This morning we didn’t have any activities planned until 10:00 a.m., so we all had some free time to shop, relax and even sleep in. It was nice to have some free time after the emotional day we all had (yesterday). At 10:00 a.m. we began our drive to the organization called Save the Children of India. During this trip we all found out that Julia (with the help of Manjeet and Rich) finally convinced the airport to hand over her luggage…it only took them 4 hours. We all listened with great anticipation as Julia shared the details about last night’s experience (trials and tribulations). Thank heavens she won’t be wearing the same clothes again.
On a side note, today was a historical day in India as a new India Prime Minister was chosen. After 60 years of one party ruling the country, the other party finally collected enough votes to gain power. There were many people out watching the results on a voting board as we drove by on the bus. We also noticed banners lining the streets from tree to tree from the victorious party. We later learned from Manadini Thacker (the director of Save the Children of India), that the Indian People were putting their hope for the future into the ballet boxes.
As we drove through the crazy city of Mumbai we soon darted out of the concrete jungle into the Arabian Sea where we crossed the new “Sea Link”, which is a new modern bridge that has shortened the trip for people traveling from Northern to Southern Mumbai by about 45 minutes! From the Sea Link the vast variance of the city was very evident as the large slums foreshadowed all the tall skyscrapers of Mumbai.
When we arrived at Save the Children, Manadini Thacker gave the group a wonderful overview of the amazing work that this organization provides to commercially trafficked women and children. There are four arms to their mission: (1) Save Our Sisters (which includes life and economic skill training to women that can help them find promising jobs, (2) Education to the children of the slums (which has been identified as a major problem). As a result, several centers have been placed strategically in the slums. (3) Education for children of special needs (e.g., hearing impaired), and (4) the creation of a medical care center in a rural area of India.
We learned that India has some of the best laws in the world when it comes to human trafficking. However, there are more than three million children being trafficked in India (in a typical year) with one trafficker being responsible for selling approximately 200 to 500 girls annually! If this wasn’t enough we learned that only 4% of trafficking cases end with a conviction. What!! Why? Well there is a lack of community awareness surrounding areas (typically where these women are originally from), ineffective government responses, lack of joint efforts, and lack of research. The NGOs at Save the Children of India are working hard to address these issues, and provide training and community awareness (in addition to working with young girls and women).
We then traveled up the beautifully decorated halls filled with colorful tile pictures to make friendship bracelets with a group of creative and talented young women. The girls (between the ages of 14-18) were so giving and caring! Many of the girls, after making their bracelets began giving away their masterpieces to each of us. We made sure to return the graciousness; which seemed to strengthen the connection we felt with them. After our craftiness came to an end we played one of Ali’s easy and fun summer camp games of pass an object around the circle as someone closed their eyes. This individual then has to choose who in the room has the hidden object in their closed hand. We played several times and astoundingly three of the India girls, correctly identified the holder! This game was full of laughs and giggles! Of course after the game we had to bring the Hokey Pokey back, because it was such a hit yesterday! However we had forgotten to move the small carpet pieces on the floor before starting. As a result, when we “put our whole body in, and our whole body out” one of the girls excitingly jumped forward landing on the carpet, only to have it slide across the floor, she ended up falling- thank heavens she was ok!
After we finished dancing we all said our goodbyes. It was clear how appreciative the girls were for the time, activity, and friendships we created. It was heart warming for all of us. It isn’t everyday you get to meet such resilient and joyful young women.
Paul challenged us to change up our seating arrangement on the bus. This through everyone off, as they came onto the bus, and poor Anh, Sarah and Teagen were forced to sit on the back of the bus. In case you didn’t know the back of the bus is literally a pinball machine, due to the bumpy Mumbai roads. Needless to say, Anh, Teagen, and Sarah had the ride of their life, while Alex and Bre (the typical back seaters) were laughing their heads off.
At this point in the day it was already three in the afternoon and everyone was hungry for lunch. Manjeet lead us to a new muslin restaurant where we over stuffed ourselves yet again.
We then went to the Gandhi Memorial museum- you might have heard of him before… He is known as the father of the modern Indian government. He is like the Martin Luther King or Gorge Washington of India (thanks Rich). He helped India become independent from Great Britain using non-violent methods. He believed in equality, unity, peace, love and faith; and like Martin Luther King, was shot and killed by someone who was angry by the principles he taught.
For the rest of the evening everyone was allowed to spend their free time as they pleased as long as they packed and went to bed early to make sure they are ready for our early morning tomorrow!
Throughout our days in Mumbai it has been an inspiration to see how one person can make a difference and create change in many peoples lives.