Just on the cusp of the Slum Dog Millionaire successes last week, I finally made my way to Mumbai, India (!!!)
Those of you who have been hanging in there with me since I started drumming up support for my work with Hagar way back in August, you know that this trip, and others like it, have been in the making for quite some time. Well, I never imagined that I would be making this trip on my own, as the sole Hagar ambassador to our partners there, but, well I did it, I made it work, and I think I did it well enough. Isn’t it amazing what you can teach yourself in just 5 months or so? It has been a very concentrated time of learning, problem solving, a maybe even little programmatic triage and the like BUT here I am, in one piece, representing Hagar International across Asia. Cheers.
I hopped a plane last Sunday, February 16, to join our partners, International Justice Mission Mumbai and Oasis India with several purposes in mind. The first of which was to further develop and solidify our relationships with our partners and other organzations we are linking up with for our pending Hagar office in Mumbai. So, for example, I was meeting with new leadership, debriefing them on our model, updating partners on our status/timeline for operations, getting feedback from them about regarding any internal changes and restructuring their organizations are going through, etc. I was also cornering some big whigs at one of the major Universities there in Mumbai to finalize MOUs for a training course for our beneficiatries, etc. etc. (Let’s just say it was a busy time, especially when typical travel time from one part of the city to the other is AT LEAST 2 hours, if you are lucky. ouch).
The second major purpose of my visit was to connect with what turned out to be an incredibly adept, social justice driven group of individuals from where else but Cincinnati, Ohio. They came from Crossroads Church, blazing in with a twofold mission. First, to conduct a feasibility study of aftercare in Mumbai (Aftercare is just a fancy word for all the social service centers/shelters who work with survivors of sex trafficking). This smaller group, about 10, was composed of individuals of various backgrounds and expertise (from engineers to corporate ethics enforcers) from the church, and then 3 aftercare experts. I was humbled to be invited to join in as one of these “experts” on trafficking, along with two other great leaders in the movement– James Pond from Transitions Global and Kathy, the aftercare-psycho-social guru from IJMs Headquarters in DC. In between my own meetings with other partners, I zipped around the chaotic, colorful, dusty, CROWDED and vast city of Mumbai with them visiting the aftecare centers and participating in this assessment of sorts. Crossroads is invested in Mumbai and wholly committed to figuring out how they can be a strategic, long term catalyst within the movement there. It’s really exciting to see such an engaged, capable, willing and resourceful group listening to the NEEDS that exist and trying to understand how they can fill those holes. It’s amazing.
The second part of their purpose was to serve the women and children of Mumbai who are survivors of trafficking via enriching activities like painting murals, photography classes, planting gardens at aftercare centers, and other lovely, creative, life-giving activities. Yes, it was mission-trippy, relational, fun, difficult, sincere and FULL. It was really fun to meet the other side of the Crossroads group and get a feel for their motivations, talents and backgrounds. What a diverse and caring group.
So, on our first day together, I made a presentation to 50 plus people in a gorgeous 5 star hotel ballroom about Hagar International, who we are, what we’ve done and where we are going in Mumbai, especially.
And to give you a brief recap about what we are planning in Mumbai, bascially, we are utilizing strategic partnerships to fill in the current gaps in service and reintegration for survivors of trafficking there. For instance, many survivors get bottle-necked in the shelters. Once they arrive and have undergone some rehabilitation (pyscho social care, and meeting physcial needs) there is a lack of sustainable strategies or options for them to move forward with their lives. They get stuck, mostly because they have very few viable economic options. SO this is where Hagar steps in. With our Social Enterprise– Catering— we provide a bridge from the shelter to the job with comprehensive personal development, soft skills trainings, lifeskills trainings etc. coupled with hard skills trainings. We plug them into a supportive job environement, commmunity based care and aid them throught the difficult, but essential transition into independence and true reintegration back into society.
I must admit, I was super stressed about the presentation beforehand, but suddenly realized, that, hey, I’ve done this before…hey, I actually DO know this stuff, and I know it well…and hey, just relax Betsy, what more do you love to talk about to strangers than trafficking??? (yeah I know, odd, but true). Needless to say, the presentation went off great. It was a good start to a week full of learning, interacting, teaching and even a bit of frollicking about the trafficking and the sites of Mumbai.
I feel absolutely grateful that this opportunity arose– and so THANKFUL to the likes of YOU out that that made this trip possible. Without your support, I simply wouln’t have been able to go and contribute to this very important week of synergizing, connecting, planning, strategizing and learning. YOU ARE A PART OF THE SOLUTION! :) ok, I promise to stop with the cheesy bits, but I don’t lie when I say these things.
and, as i know some of you are probably counting, my official 6 month coutdown at Hagar is ticking by fast. while it is likely that i will stay on further, things are still not quite certain. there is still a lot more to be done as far as getting these expansion offices up to speed for their on-the-groud leadership to take over, but things are coming together. …. more developments to come soon!!
Tags: aftercare, autorickshaw, bombay, hagar, HAgar Catering, Hagar International, human trafficking, IJM, IJM Mumbai, India, MOU, Mumbai, Oasis India, reintegration, sex trafficking, slum dog millionaire, soc, social enterprise, traffic, trafficking in persons, transitions global