Didi’s Story: Ripple Effect (Nepal)

The Ripple Effect

So often we ask ourselves,
Is what I am doing actually making a difference?

The fight against human trafficking is overwhelming when we look at the numbers.  I am here to say to you,  Yes, we are making a difference, and ripples that seem so small at first, when added together, forge tidal waves of hope.  Here is one such story.

Last March, my husband, Dan and I went to Nepal to visit the Peace Rehabilitation Center (PRC), a shelter that Free for Life is blessed to partner with.  One part of that trip included a journey some 6,000 feet up into the mountains to visit a young woman I will call ’Didi.’  She had been rescued at a PRC border monitoring station.  Didi was on her way to being trafficked into India across the border from Nepal, when she was spotted by PRC workers leaving Nepal with a man.  Once interviewed, she was offered the opportunity to go back to the shelter or continue on to India with the man she accompanied.  She chose to go back to the shelter.

Nepal, like India, is separated by a caste system that dictates your station in life.  Thankfully God does not see through these same eyes. Each child is precious and nothing is impossible, or cannot be overcome.  Didi had been born into the lowest caste known as an untouchable.  Being an untouchable, the opportunities available to succeed can be few and far between.  Traffickers are well aware of this fact and take full advantage of poverty and the dream to succeed.

As God would orchestrate it, Didi arrived at the shelter where she would find a much different world. This was a world where love, compassion, and understanding were extended.  PRC has been working in the mountainous region near Didi’s village for quite some time.  They have brought non-formal education into the region along with training and awareness about trafficking.  PRC is highly respected by the people for the work they do.

During the time Didi stayed at the shelter, PRC worked to communicate with her family and the community to teach them about what Didi had been lured into, so she may be able to return to her community without possible stigma.  Families are not always willing to accept the girls back, so those girls remain at the shelter which will continue to be their home and family.  Thankfully Didi’s family did accept her back, and after some time at the shelter, she returned home.  While living at the shelter, Didi was taught the skill of tailoring which enables her to have a brighter future.

As Shanta, PRC founder, once said to me love is a powerful antibiotic. Didi experienced that love during her stay and made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as her Savior.  As I shared earlier, PRC is highly respected in Didi’s village for the good work they have done. As a result, one man broke tradition and is willing to rent Didi ‘an untouchable’ a space to open her own tailoring shop.  PRC provided her with a micro loan to start that business. In a very short time, Didi has gone from being a rescued victim to a community leader.  She now manages her own tailoring business and is teaching her skill to twenty other girls in her village, which is remarkable.  Because of PRC, the long-imposed shadow of caste is being broken.

PRC wanted Dan and I to witness firsthand the amazing strides Didi has made in the community since her return.  We were able to see the remarkable favor extended to her as girls came to her sewing class, sitting for hours to learn the craft of tailoring.  While Didi has taught each girl how to sew, they have seen the remarkable transformation in her life and have asked her about the Jesus she has chosen to serve.  Nepal is a country where only 3% of the population is Christian. Didi has now led fifteen in her community to Christ through the love she has extended. Each week they meet at her parents’ home for Bible study and worship.  We watched the girls sew for quite some time, then we made our way by jeep to see the non-formal school PRC has established a short distance from Didi’s village. Women of all ages come and learn for the first time in their lives to read and write. The school was barely 10×12 with a dirt floor where the women sat eagerly and attentively as the teacher taught them a song about sanitation. What a joy it was to sit on that same ground as they playfully laughed at us trying to sing the same song.  An hour after we arrived, we piled in to the jeep to make our way back to Didi’s village.  Along the way, Dan and the rest of the men got out of the jeep to see a fish farm.  Shanta and I continued to wait a little further down the road with the driver until they caught up.  Even in March the weather was incredibly hot, so when we stopped the vehicle, I quickly got out to get some air.  The best way I can describe this next experience is: I felt like the circus came to town with me being the circus, or at least the clown with the red hair.  Many people had never seen a white person let alone a white person with red hair.  I was, as you can imagine, quite an oddity and drew a large crowd’s attention within minutes.  Standing off to the side was a young girl who smiled at me, obviously thinking I was quite amusing.  I, in turn, smiled at her, and we continued our back-and-forth glances for the next few moments.  She had the most beautiful green eyes that seemed to immediately pierce my heart.  She wore mis-matched clothing with a red ski cap pulled over her blondish hair that peeked out the sides. The hat had the word ’nice’ on it.

 

Soon my focus shifted from the child to a man on a bench who spoke to me in English. He invited me to join him in front of a small shop that appeared to sell school books.  As we sat and exchanged pleasantries, I again noticed the little girl. She had made her way to the front of the crowd and was sitting on the ground off to the side.  Our conversation drifted to me asking the man how it was that he spoke English.  He explained to me how his family had saved all they could to send him to school to become a teacher.  Once he had finished his schooling, he felt the obligation to return to the community where he was now the school teacher.  I noticed the crowd continued to grow as we chatted. We were now joined by children in blue school uniforms.  My focus was drawn back to the little girl in the cap, and I began wondering why she didn’t wear the same blue school uniform, even though she appeared to be around the same age.  Turning back to the teacher, I asked him if the little girl with the cap knew how to read the word on her hat.  He said no, she could not read the English word.

The crowd around us continued to grow as we talked, and soon we were joined by more and more children in blue uniforms.  In my mind, I was now completely focused on this child.  I asked the teacher why she was not wearing the same two-toned blue uniform as the other children.  He informed me that her family was incredibly poor and she was able to attend school but had no uniform or books.  I thought to myself at that moment, This little girl is a trafficker’s dream.  She was extremely poor with little opportunity and so different in appearance from the others, who all had almost-black hair and beautiful, warm brown eyes.  I snapped out of my thought when Dan appeared with the other men from the fish farm.  We said our good-byes and made our way back in to the jeep and on to Didi’s village.  As we pulled away, I again made eye contact with the little girl and we smiled at each other one more time.

Once we were back at the village, I just couldn’t get that little girl out of my mind, so I shared my story with Dan.  We talked about her vulnerability and the possibility of her being targeted by traffickers, and what we may be able to do to change those odds.  We approached Shanta about her and asked if we could leave some money for Didi to make her a uniform and get her some books.  Shanta talked with Didi and she said she would be happy to do that.  Soon after our conversation, our time at the village came to an end, and we again piled back in to the jeep saying our good-byes.  Dan and I would leave Nepal not knowing anything about how this girl’s story would continue to unfold.

A few weeks later we talked to PRC, and they informed us that Didi had indeed made the girl a uniform.  She found the teacher and inquired where the girl’s family lived. Upon learning the information, she walked to their house to visit with the girl’s family and present her with the uniform and books.  The little girl was overjoyed to have a uniform like the other children.  As Didi sat and got to know the family, she learned they had been struggling for quite some time and could barely put any food on the table.  The girl’s mother shared with Didi that her husband was an alcoholic and she felt hopeless about their situation.  The mother also shared with Didi that her parents led her to Christ and she is a Christian.

Now, fast forward to the beginning of February 2010. We received another call from PRC telling us how things had continued to change for the little girl’s family.  As a result of Didi making the uniform for the girl and providing the school books, the father had stopped drinking and had accepted Christ.  This was only the beginning of what we learned.  They also informed us that the father was now in debt bondage.  A man came to the community offering loans and, out of desperation, the little girl’s family took a loan with dreams of changing their situation.  They had plans of opening a small shop and raising a few chickens.  However, things did not work out as they had hoped.  Chickens often do not do well, and one of their chickens got sick, it spread to the others, and all the chickens died.  The shop made no money as they would extend credit to others in the community for goods they were selling.  When they went to make their first payment on the loan, the man told them their payment would not even cover the interest.

Desperate to turn things around, the father soon left the area to find a job and try to pay off the debt.  He found a job in India where he worked unreasonably long hours just trying to pay back the debt.  No matter how many hours he worked, he was not able to pay off anything but the interest.  This is the cycle of debt bondage: You are unable to pay the original debt taken, so this debt passes to your children who will continue working long hours to pay back a hopeless debt.  Families get caught in the debt spiral, passing their debt from one generation to the next.  I never imagined when I saw that little girl who I thought was vulnerable to trafficking that slavery would enter through her father.

PRC and Didi have been able to visit with the family many times since their first encounter.  The mother shared with them how the little girl wakes up every morning and says they have to pray.  They also learned how the little girl’s mother walks three hours each day to her parent’s house, up a mountain to borrow what little food they have to continue to feed the children.  They were desperate with nowhere to turn, nor any way to change their situation.

Within days, Free for Life was able to partner with PRC, to pay for the father’s debt, so he could return home.  We have also purchased the family a buffalo, which will provide them with resources and a source of income.  PRC is working to help find the father a job in the area building houses.  Through PRC’s good reputation, the community will be willing to give the father a job.  Additionally, being able to sell the milk from the buffalo will allow the family to move toward a brighter future.

These stories continue to unfold even as I write, and I am so looking forward to sharing them as they do.  Together we are all a part of the fight against slavery.  PRC was able to rescue Didi from a life of slavery through their border-monitoring program. She was able to live at the shelter while she learned a trade and eventually return back to her village.  Dan and I were able to travel to Nepal and meet Didi as a result of Free for Life partnering with PRC.  From the tailoring skills she had learned, Didi was able to make that little girl a uniform and begin a relationship with her family.  When the child’s father found himself in debt bondage, Didi informed PRC, who in turn PRC and Didi have been able to visit with the family many times since their first encounter.  The mother shared with them how the little girl wakes up every morning and says they have to pray.  They also learned how the little girl’s mother walks three hours each day to her parent’s house, up a mountain to borrow what little food they have to continue to feed the children.  They were desperate with nowhere to turn, nor any way to change their situation.

Within days, Free for Life was able to partner with PRC, to pay for the father’s debt, so he could return home.  We have also purchased the family a buffalo, which will provide them with resources and a source of income.  PRC is working to help find the father a job in the area building houses.  Through PRC’s good reputation, the community will be willing to give the father a job.  Additionally, being able to sell the milk from the buffalo will allow the family to move toward a brighter future.

These stories continue to unfold even as I write, and I am so looking forward to sharing them as they do.  Together we are all a part of the fight against slavery.  PRC was able to rescue Didi from a life of slavery through their border-monitoring program. She was able to live at the shelter while she learned a trade and eventually return back to her village.  Dan and I were able to travel to Nepal and meet Didi as a result of Free for Life partnering with PRC.  From the tailoring skills she had learned, Didi was able to make that little girl a uniform and begin a relationship with her family.  When the child’s father found himself in debt bondage, Didi informed PRC, who in turn informed Free for Life.  Because of our donor partners we had the funds to get that little girl’s father out of his debt and purchase a buffalo to ensure the family has a brighter future.

Ripples are only that, until you see the effect they can have.  The ripple each of us makes in the fight against slavery can change everything.  The ripple effect in just these stories will be felt for generations.  Didi’s story of the lives she has touched as a result of being rescued is great encouragement to continue the work we are a part of at Free for Life.  Imagine all the stories we can tell when more girls are rescued through the work of Free for Life , our shelter partners, and their programs.  May this story bless you in the knowledge that a small ripple can create a mighty wave. Our stories are far from completed. When we see nowhere to turn, and the situation seems hopeless… look for the circus.

Colette Bercu

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Free for Life
Free for Life Team
Free for Life is fighting Human Trafficking in Nepal by partnering with organizations and individuals globally to meet the needs of trafficking survivors and those who are considered to be at high risk of being trafficked. Together with our partners, we provide financial, emotional and spiritual support. View more posts by Free for Life.