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Volunteers Galore!

12.04.2008 in Uncategorized

Just as our school sponsorship students were preparing for their final exams, we were able to place two volunteers as English teachers in the Apne Aap centers. Both are native English speakers (one Brit and one Aussie) who came to Kolkata through Global Volunteer Network. This has been an incredible hel pto the students preparing for their exams, as well as for the younger children who were recently enrolled in school for the first time. The volunteers are teaching English not only to the school-going children, but also teaching business skills to the groups that make TEN Products.

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That Takes Ovaries

12.04.2008 in Uncategorized

March 19, 2008

This evening the American Center and Thoughtshop Foundation in Kolkata hosted a That Takes Ovaries program. A group of young women from Apne Aap’s Topsia center performed a skit about women who were trafficked into Mumbai’s red light district. The purpose of the event was not to raise awareness about trafficking specifically, but rather to encourage women from the audience to speak about the brave things they may have done in their lives. Some women spoke about discimination they faced in their education, others talked about their family’s pressuring them to be married at a young age, and one woman shared her experience of her husband’s wish to terminate her pregnancy because the fetus was female.

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School Reports

12.04.2008 in Uncategorized

March 14, 2008

Today was the children in TEN’s school sponsorship program got their report cards. I am pleased to announce that they all passed their class, and several of them placed first in their age group! It was so exciting to see them lined up, patiently waiting for the teacher to call their name, and then getting their final grades. There were some other parents present, who were applauding for their children, and I was priveleged to applaud and photograph our sponsored children’s moments.

It’s amazing to think that just one year ago, these children had never been to school before, had never been outside the red light district really. Their development in just one year is remarkable; they have friends from other communities, they take care of their belongings, they can focus on a given task for more than 15 minutes, and you can literally see their self-confidence rising each day. I only wish that their real mothers and their school sponsors could have been there to watch them receive their final report cards! If you are interested in sponsoring a child from the red light district or from a high risk community, we are enrolling another group of children this year into private school and WE NEED SPONSORS! Email Alicia if you’re interested and want more information.

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Conference Calls and Shoes

27.02.2008 in Uncategorized

February 25, 2008

Our first attempt at the school sponsorship call didn’t go so well. We tried it from the Kidderpore center, where internet is quite unpredictable. Unfortunately, after only 2 minutes the internet stopped working, so all the sponsors could do was talk to the children over the phone. But Sudebi, the Program Manager for Apne Aap, was determined to make it work. So we rescheduled for Monday morning at Destiny, which has a reliable source of internet. The children were so excited to see the American sponsors, and we couldn’t help but laugh as they shouted into the computer. When we suggested they say, "Good morning," one very intelligent girl responded, "No, it’s morning there – I should say good morning." If you are a sponsor and would like to participate in the next call, please contact me to coordinate the time.

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Fabric Catalogs and an Indian Wedding

27.02.2008 in Uncategorized

February 22, 2008

Today I spent four hours in the shelter home working with the girls to catalog their block prints. This required taking each block, printing it three times on white fabric, cutting each one out, labeling it Block Number x, and making 3 files. One file will be kept at the shelter home, one at Destiny, and one with The Emancipation Network in the US. This is hopefully going to speed the efficiency of placing orders for blockprinted fabrics. The survivors at the shelter home initially thought I was crazy, asking them to block print the same thing three times, but eventually they understood the concept.

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Bazaars and Earrings

27.02.2008 in Uncategorized

February 12, 2008

Today Chan and I went on an adventure to Burra Bazaar. This is the main outdoor market in Kolkata, where you can buy everything imaginable. I was there to get some fabric and jewelry making supplies. Cramming into 2-foot stalls, haggling with the shop owners, and having an influx of sensory images has never been so thrilling. We were on a wild goose chase for 2 hours trying to find headpins for the earrings, but eventually found them. It’s certainly not an efficient way to procure materials, but the best way I’ve found so far. The two hour bus ride home made me think of how much time is literally wasted in travel time here.

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Birthday Parties

27.02.2008 in Uncategorized

February 3, 2008

Today was perhaps my best birthday in a while. I woke early to go to church, then spent the morning at Destiny. They had a surprise for me – a new top for myself and for Loke Chana, the black lab puppy. After modeling our new matching sets, they made me promise to have dinner with them. Of course, dinner isn’t served until 10pm, but the rest of the day was lovely.

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South Indian Adventure

27.02.2008 in Uncategorized

January 28, 2008

Yesterday I arrived in Chennai, which is the capital city of of Tamil Nadu, in South India. I was there for a mix of business and pleasure, and spent the first two days working with an organization called Just Trust. This charity was started by Mr. Daniel Jebaraj (Uncle Daniel) and has successfully rescued nearly 1,500 young women from sex trafficking in their district and has also brought their traffickers to justice.

 

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Field of Beads

24.02.2008 in Uncategorized

February 8th

This morning I arrived in Varanasi, the holy city in India located on the Ganges river. Thousands of people from across the country travel here to visit the gorgeous temples and wash their bodies in the holy water of the Ganges. But for the villagers living in the outskirts of the city, life isn’t so blessed.

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Inspired by Freeset

24.02.2008 in Uncategorized

February 5, 2008

Today I visited another one of TEN’s partners in Kolkata, Freeset. Their three-story production unit is located right in the middle of the Sonagachi red light district. Freeset employs between 100-150 women from the red light district who have left prostitution, offering full-time jobs to the women, free lunch, and free day care for their young children. As of now, they do not offer any residential or shelter options because they want the women to live in the community and be the watchguards for abuse, motivate other women to leave, and thus bring change from within.

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