Returning Home

Every week we run a dance movement therapy sessions for women from the red light area. One of the regulars is a young Nepali woman who loved to dance when she was a child growing up in the mountain villages of Nepal. For two hours, she is free to reconnect with her physical-self in a safe, non-sexualized environment. She becomes childlike and playful, as though she has been able to step back to a time of innocence and wonder, a time before she was trafficked into India and sexually exploited. The hope is that, as she experiences these small moments of freedom, she will begin to question the acceptability of the repetitive trauma that she has normalized. At this point, we can actively work with her to achieve freedom. Until this point, at the end of the session, she will hide the little girl as far from the trauma as she can. The mask returns to her face as she leaves the place of safety and walks back down the street and past the other women standing on display in the brothel doorways. She enters her room which is just big enough for a bed and a few personal possessions. She lies on the bed, looking at the familiar damp walls and peeling paintwork and waits for her next customer. She is in the place that she has become resigned to call home.

But this cannot be her home. It is unacceptable on every level. 

Over the years, the organization I am working with have helped many Indian women leave the sex trade by offering alternative employment and restorative psychosocial intervention. Sadly, we have had very limited impact on the Nepali community, who account for approximately 10% of the women working in forced prostitution. Often this is due to the higher level of control placed on Nepali women from the brothel they work for. Nepali women are highly sought after and generate a good income for the people profiting from sexual exploitation. These people are reluctant to lose their income generating property.

 Photo by  Rohan Reddy  on  Unsplash

Photo by Rohan Reddy on Unsplash

More importantly, home really is where the heart is. The Nepali women long to reconnect with the place of their birth, the place where their cultural identity makes sense and they can speak freely in the language of their hearts. Even if these women could be liberated from the control of the trade and join our organization, their freedom would likely be incomplete. 

The Nepali women need to return to their true home, the place where their hearts live: Nepal.

Kolkata to Kathmandu

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Over the past year we, in collaboration with partners in Nepal, have been working to make this journey home possible. We have identified the barriers to successful return in both India and Nepal, as well as those associated with crossing international borders. 

Step 1: Kolkata

Our focus in Kolkata is on building relationships with the Nepali community and addressing their immediate health, psychological and social needs. By building a woman’s self-esteem through safe and trusting relationships, our hope is that she will begin to dream of a better future.

Step 2: To (travel)

Often Nepali women were trafficked as children and consequently, they do not have any proof of Nepali citizenship. This would limit their ability to live and work in Nepal. We are able to connect women with appropriate services to resolve this and other legal issues. Once a woman is ready to leave, we will support her travel costs and accompany her on the journey for safety and support.

Step 3: Kathmandu

We have set up a new transition home in Kathmandu, run by a Nepali family who will communicate love and acceptance. During her time in this home, she will be able to access trauma counselling, medical care and other holistic services to help her heal from the trauma. She will be able to develop her life skills, have access to education and a guaranteed job with one of the Freedom Businesses in Kathmandu. 

Our hope is that ‘home’ no longer needs to be a place of resignation for Nepali women, but rather, the place where their hearts have always belonged: Nepal.

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Me/Her: The Unknown Reality of the Unseen Woman

 Photo Credit By: Jordan Bauer

Photo Credit By: Jordan Bauer

Me

The kids burst into the room, much louder than any noise should be at this hour of the morning. I groggily look at the clock. Six AM. I groan inwardly, pull the down comforter over my head, and see if I can pretend to sleep convincingly enough that they would go away.  It does not work. I give in, scooting the cover slowly down the bed, and roll in between their jumping bodies, which are happily taking advantage of my pre-coffee state. I make my way to the bathroom, and then head downstairs, where the sweet nectar that is the coffee pot is already hot and full, thanks to my husband’s early departure this morning. I fill my cup, breathe in that beautiful smell, place it down on the counter and quietly murmur, “I’ll see you when you’re cold.”  And so the day begins.

Her

He bursts into the room, which is still dark. As he makes his way to my bed, I take note that the other bodies strewn across the floor and other mismatched furniture barely move, despite his lack of concern for the quiet that filled this room before he came in. I pull my blanket up, the wool scratching at my chin and the dank smell filling my nose. This scratch and that smell have become a comfort to me, because when they are there, he is not.  He shakes me briskly, assuming I was still asleep, and tells me it’s time.  He walks out the door without looking to make sure I get up. He knows I will. I always will.  I stop in the bathroom, and do my best to make myself look consumable, trying not to touch the dirty sink in the process. When I have done the best I can, I head downstairs, the smell of beer and cigarettes wafting around me like a welcoming committee. He takes my hand and leads me to the front, which is much cleaner than our side of the house. He puts my hand in the hand of a stranger. I smile. I know the drill. The beatings have made sure of that. He leads me into one of the bedrooms, and so the day begins.

Me

I finally am done. The kids are in bed, my feet are up, and my wine glass is full. My husband sits quietly next to me, looking at something obviously incredibly interesting on his phone. I don’t mind. I am in my happy place. The kids have been pawing at me all day. There’s no chance of any more pawing happening tonight. I am pawed out. I think back to my day and wonder why I feel like I am exhausted enough to have run a marathon, when really all I did was all of the normal Mom jobs. So much laundry. So many dishes. So many fights to break up. I look at the pile of toys scattered on the floor in front of the TV and shrug. I can get that tomorrow. I choose to be done. I take a sip of wine, click play on Netflix, and settle in. My day is done.

Her

I am finally done. He is in bed, and I am back in my bed. I tear pieces off of the sandwich I have been given, and wash it down with the questionable glass of tap water. I am not sure if the water or the glass is dirtier, but it doesn’t matter. I gulp it down in a matter of seconds. I wrap my scratchy blanket around me and pull it as tightly as I can, hoping to erase the feel of the dozens of hands that pawed at me all day. I close my eyes, trying not to think of it, but still the recap comes. Him on top, me underneath, squirming with apparent delight, knowing that if I don’t endure this pain happily, a greater pain will come after. Man after man, all different but all the same. My body feels as if I have run a marathon, stretched and pulled and twisted. I think of the life that came before this one, the one where I sat next to him on a couch, my hand in his, listening to his promises. I’m not sure if he loves me anymore, though. And I’m not sure if I love him anymore either.  But this seems to be it. This seems to be just how it will be. I close my eyes, and settle in. My day is done. 

It’s easy to forget that she exists in my day-to-day. It’s easy to only see appointments and school drop-offs and that small argument I had with my husband about me spending too much at Target. It’s easy to forget the incredible privilege I have to have avoided the awful people that she happened to cross paths with.  It’s so easy to forget.

But she doesn’t forget. She is reminded countless times a day, each time her body becomes a vessel for someone else’s pleasure. She is reminded as pain and shame are wrapped around her like clothing. 

What do we do then? We remember. And we talk. Because though she can remember, she cannot talk. We learn, we see.

We See. 

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Conversations That Matter

It’s here tribe! Conversations that Matter’s first topic is ready to launch!! 

If you want to join something bigger than yourself, join this community. If you want to make a difference, join our global sisterhood. If you want to be intentional, join us for a gathering.

There are few sweet pure joys in this world and one of them is having sisters. I have two blood sisters of my own but for the last decade I have learned that blood is not the only thing that can make you a sister. 

I have learned that your sisters should lift you up, should make you stronger, iron sharpens iron, they should make you laugh and hold you while you cry. Your tribe should feel totally comfortable to tell you when you have spinach in your teeth and pray for you when they see you in a struggle. Sisters aren’t always in your life on a daily basis but when you need them they’re there. Sisterhood and relationships in general require intention and attention. 

So join us to have fun with intention and make a difference. So whether you’re missing your tribe or you have a strong base of friends, join All of Us Matter and host a gathering. 

Our launch for Intentional Living is June 2, 2018, if you are local to Tampa, FL meet us for our launch party. Find details on our Facebook book page. Or check out our link for more details. 

 

Start conversations that matter, let's be a voice to the voiceless. 

Crystal, Founder, and Visionary at All of Us Matter

 

Freedom Garden 

By: Abigail Onley

 Freedom Garden By: Abigail Onley

Freedom Garden By: Abigail Onley

A thousand voices morph into white noise, every color of the rainbow sprayed, dusted, and brushed over buildings, people, and windows. The wind blows the newly charred ashes of the deceased into the water of the Ganges, past worshipers bathing in the river in belief that it will cleanse them of their sins, and here we stand, looking at this beautiful broken city called Varanasi. Varanasi is said to be India’s spiritual capital: meaning there are as many religions represented there as colors on the buildings. I don’t always paint from a place of experience but of empathy. I can look, read, and imagine what it would be like to be there, experiencing a very different kind of life, and here is where this picture begins: a beautiful broken place full of broken people searching for hope.

I think that sums up our world. We need hope. Hope that a bad situation will turn around, hope that someone out there cares enough to move on our behalf, hope that we can go unseen and unhurt, hope that we can avoid brokenness, hope that we are good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, accepted, hope that we can be put back together again. There are many hopes we have but they shrink besides the mammoth hope of God, the all-encompassing hope. The Emmanuel; God with us- who promises to take our brokenness as His own and give us His wholeness in exchange. We are overcome, remade, something new. A Garden

Faith is rising up like Ivy, reaching for the light.  Hope is stirring deep inside me, making all things right, Love is lifting me from sorrow catching every tear, dispelling every lie and torment, crushing all my fears.
— Kari Jobe

This is the Freedom Garden. What if that faith took over a city and the green of that Ivy was us…them? What if our choices could bring hope…tangible hope not just to those cities far away but to our own cities? What if we started with us, stopped trying to satisfy the “gods” of our culture or the god of self, and instead became satisfied by God himself? 

The Jesus of the gospels, the God who is with us, is our Hope. 

Many people will argue about the church, but not many people can argue with Jesus. He liberated women in society, he cared for the broken and forsaken, called the poor blessed because of the hope they lived from, he valued children, he looked with compassion on our sinfulness because He knows we are sick. He called us to repentance, to a changed life, an upside down world were weakness is named as strength, dependency is honorable, kindness is the color we see, and love is who we become. He called us to be a voice for the voiceless and to see people- all those hidden people behind our lust, our clothes, our food, our deeply loved coffee and chocolate, as uniquely shaped souls worthy of love. 

When I painted this city overgrown with flowers, it pictured HOPE. Out of garbage, and chaos, and the remnant smoke of ritual fires there rises new life; that little broken seed of hope that grows and changes us from the inside out.


Inclusive For Those Excluded

 Photo Credit: Saksham Gangwar

Photo Credit: Saksham Gangwar

In my city, one of the mainstream global café chains has just opened its doors and the place is packed. Given that my life currently revolves around launching The Cup, a café exclusively for the benefit of the thousands of women in my community who are trapped in the sex trade, I became curious as to how this ‘superstar’ of cafés seeks to position itself in the market. 

Initially, my speculation led me to thinking their value statement would be concerned with providing the ‘best’. The best coffee. The best environment. The best service. It would make sense considering that the clientele are usually wearing the best clothes, have the best jobs and the best access to opportunity. I was surprised when I searched online and found that their values revolved around the following:

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Not in my city. The women in my community would be excluded by the high profit margin pricing strategy, and by their involvement in the sex trade, even though their involvement is often involuntary. It is unlikely they would be respected or given a warm greeting as they exist in a system that seems reluctant to challenge social norms. 

The Cup will be different. In The Cup, we are disrupting the ‘us and them’. These women will experience respect and inclusion. They will belong, and their dignity will be upheld. The distinction between us and them will be further undermined, as our café staff will also be women from the community. Women who have experienced sexual exploitation directly or indirectly. Women who have witnessed and known great injustice will demonstrate that freedom is not an abstract concept, it is real and achievable. It is theirs for the taking. 

 Photo Credit: Loren Joseph

Photo Credit: Loren Joseph

My dream would be to see The Cup become community led. Where women can give freedom a try. Do a shift in the café and experience something different. Attend a café workshop and discover their hidden talents and alternative avenues for income. Maybe even start their own micro-business… 

I have big dreams and I will not settle for less because with ‘his’ power, I can achieve infinitely more than my wildest dreams. I think I will place my confidence in the one who created the universe, parted the Red Sea, made a donkey speak (!), walked on water and fed 5,000+ with 5 loaves and 2 fish. Not to forget defeating death of course. Therefore, I will dare to hope that lives and community will be transformed.

Watch this space…


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