Sunday, May 24, 2009

insider...outsider: HUMAN

There is loneliness sometimes in being different but also a beauty in the places that different takes me.

In Kolkata, i stand out, a shining beacon of foriegness, tall, a bit heavy, jeans and big earring wearing different. People stare, sometimes they cheat. it feels heavy, wearisome to not be welcomed because I look different and maybe act different.

the beauty of different is the places i can go with no shame, no fear of cultural reprisal. I am an outsider, not fully in-culturated, though i do try to submit to many cultural standards, still able to do what many here cannot without reprisals. No one judges me for entering a red light area--if they do, i have the freedom of not caring because there is no cultural reprisal for me. and i have several hundred, maybe even several thousand people in the states who support what i do and cheer me on.

Our indian partners do not have the difficulties of different but they do not the luxuries of it either. They face cultural reprisal for entering the red light areas. They face rejection from the church itself in many cases. They give something up to do what they do...inspite of what they might lose, they lay down their lives for the freedom of our friends. they lay down their reputations so the women can regain theirs, they lay down their own preconceptions about red light areas so they can have the eyes of God and the heart of the Father and love our friends into freedom and something better.

There is reconciliation of insider and outside in relationship. We each have something to offer that the other does not...we are a partnership reflecting the body. our reconciliation to each other in all the ways we are different happens when we partner together for something beyond what either an insider or an outside could reach without the others help. that's it really, loving partnership, working together in community to accomplish the kingdom for the glory of God.

And for me being an outsider does not matter when i sit and share chai with a friend in their brothel room. I only feel like a friend, a sister, a fellow human being. It is gift when different falls away and there is no insider or outsider. There is only us in the moment. And it does not matter in staff meeting where we, insiders and outsiders, together dream for the future and imagine what God might do for our friends in the red light areas. We are only believers, believing for more than we can ask or imagine.

I had an afternoon without being on the outside yesterday. I was invited in to just be with the Sari Bari women in their homes. not really even their boss for those few hours, just their friend and their guest. only strange in my unmarried state but really not that strange for many are alone there. it was a gift. it is always a gift when we can see that regardless of color or class or cultural indentity, there is welcome and beauty in our shared humanity. We are welcome to the kingdom, for the glory of God as we pursue each other, becoming one in jesus.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

no answers

I walked down the street yesterday morning on the way to sari bari, after filling my belly with the best Puri (fried bread with potato curry) in Kolkata, I saw two little boys had a very large piece of cardboard and had made themselves a little fort right on the sidewalk in the midst of rush hour chaos. they made me smile and turn my head to see them better. And i thought to myself, there is not enough cardboard in the world for the forts that must be in the imaginations of these boys.

I visited one of my friends at the AIDS hospice yesterday. Seeing her breaks my heart and i could barely restrain my tears last night as i thought of her. I fear to lose her even though death might be a release. Selfishly, i do not want to endure the pain of what will be a deep and profound loss to our community and a deep and profound loss for me personally.

And thinking of my friend struggling to survive with HIV and the little boys building forts, i began to think about what needs to be righted about the wrongs I see everyday. And i thought if AIDS can not be cured, which is obviously the best solution, then when are't AIDS hospices palaces of comfort. Why isn't there fair distribution of resources so that those imaginiative little boys could have 4 walls to their fort instead of just one. There are enough toys in the world for all its children i am pretty sure, yet some have more than they will ever play with and some have one piece of cardboard and their imaginations. These are my questions.

I have no answers. Only faces in memory to mark moments of joy and despair, open ended, unresolved feeling with no answers.

This is the story of so many of our friends....

From The Sunday Times
May 17, 2009

A Life in the Day: Mariam Laskar, s*x worker
Mariam Laskar, 42, a s*x worker in Kalighat, the poorest r*d-light district in Calcutta

I wake up around 5am so I can use the latrine early, while it’s still quiet.

I share it with nine other households. Each has one room about 8ft square. Although Kalighat is a red-light district, families live here too, street vendors and stall workers, but most prostitutes live alone like me.

My room doesn’t smell so good because it’s next to rotting rubbish and the latrine, but it is away from the street.

I go back to sleep until 8. My bed is a thin mattress on a board lifted off the ground by red bricks at each corner. Under the bed are the pots I use for cooking and washing.

My saris and underclothes are strung on a wire across the small window. I have electricity, a light bulb, a fan, a black-and-white television and a suitcase.

If I’m on my own, as I mostly am, I make tea, heating the water on a kerosene stove in my doorway. If my babu — he’s like a special client, a temporary husband, you could say — is with me, I give him naan bread and sweets. Calcutta is famous for its sweets: all colours and varieties you can buy here.

Then I go to the vegetable stalls outside and buy ladies’ fingers, brinjal, potatoes, tomatoes and garlic to cook later.

I put on eyeliner, a bindi on my forehead, my jewelled earrings and gold bangles, and I am working the street by 10am. There are three of us who mostly go together — Arati, my best friend, and I watch for each other. I work a little strip just outside the slum beside the Mohambagam football club.

There is a disused pitch and that’s where I go with my clients. Mostly they are strangers, rickshaw drivers or hawkers.

Kalighat is the cheapest red-light district, but I have to work here because I’m old now. I need to make 250 rupees a day [about £3.50]; my rent is 45 rupees a day and I am paying off a loan to my landlord for hospital treatment. My clients don’t have much money — maybe I get 50 rupees a time. I try to make them wear a condom but mostly they don’t. I have been very lucky: I don’t think I have any sexual diseases. There is a clinic in Kalighat run by the Hope Foundation for us. I go a few times each year.

When I was young I worked on a jetty on the Ganges — they call it Babughat. I would go with men on boats they rent. Then I would have 10 or 12 clients a day easily, shopkeepers or truck drivers, and each would pay me 250 rupees.

My own family in Bangladesh has no idea if I am alive or dead. I grew up in a small village with three older brothers and a baby sister.

I was trafficked here when I was 14 by a man who married me. His real wife and children were here in Calcutta, and he brought me here. He sold me to a brothel. I was terrified, but he was my husband and I thought I had to do what he said. I did not have the guts to tell my family what had happened to me, so I never contacted them again.

If I‘m lucky I finish around 9.30. There is a lot of waiting around now, so we drink Bangla liquor, a strong illegal drink they sell on the streets. I drink it quite a lot — it helps. If I have made enough money I go home with Arati, and maybe we go to my room or her room and share some food. But if business is slow I stay out all night.

Even if I finish early, I can’t sleep until 2 in the morning. I worry about so many things. I have had six pregnancies, but I only have one child, Sheila Khatoon. She’s 14 now and she lives in a girls’ home run by the Hope Foundation. I visit her on the last Saturday of every month. I tell her I sweep in a hospital, and I wish I did, but no one would employ me now. She lived with me until she was seven.

She didn’t go to school and I couldn’t really look after her, but I didn’t bring men back to the room with her there. Then the Hope Foundation found her on the street. I wanted them to take her. If my daughter was to take up this trade, I would want to die. No mother can imagine such a thing as this. But she would have had no choice if she’d stayed here.

At night I think of my parents and my daughter. I think of what would happen to her if I died suddenly. I worry about how I got myself into this situation and what will happen to me in the future when I cannot make money any more. Around 2am I fall asleep, and then I don’t dream.

Andrea Catherwood is the UK ambassador for the Hope Foundation

Interview: Andrea Catherwood.

There are many important aspects to the story below:

1) This pr*stituting woman, like so many adult women in pr*stitution, was trafficked as a child;

2) Those pr*stituting women who don't die young from brutality and disease do grow old, and as a result their "marketability" declines making their lives all the more precarious due to their decreasing income;

3) Like so many women in pr*stitution, in order to survive they must have sex without condoms and thus risk HIV infection. Of course, there is great risk for a variety of other STDs as well;

4) Note too how she has lost so many pregnancies. This could be the result of health complications from her s*x industry involvement;

5) In the last paragraph, you can see evidence of Mariam's self-blaming despite the fact that she was trafficked by her "husband";

6) Mariam comments on her alcohol use as a "coping mechanism" -- this is very typical coping strategy among women in the s*x industry;

7) Mariam had to sacrifice bringing up her only daughter, in order that her daughter might have an opportunity to be educated and/or have another means of livelihood;

8) And of course, this article brings to the fore the grinding poverty that flourishes the world over;

9) Lastly let’s not forget demand. The authors of a study centered in Sonagachi (another Calcutta r*d-light district) report that the district’s 4,000 pr*stituting persons serve approximately 20,000 men a day (Rao, Gupta, Lokshin, & Jana, 2003).

Such clear, bright light withers the supposed “glamour” of the s*x industry. So much for sexual agency – this is a brutal, lonely fight for survival plain and simple.

Taken from:

The Initiative Against Sexual Trafficking
c/o The Salvation Army USA
National Headquarters

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Sari Bari Second Location: The Before Photos

We just finalized the 5 year rental of the space for our second location. This space will be able to provide for at least 40 women to work for Sari Bari and a small daycare for their kids. We hope to open the doors our friends in August for the first training. Until then keep us in your prayers!


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Donate $1 to WMF just by visiting Catalyst website

We have a great opportunity for you to give to WMF, just by filling out a form!

Catalyst Conference will donate $1 to Word Made Flesh on your behalf when you enter their giveaway for a free Flip Camcorder. Just go here to sign up for the giveaway. Just be sure to choose Word Made Flesh from the drop down list of organizations (it’s the very last entry box).