Today was a difficult day. It was the last day that we got to be with the students and teachers at the Piyali Learning Center. Even after a comparatively short period of time, it is difficult not to become attached to the kids. There are a lot of them and they are noisy, but what a joyous noise!
Their stories are very similar, yet each unique. Each of these girls has come from an abusive environment and/or a context in which they were at clear risk of being trafficked into some sort of slavery. The school was created to mitigate that risk and empower the girls in a decidedly patriarchal system, with roots reaching far back into Indian history.
The teachers are an extraordinary group of women, dedicated to improve the betterment of the lives of each and every one of these girls. They are delighted with opportunities to deepen their skill set and improve the quality and breadth of education of the children. These girls and their teachers were the people with whom we've had the privilege to work over the past few days.
Today, we've had to say goodbye to them. Granted, a week isn't a long time, I know, but watching some of our group say goodbye, makes it clear how close they've managed to come to these children and their teachers.
In the past week we've had occasion to sit in on classes and observe some of the new methods our teachers have shared with them. I don't personally claim to understand all of that, but I've been assured by the PLC staff that it was all extremely helpful. It was delightful for me to observe the interactions between our group and the children. "Uncle" David speaking "math" to the girls; Aunty Megan and Aunty Joan sharing their insights with a very grateful crew of instructors, and then helping them put it all into practice in the classroom. And Sonia "didi" (big sister) simply being Sonia "didi", hanging out with, laughing with, and loving a whole bunch of giggling little girls. Aunty Mindy was also as much a star among the kids here in India as she is at home.
The truth is that these girls have already had to face a great number of challenges in life and it is our privilege to help them where we can. All of these girls and young women, in the short time the school has existed, are becoming increasingly self-confident and strong. They are going to be a generation that begins to break the cycle of abuse and victimization of girls. I'm delighted to have met them and hope someday to see them again, for they, all of them, have been a very great inspiration to me.
Today we had a bit of a gathering before we left. We purchased ice-cream and cotton candy for the kids, in addition to little things we brought from home. They really enjoyed it all. The little ones especially got into the ice-cream and ended up wearing most of it.
They were very grateful for the gesture and appreciated all the little things (pens, pencils, balls, candy, hair bands, etc.) we brought for them.
We later had a catered lunch with the staff and shared some great conversation.
We took group photos, both with the students and then with the staff, before leaving.
This school is on an exciting path that is not only effectively fighting against the evil that is sweeping the world, that is human trafficking; it is doing so by equipping young women for life in the world. I am excited by what they have done and are doing, and the extent to which this work represents a paradigm that may ultimately prove useful in other areas around the world.
~~ Pastor Luther
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