Made by Survivors | Uncategorized


Years of Progress in Just One Week

04.02.2008 in Uncategorized

February 2nd, 2008

Today I came back to Kolkata after week in South India, and walking into the Destiny flat was completely different. Sewing machines roared, material covered the floor, a pile of finished products had found its home in the corner, and two girls sat, gingerly talking as they embroidered headbands. As soon as they saw me, motion stopped as they jumped up to give me a hug.

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Adjusting to Independent Life

04.02.2008 in Uncategorized

January 24, 2008

The girls woke up quite early (5:30am) to walk around their nearby lake. I joined them afterwards at their flat for morning tea, and they looked so tired since none of them could sleep at night. They said they were too excited and anxious being in their new flat. I have to keep reminding myself that this is the first time these girls have been living outside the shelter home, without supervisors and counselors. But they’re adjusting quickly, and with Debjani and Chan only a shout away they feel very secure.

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Destiny Begins

25.01.2008 in Uncategorized

January 23, 2008

Today is Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s birthday, the great freedom fighter of India that led his country out of British rule. I realized this while sitting in a rickshaw going to the Sanlaap shelter home, Sneha. Chan and I were going there to get five girls and move them into their new apartment in Kolkata. These girls are the first of Destiny, a new project of Sanlaap and The Emancipation Network that combines independent living with handicraft production. Usually, TEN purchases products made by survivors in shelter homes or community centers. But these survivors will live in their own apartment, cook for themselves, buy their own clothes, and earn money through the work orders of TEN and local businesses.

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The Elephant Marches on, Despite the Barking Dogs

21.01.2008 in Uncategorized


January 7, 2008 

If there’s anything that sums up the volunteer trip, it’s the famous Hindi saying, “The elephant marches on, despite the barking dogs.” From the very first day, some of the team members were feverish, nauseated, fainting, or sick to their stomachs. But despite this, they kept trudging along and helped each other recover in the solace of their hotel room. The night before half the volunteer team was scheduled to depart for Nepal, our youngest volunteer was hospitalized. She was severely dehydrated and pale as a ghost by the time she reached the “Casualty Ward,” the Indian version for “emergency room.” Not very comforting…

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Volunteer Team – First Week

21.01.2008 in Uncategorized

December 29, 2007 

The day after I returned from Delhi, a team of ten volunteers associated with The Emancipation Network arrived in Kolkata. I was so excited to see Sarah, the founder of TEN, and met them at the airport. We first went to their hotel to check in and freshen up, then directly to the Apne Aap Kidderpore center for orientation. The staff provided an overview of the organization, how it works in various cities, and then specifically about the centers here in Kolkata.

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Jury: Millionaire couple enslaved housekeepers

17.12.2007 in Uncategorized

CENTRAL ISLIP, New York (AP) — A jury on Monday convicted a
millionaire couple of enslaving two Indonesian women they brought to
their mansion to work as housekeepers.

Murlidhar Sabhnani, 51, and his wife, Varsha Mahender Sabhnani, 45,
were each convicted of all charges in a 12-count federal indictment
that included forced labor, conspiracy, involuntary servitude, and
harboring aliens.

Prosecutors said the women were subjected to
repeated psychological and physical abuse and were forced to work 18
hours or more a day.

The Sabhnanis, who have four children and
operate a worldwide perfume business out of their Muttontown home on
Long Island’s Gold Coast, could face up to 40 years in prison, although
attorneys predicted the punishment would be considerably less. He is
from India, and she is from Indonesia, but both are naturalized U.S.


For the full story see 

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From One Survivor to Another

15.12.2007 in Uncategorized

December 15, 2007

While waiting for the survivors at Sneha to finish tailoring my new outfit, I told them about my sponsored child, Kajol. They were so intrigued that I had an "Indian daughter" and wanted to know all about her. I think they understood the situation when I said she lives in Kidderpore with her mother, but has no father. I also told them about her naughty habits, like playing in the mechanic shop’s oil, and the girls just laughed. Then, one girl went searching in a cabinet and came back holding a small skirt and tank top set. "For your daughter," she smiled. I tried to refuse the precious gift, but realized that would only insult her gesture. She only asked that I take a picture of Kajol to show her.

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Tensions Rise in Bihar

12.12.2007 in Uncategorized

December 10, 2007

Before traveling to Bihar, India’s poorest state, I had heard stories of its backwardness, lawlessness, and utter poverty. Sounded exciting to me, and indeed it was.

Forbesganj is a main commercial city in Bihar, situated near the Nepalese border. About ten minutes from the main bizarre is a side street of little huts – the "red light district." Apne Aap runs a Community Center amidst these huts, which serves as a day school for young children and a meeting space for the women in prostitution, or those who have come out.

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Meeting the Traffickers

12.12.2007 in Uncategorized

December 9, 2007

This morning I arrived at the Bihar train station, a good first impression of the poorest state in India. The three-hour drive to Forbesganj led me along dirt paths, with endless stretches of hay fields, cow pastures, and ghastly thin people performing mundane chores like breaking stones, attaching dung patties to their straw huts, or squatting to relieve themselves. Quite different from the bustling atmosphere of Kolkata.

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