Amazing Handmade Treasures of Self Worth and Dignity

​As I write this blog I am in my final week of this internship and getting prepared to make my way back home.
I am reflecting on the future of the girls that I have been working with over the past half year.
Yesterday I had a conversation with a girl who is in school to become a police officer. I am also thinking about a very dedicated young woman who wants to go to school for nursing and another who aspires to be an air hostess or flight attendant as we call it. Another one dreams of marrying a good man and becoming a loving mother herself…some dream of becoming cooks, tailors and taking care of families performing domestic work. One energetic girl envisions opening an aftercare home for girls rescued from trafficking as a way of helping others from her own experiences.

The focus in this aftercare home is always school first. The importance of educating these young women to teach them about patience and long term goals and that they have value and worth will keep them and others from being victimized. When formal education is not possible there has to be an alternative so that these individuals do not fall victims again. That is where partnerships come in. Currently there are about five girls who go to these partnering organizations daily to not only work but also learn how to work with others, gain valuable work ethic and budgeting and to learn english and communicate with staff about things they are dealing with. These organizations employ exploited young women and girls to empower them to have better options, to help them grow, to prevent them from being lured back into the brothels or instances of child labor due to poverty and lack of knowledge and education.

‘Kushi’ means “happy” and is the name of one of these organizations where they up-cycle old saris to create new items such as purses and bags. SariBari creates beautiful quilts among other items. Love Calcutta Arts sells journals, books, paper products such as cards. Touch Nature employs Nepalese girls who have been trafficked into the brothels of Kolkata and creates soaps, candles and essential oils from ingredients from Nepal. The girls return from work each day smelling wonderful! Please check out theirs and other websites below and help these incredible organizations that assist in the visions of these beautiful girls ultimately to achieve the future they dream of. If you know of someone who is coming to Kolkata ask them to visit one or more of these organizations and bring back some of these hand made treasures for you or order online if that is possible.

destinyreflection.org
http://saribari.com
http://lovecalcuttaarts.com
http://www.touchnature.com
http://freesetglobal.com
http://meninasdonepal.com/index.php?lang=en

Happy Birthday Canada!

​Good-bye June…I will not miss your breathtaking heat! Welcome Monsoon season! I welcome the rains…

In June we said farewell to one of our girls at Mahima as she traveled back home to stay. Everyone gathered around her to share their fondest memories and bless her on her new journey.

It also ushered in Canada Day. We were able to celebrate it a day ahead of my fellow Canadians. All 3 homes came together under one roof and stood for Canada’s National Anthem. Next they saw some pictures depicting some of the identifying features that makes Canada what it is such as RCMP, aboriginal people, the beaver (you have a large rodent as your country’s animal?), the Queen (Hey! She is the Queen of England!) and the maple leaf. Surprisingly, one of the girls knew how many provinces and territories Canada has. We then watched a short video showing how maple syrup is made and I learned that they have something similar from the Palm tree.
Five teams formed to compete for the best team Inukshuk built out of clay, coloured Canada themed pictures and toilet paper role Totem pole. I could not chose just one as everyone put forward an incredible team effort. So everyone received Canadian stickers and those who were wearing red or white were recognized. Pancakes were made over flame and Maple syrup was added for a sticky sweet treat.
The main event was face painting. Most Canada Days back home I dress in a festive red and white tutu and paint hundreds of children’s faces, some father’s and grandparents too so I brought that tradition with me across the seas to Kolkata. There was a lot of “bling” going on and all of the girls  plus staff looked so colourful…even some of the girls were doing an incredible job at painting other girls faces. Everyone truly came together to make this day festive and enjoyable for all!
Happy 149th Birthday Canada. We had a blast celebrating in Kolkata! 

“Do What You Love…Love What You Do” 

A weekend away with the staff of Mahima playing with Expressive Arts….

During the weeks leading up to the staff workshop I planned around and remembered my own experiences of learning over the three years at the CREATE Institute and European Graduate School, selecting the parts that I felt had the most impact on me and might be memorable for the staff thus increasing their willingness to continue using this practice long after I leave here. I was full of excitement and anticipation feeling extremely blessed  to be able to do this and call it work. Over the two days we worked together using clay, visual art in mosaics, clowning and dance interweaving storytelling throughout all of the modalities.
This group of ten women were incredible to witness. It is no wonder that the girls love being at Mahima around the energy and solidarity of these leaders. They pulled together to problem solve, utilize strengths of one another and ultimately played with the themes they were given while exploring their own further and having fun! Watching creative expression unfold is what this work is all about and they took it seriously. They remained curious and honest about themselves within the group. It brings me great joy to see the fruits of this work blossoming everywhere at Mahima!

                                   Send In The Clowns!

Your Joy May Be Complete

I had the pleasure of visiting “Mother’s House” a few weeks back. For those of you who do not know what that is, it is the home that Mother Teresa set up right here in Kolkata. Teresa is not her real name and she is Albanian born. From a very young age she knew that she would serve and that she did. For over 50 years she led a very simple life, shying away from publicity except when her superiors asked her to make public appearances. Although this was the least favourite of her work she was obedient as it was all part of the plan. 

I was at a team meeting the other day and reminded while watching a video that purpose comes in many different forms. Purpose does not all look the same when hearing the call. When I think about being here in Kolkata and being called to work with girls rescued from human trafficking I could not have answered the call alone. It would not have been possible without the support of others who were called to help out financially. I personally do not know how to create a blog nor did I have the time to figure it out before coming here. Thanks to Brooke who created this web page and hearing the call to support I am able to connect with everyone in one place who have a vested interest in this plan. What about my family? Had they not heard the call they may not have agreed to me coming here. The people who bridge the gap between here and there and every where else in prayer. It really does take a community to raise a child. We are all affecting the lives of these girls by the small part each of us plays by listening to the call and fulfilling the plan. I can tell you that seeing a smile on these girls faces every morning is part of the plan. 

I have heard that other government homes for rescued girls in Kolkata are not like this one and the difference in where the girl is placed is noticeable. Had Smita not heard the call Mahima would not have been born. These girls are precious and I want to instill in them that they have purpose.

Someone recently suggested that when I leave here there will still be more girls coming and people will still be trafficking innocent victims and questioned if what I was doing here was really changing anything.

Love always changes things.

Part of the calling of Mahima is to raise these girls up to change their environment in whatever way that means to their own specific calling through vocational training, education, becoming a loving and caring mother who will educate her village on human trafficking and most importantly healing.
If we could all open our hearts to hear…..

“I alone cannot change the world but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples”

– Mother Teresa

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"I Thirst"

A Breath of Fresh Air!

I am in a new country for an extended period if time dwelling in a city that is not easy to navigate…one that requires accompaniment to an outing because the language most often spoken by taxi drivers is Hindi. I am learning Bengali. This is a barrier and one for me that was excruciatingly uncomfortable. I am a roamer, an explorer and some might say a wanderlust (or free bird if you are my other half). I feel most at home outside and in natural surroundings or exploring new places. I find I need it weekly to recharge for the week ahead. For almost a month I stayed in the guesthouse and besides going to work and attempting nightly walks around the neighborhood (let me remind you that the weather is 40° here and at first there was no air conditioning) I didn’t get out much. It sounds like I am complaining but really I was just surprised at my reaction to this situation. I brought many things from Canada to keep me occupied and had the Internet and a lovely apartment with the tastiest of Bengali home cooked meals but that wasn’t it. I needed to feel refreshed but could not. So I decided to read. The first Saturday I read an entire book….on to the next. Until finally last weekend I was able to spend the day out with a friend. I had a wonderful time. More importantly I felt recharged, renewed and restored. My spirit was satiated and I was able to connect with others again like I did when I first arrived.

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Love birds
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These shoes were made for walking

This was an important reminder regarding self care AND dealing with the discomfort of waiting for my needs to be met (something that I teach the people that I work with). It had me thinking of the girls here that I work with and curious about how they feel about not being able to control their situation. It is a part of being human so go for a run, dance in your living room if need be, sing songs that give you goosebumps, have a coffee or tea with a loved one, take a class or learn about something new online, watch your favourite show or genre of movie in order to feel renewed for the day or week ahead but also learn to sit in the discomfort of not having your needs met immediately. Sit there and listen to what is being said. Waiting should not be a passive action.

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Walk to the ends of the earth

Reason to celebrate!

Yesterday I attended a ceremony common to the Indian tradition of parenting where the day is celebrated in honour of the child commencing eating solid foods.

 

It was Mothers Day (happy belated to all of you special women) and typically hot here in Kolkata. What wasn’t a typical story was that the mother of the child was a graduate of this program, now married and beginning a new chapter in her life with her husband and baby boy. The grandmother of the mother greeted the familiar faces of staff from the aftercare home with love and gratitude. It seemed to me that they were considered family. It amazes me to witness the transformation of someone who has been given the hope of a new life. It’s so beautiful-

 

The sincerity of satisfaction and peace communicated  in her smile, her eyes and among the group surrounding her that she called family and friends.

 

Please don’t underestimate the little that you can do in showing love and compassion to another human being for it could put them on course to a life they never thought imaginable. I am honoured to have witnessed this milestone in her life as it encourages me to keep going!

 

April Fool’s

“Holi Festival! Ushering in Spring with colour!!”image

“Creative Time!!”<img title="20160405_130912.jpg" class="alignnone size-full" alt="image" src="https://angiebrownmissions.files.wordpress.com/2016/04/20160405_130912.jpg"
"Engaging in the arts"]
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As I reflect on this past month I realize it is nearing the end of April and I am asking myself what was the most memorable part of this past month.
It just happened that “Trust Building” was the topic of our group and I did not hesitate to utilize the fact that it was a day for tricksters as a part of my intro into the session. Everyone gathered and with a very serious face I explained that something came up and was sorry but I had to travel back to Canada the next day. I thanked them for sharing their precious time with me as I scanned the room to take note of everyone’s reaction. My eyes met each one of theirs and their usual smiles turned to a mix of confusion, surprise, contemplation, sadness and concern from both staff and girls.
I finally confessed that I was playing a trick on them and after asking for their forgivenes I reminded them that it was April Fools Day and asked how it felt to be tricked by me. Some said that it was okay because it was a joke. Others shared their concerns over what they thought might have had me leaving so early and a few others commented that they were sad at the thought of me leaving saying,” You can’t go yet. You are one of us now”. Hearing this had me thinking about the fact that I was prepared to teach them about trust yet they were the ones who taught me something.
What does it mean to belong? To be excepted as a member of a group. They had known me for a mere two weeks and I had already become a part of their community.
It had me looking at the bigger picture. They must feel safe and secure in this place in order to trust me, a complete stranger. I became aware at that point just how much love was in this place…how I see it every day radiating from the smiles of the girls and the twinkling in their eyes. How it is reflected from everyone who works here no matter what their role.
From love comes safety and security. With safety and security comes trust.