Day 1 in New Delhi …Apne Ap, “An Ounce of Prevention”
Our first day in New Delhi, brought us to one of our OTM Partners, Apne Ap Worldwide.
Apne Ap ‘s main focus is the prevention of “at risk” children being trafficked, and are currently working with women who have already fallen prey to sex traffickers. Apne Ap’s task is seemingly an insurmountable one, as the definition here in India of “at risk” is being poor, uneducated, marginalized, and female. This description fits virtually every female child, of literally hundreds of thousands of women currently being exploited in the illegal sex trade.
The directors and employees of Apne Ap, are working tirelessly with the victims to educate and empower them, and more importantly, to find sustainable solutions to this end.

When the victims are asked what is of the greatest importance and immediate concern to them, the answer invariably is that their children not fall prey to their fate.
Crucial to meeting this need, one of the projects Apne Ap has implemented is to provide a “safe house”, or community center, where the children are able to gather in a safe and wholesome environment to socialize, learn computer, reading skills, sewing and dance.

As we approached the steps of the center, the children’s excitement was palpable. I felt as if the center itself was going to explode from the anticipation of our arrival. My heart too, was swelling in my chest and felt as if it would explode in unison. We received warm welcome greetings, handshakes, and hugs. There was an abundance of sweet shining smiles, and innocent sparkling eyes that were reflective of the innocence still tenuously hanging by a thread in their little hearts. How precious and ephemeral that innocence is. As I touched each and every child there, be it with a handshake, smile or eye contact, my silent prayer for each and every one of them, as well as the millions I will never see, ” may you stay forever young”

I am very grateful and honored to have been able to share their space with them. Those faces have left an indelible imprint in my heart.

Thank you Apne Ap for your service, and continuing to pour in your loving care, ounce by ounce, through prevention. May you succeed in draining this cesspool of human injustice and transform it into a vessel of love for fellow humanity.
Below are some testimonials for Apne Ap. if you would like to learn more about Apne Aplease visit my “Partners and Projects” blog on this site.
In love and gratitude.
Abolish 21st Century Slavery

Ashley Judd, Actress/Activist:
“Ruchira Gupta is well versed in the reciprocal cycles of poverty and exploitation, and how gender inequality sets the stage. Her NGO is based on two Gandhian principles: Antodaya (power to the last wo/man) and Ahimsa (non-violence), and which says so eloquently that the destruction which happens in the soul of an abuser is absolutely equal to the victimization of the abused. She operates the NGO right in the ‘hood,’ inviting anyone to join. They teach their members self reliance, self efficacy, self respect, self love. It’s capacity building of the most essential sort.”

Nicholas Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn, Authors,”
Half the Sky”:
“Ruchira is a hearty, loquacious woman with brown skin, black hair and an infectious manner… Ruchira Gupta and her staff at Apne Aap are part of a growing abolitionist movement that is forming around the world and having a real impact on sex slavery.”

Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Laureate:
“It is Ruchira’s tiny NGO that is making a difference in the world. I visited India on the invitation of her NGO, Apne Aap, which works with women and their children who live in red light districts. No government can limit or repress such small organisations.”


ambassador of love

Incredible that one year ago today, this trip to india was a lofty goal. now a dream realized.. it just goes to prove that when you give yourself to service in the name of love, and surrender to spirit, you can accomplish anything. so as i sit here and contemplate how “unequipped” and unqualified i am to embark on this journey, i know that i carry all the love and then some, to stand with my sisters in humanity and spirit in india. i am an ambassador of LOVE ♥.

“Love is a temple
Love a higher law
Love is a temple
Love is a higher law
One love
One blood
One life
You got to do what you should
One life
With each other
Sisters, brothers
One life
But we’re not the same
We get to
Carry each other
Carry each other”


538682_286669744756417_238254020_nDid you know that there are more enslaved people in the world today than were taken from Africa in the 4 centuries of the Trans- Atlantic slave trade???? Over 27 million people. The forcible exploitation of humans for profit is not only alive and well, it is thriving. This 21st century incarnation of slavery that I speak of, is that of human sex trafficking. Sex Trafficking is a horrendous and insidious crime against humanity. It is a 32 billion dollar illegal industry, the third largest after drugs and arms trafficking. An estimated 3 to 6 million women and children are enslaved for sex at any given time, with nearly a million of whom are trafficked across international borders each year. The average age of these children is 12 to 14, but there have been many reports of children as young as 3 years old. The life expectancy of a victim after they have been trafficked is 7 YEARS…These victims are lured into sex trafficking by traffickers due to natural disaster, promise of a job or better life, false marriage proposals, being sold by parents due to extreme poverty and debt, or simply kidnapped. These sex traffickers condition their victims through rape, gang rape, torture, physical abuse, starvation, confinement, and forced drug use, among many other unspeakable means, in the most deplorable of conditions..
OFF THE MAT AND INTO THE WORLD (OTM), is a program of the nonprofit 501c3, The Engage Network. Founded in 2007, by Seane Corn, Hala Khouri, and Suzanne Sterling, their mission is to use the power of yoga to inspire conscious and sustainable activism in order to ignite grassroots social change. OTM has had an “Off The Mat Global Seva Challenge ” since 2008 whereby, participants are asked to raise $20,000 through fundraising. OTM has held the “Global Seva Challenge” for the last 4 years running, 2008 in Cambodia, 2009 in Uganda, 2010 in South Africa and 2011 in Haiti.
In 2012 OTM has concentrated it’s fundraising efforts in India with “Off the Mat Into The World Global Seva Challenge India”, in which I have been a participant. I personally raised over $20K and the group as a whole raised a record $1,1028.00. The focus in India are the enslaved women and children who are being exploited as sex slaves and facing extreme poverty and abuse. We will work directly with our partners and projects in India to rescue, rehabilitate and reintegrate these women and children back into society. I could not feel more inspired and compelled to action.
Yoga, the Indian culture, philosophy and tradition has enriched my life in unimaginable ways, as it has millions of others in the yoga community. To me… it is inconceivable that this evil lurks in our world today… We, as a collective, have the ability to enact substantial and sustainable change in India, leaving a legacy there, helping to rehabilitate an estimated one million women and children who have been sold into sex slavery, to lead a healthy and normal life. Please join me in my visit to India. It is indeed an honor to stand side by side with these special women and children and witness our common humanity.

Challenged for Good

473714_285662051540830_588430585_oI am overjoyed to announce that i have met my fundraising goal in raising $20,000 for Off the Mat, Into the World’s (OTM) 2012 Global Seva Challenge to help combat sex trafficking in India and worldwide!
Through the  support of my friends, colleagues  and the tireless work of other Seva participants, like myself who have volunteered their time and efforts in the name of service, OTM has raised close to $3 million since the Global Seva Challenge was started in 2007 for humanitarian projects in developing countries. Every year OTM has invited a group of Seva leaders to join the annual Bare Witness Tour. They have traveled to Cambodia, Uganda, South Africa and Haiti where they have worked closely with the local community to help construct birthing centers, schools and libraries, organic farms and gardens, a bakery, and much more. They have also spent time learning about the local culture and history, as well as working with children on skills such as yoga, arts and crafts, dance and drama.
This year as you are aware, we are focusing our support on the women and children of India, and the illegal 32 billion dollar sex industry that they have fallen victim to.
The 2012 Global Seva Challenge is dedicated to raise awareness of the root causes and impact of the global sex trafficking industry. we  support organizations in India that are providing refuge, rehabilitation and economic opportunities to survivors, and empower survivors to lead lives with dignity and respect. In addition, Off the Mat will provide support for women and children living in rural communities as well as projects working to preserve the sanctity, beauty, and cleanliness of the Ganges and Himalayas.


I am both proud and humbled to be a part of this grass roots effort.

Between February 18-March 1, 2013, we will travel together with the co-founders of OTM Seane Corn and Suzanne Sterling to India and work in partnership with established local organizations to:
 Learn about leadership & advocacy programs for sex trafficking victims at Apne Aap
 Construct a new children’s study area at Ramana’s Garden
 Build a composting machine at Clean Himalaya
 Construct and paint a shelter for teenage girls at Sanlaap
 Support Dance Movement Therapy and build a new ‘Center of Excellence’ at Kolkata Sanved
 Help with construction, painting and get to know the women at Made by Survivors

Although the immediate beneficiary of this program’s success is India, the Global Seva Challenge also serves to build leaders, such as myself, whose impact will extend far beyond this year’s project. Through mentoring and training, Seva participants cultivate real world skills, as well as those learned on the yoga mat, to become a leading force in their communities and abroad. To my family, friends and community, I am eternally grateful for your belief in me, and for your financial and moral support. To be at this stage of my life, with a renewed sense of purpose, and to be able to serve those in need from that place, is indeed a joy and a privilege. I could not have done it without your support, and the OTM program.
I continue to follow my commitment to work to eradicate this unspeakable crime against humanity, and hope to be chosen to be one of the participants that continue to stay involved with our partners and projects in India for years to come. I will still be selling the  Lakshmi Abundance gemstone bracelets i have been making all year and give the proceeds to one or all of our partners in India who are working tirelessly.
Please look for my updates on my adventures from India in February..

Please check out and “like” my page on Facebook “Abolish 21st Century Slavery”

Partners and Projects in India

Below are the descriptions of the partners and projects that OTM is working with in India:

1-Apne Aap (New Delhi)- Project- 3 L’s Program
Website-www.apneaap.org, Facebook- http://www.facebook.com/apneaap?ref=mf
Apne Aap’s mission is to increase choices for at risk girls and women in order to guarantee access to their rights and deter the purchase of sex through policy and social change. Apne Aap organizes small groups of women and girls who are at the risk of, or are affected by trafficking into self-empowerment groups in their program area to access three fundamental rights- education, sustainable and dignified livelihood and legal empowerment as per our 3L model (Livelihood, Legal and Literacy). Self-empowerment groups meet in local safe spaces which offer community classrooms, vocational training units and legal education. Founded in 2002, over 10,000 women and girls are impacted through the programs offered by Apne Aap. – funds raised from the 2012 Global Seva Challenge will help support the group’s 3L Advocacy Program-where women and girls acquire valuable resources to survive.

2-Sanlaap (Kolkata, India )- Project- Rehabilitation
Website- http://www.sanlaapindia.org, Facebook-www.facebook.com/sanlaap.india
OTM will provide grant money to open a new Sanlaap Center for 25 girls that have been rescued from red light districts. There are already 4 shelters in existence with 250 girls. The center will have sustainable development measures such as green roof container gardens to grow food for the shelter, as well as a rainwater canopy to collect and provide clean drinking water for the shelter. OTM will pay for labor and materials.

3- Made By Survivors- Project- Employment Center Expansion
Website- http://www.madebysurvivors.com, Facebook- http://www.facebook.com/bysurvivors?ref=ts
OTM will provide grant money to train and employ over 60 survivors of sex slavery as artisan Goldsmiths in Kolkata and Mumbai. Made by Survivors has proven to be a successful model and is currently in partnership with 10 charities, including Sanlaap, Apne Aap, Rescue Foundation and Women’s Interlink Foundation. They work with shelters and rescue organizations worldwide providing education, job training and job opportunities for survivors and their children. OTM is asking for an independent center to train 40 new women from 3-5 different shelters.

4- Clean Himalaya (Rishikesh India)- Project- Waste Management
Website- http://www.cleanhimalya.org, Facebook-www.facebook.com/cleanhimalaya
Clean Himalaya works to preserve the sanctity, beauty and cleanliness of the Ganges and Himalayas. Their objectives are to develop a comprehensive and holistic waste management program which protects people, animals and the environment, and to reduce the impact of global warming. OTM will suppor tthe building of a compost machine and a place to house it, which will make the environment cleaner and safer for the communities surrounding the Ganges and Himalayas.

5- Kolkata Sanved (Kolkata India)- Project- DMT and Center of Excellence
Website- http://www.kolkatasanved.org , Facebook- http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kolkata-Sanved/279528645417344
Kolkata Sanved was founded in 2004 on the belief that body movement, when used sensitively, could become a powerful tool for rehabilitation and advocacy. This tool transforms young victims of sexual abuse from being a “rehabilitative victim” to a “proactive advocate”- someone who has made peace within her violated soul and is now ready to voice her concerns through physical movement. Kolkata Sanved’s self generated curriculum trains survivors to become peer educators, advocates, trainers and performers, enabling them to lead a life with dignity and respect.
OTM will provide grant money to support the Dance Movement Therapy Program (DMT) and help build a center of excellence.

6- Ramana’s Garden (Rishikesh India)- Project –Rural Develolment Assistance Program
Website- http://www.sayyesnow.org/history.html- Facebook- http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003104874316
Ramana’s Garden is a grassroots rural development assistance project to help empower women and children living in remote mountain villages in India. They have assisted over 1,00 children in 68 villages and have provided medical assistance to entire communities. The project assistance program includes education, health care, organic farmimg, womens’s vocational training, and environmental conservation and reforestation. They currently have an orphanage housing 64 children, a school providing 189 children with an education, a feeding program for 800 children, and women’s weaving opportunities. OTM funds will support the construction of a new study space for the children.