call them, survivors), and justice through prosecuting the brothel keepers responsible. Most importantly, their main focus is an 18 month aftercare program and home for the rehabilitation of rescued women and girls. In addition to these three main aspects, they also tutor in the English language and Math as well as teach jewelry making as a form of income. I will be primarily volunteering with the aftercare program in Ooty, Tamil Nadu in South India, working very closely with the young women there.

The cost of living in India is mind-bogglingly low to a Westerner, however I am fully responsible for my own finances. It will be an estimated $3,000 for all of my costs, half of which is airfare. I have been blessed enough to have a job for the past 15 months working as a nanny for a three year old little girl, and plan to cover some costs myself. Still, I would like to minimally reach my goal of financial support to cover my airfare (approximately $1,500).

“Free” is my favorite word in the English language because of a deep personal meaning, yet as human beings I believe it should mean something to all of us. If you take anything from this letter, please let it not be purely of sadness towards the issue of sex trafficking. Instead, let it be inspiration. Be inspired to get educated and share with others the reality of this issue. Be inspired to do something about it, to pray, and if you are inspired to support me financially, I will greatly appreciate it.

Thank you,

Dori Richardson

* Checks may be made out to me with the subject line “India” and sent to:
Dori Richardson
8511 N. Rio Linda
Fresno, CA. 93711

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9 (NIV)

Freedom Firm

Here is an insightful video about sex trafficking and what Freedom Firm is all about:


“He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…”

Isaiah 61:1 b