Seva India 2016 Day 1-Harsh Reality

Today is my first day home. It is generally  a time for me to process, sleep, and be with my loved ones. I had not been able to blog on the trip and I am finding it overwhelming to do so about the trip in it’s entirety here, but i do feel compelled to write something, so I will write every other day or so in chronological order……

My first day in India, was surreal in so many ways. This year, instead of being a passenger on the trip, It is my first year leading the trip, and I feel the immense responsibility that it will bring.  I have the help of my co-leader Dahn and Kelly form The Village Experience, who organizes all of the logistics on the ground and who this trip could not be possible if not for her calm demeanor and endless patience, but this still does  not lessen the accountability that I feel for the 8 passengers that are soon to arrive.

I reflect on my first year in India, truly a land of contrasts in so many ways. I see the smiling faces, and the pain ridden ones, the vibrant colors, and the filth. So chaotic yet orderly in strange way. The beautiful children walking in uniform to school, so innocent, and then the children we cannot see…the reason I return year after year, those who’s innocence and childhood has been ruthlessly stolen from them…the victims of sex trafficking.

This reality is incomprehensible, and in no way can I protect the individuals in my group from feeling the inevitable  pain and sadness that comes with baring witness to this, In fact, I would be doing them an disservice, as this is why they have come..The impending sadness, horror and shock that awaits them bears down so heavily on my heart.  I reassure myself that I am capable of holding space for each of these ladies when the shit hits the fan.

I arrive at my hotel in Kolkata on Monday 2/15 at about 6 a.m. check into my room and have breakfast.  As the group arrives throughout the day (the trip officially starts at dinner) I head off with Giselle of Puresa Humanitarian and Ron, her Indian right hand man to do field work, meet the beautiful ladies and children, as well as see the new building that is being renovated where  girls will have a permanent safe home. The building has 3 floors, but only the first is being worked on as that is all they have currently funds for, thanks in large part to One Love Long Island , the  founders of United We OM,  Matt and Jenny, Flor Villizan’s fundraising efforts with the TT graduates of Come Together Yoga and Karmic Jewels.

This is where I will be bringing the group on Wednesday, which is basically a construction site, my sense of dread deepens. There are no functioning toilets for the group, the ground is simply earthen soil, and there is a meager blue tarp overhead to protect us from he sun, by which primitive poles keep it erect. I have no idea that Giselle and Ron have a master plan to transform this construction site into the most magical space for the group when we visit on Wednesday.

We now set off to a Slum at Riverside. Giselle and Ron brief me on the story. A young mother of 2 , who I shall call Sita, who’s  “keeper” has just sold off her 12 year old daughter to traffickers, unlikely to ever be seen again. She has begged Giselle and Ron to try to take her young 3 year old daughter, who will likely meet the same fate if we cannot talk the “keeper” out of selling her.

in the slum at Riverside, talking to a “keeper” ( far left) he has just sold his 12 year old daughter and we are trying to convince him to release his 3 year old to us before she meets the same fate.

The slums are so difficult to describe, the walkways are maze like with tiny huts that have tarp walls, and primitive poles that hold up roofs that are made of corrugated tin. The little children there are all so vulnerable and there is literally no chance of them escaping the reality of being trafficked. They are all most likely raped by the men and boys in the villages before they are sold.

Ron talks with the keeper trying to reason with him, he is so intoxicated he can barely stand upright. After some time, we have to head out, it is dusk and not safe for us to be here any longer. We all pray that God will intervene and somehow he will release the girl to us soon.

We head back to the hotel with 10 minutes to spare to  meet with my group for dinner.They will be hearing this story and too many others in the days to come.

No Human should ever be for sale.

lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu