Saturday, July 31, 2010

Kolkata: First impressions

Cows and dogs in the street. Bicyclists, pedestrians and rickshaws going every which way. And cars driving pell mell, as fast as they can on the left side of the road. I'm so glad I don't have to drive around here 'cause it's more than a little crazy. See a tiny spot over there that your car may fit into? Head for it and amazingly enough it often turns into just enough room -- but not an inch more -- for you to travel another block or two. Keep going and a bus may cut you off but that's what brakes are for. And one must definitely have one hand on the horn while the other is on the wheel. Honking at someone every minute or so is definitely a required part of the driving experience.

Lots of people & traffic -- shacks for homes -- high rises being built -- big brown eyes of the woman begging outside of the airport -- contrasts in rich and poor.

Welcome to Kolkata!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Almost ready

Malaria meds - check. Passport - check. Donated items - check. Book to read on the plane - check. I've been checking off things on my list and am about 90% packed. My suitcases are full to the brim with donated lotions, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soaps, hair brushes & ties, etc. Thank you so much to all who donated items or $$. Your generosity helps the shelters care for the rescued survivors.

I've had conversations about India with just about everyone I run into these last few days. How hot will it be? (80's - 90's) Is it humid? (Yes, the 10 day forecast is for thunderstorms every day) Do you think you'll get sick? (There's a good chance of getting traveler's stomach/intestinal illness though I'm not planning on it!) Having never been out of the country except as a tourist in Canada and Mexico, this is a a whole new experience.

Some people look at me as if I've lost my mind to even think about traveling to India and wonder why I would go halfway around the world to volunteer when there are lots of needs right here in the U.S. Actually, that's kind of hard to answer. I just know that I need to go. After being involved with The Emancipation Network for a couple of years, it's time to take this step. It's time to put more action in my actions.

There are many needs in the world. God calls different people to respond to different needs and with different actions. There's a song on Christian radio with a line that says (paraphrased) "Why not me? Why not now?" This is what I need to do right now.

If you are reading this and you're a praying person, I'd appreciate your prayers during this trip. Blessings!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Who'd have thought?

What do you expect to do when you retire? Take it easy...sleep more time for your favorite hobby...spend more time with family...volunteer more...? I guess I thought all of these things were possible - and more - but I didn't expect to have a tug on my heart for victims of human trafficking. I didn't even know about trafficking until the winter of 2008. When I began to understand the scope (millions of people are trafficked) and horror (forced prostitution, forced labor, degradation, desperate living conditions, violence, coercion and more) I was compelled to "do something" -- but what?

No one should be enslaved. Every person in this world is worthy of respect and dignity. But what can a retired woman do about human trafficking from her home in small town USA? The answer came from another woman, Sarah Symons, featured in Family Circle magazine in February 2008. She and her husband had been touched by the topic of trafficking and decided they'd get involved. They formed The Emancipation Network, assisting shelters that helped victims of human trafficking. Sarah invited women around the US to host an event, a "Freedom Party," to educate others about trafficking and give them the opportunity to purchase items made by survivors. Anyone can do it. Everyone can do it.

So I hosted a party, then another one. Friends and family with a heart for trafficking victims decided to buy gifts and items for themselves from The Emancipation Network. All money went right back to The Emancipation Network to purchase more items and so it's been going for the past couple of years. A craft show here and a party there -- purchases that benefit both buyers in our corner of the world as well as survivors in over 15 different shelters around the world.

Who'd have thought that God would bring this cause into my life? I don't believe in coincidence. I do believe in His leading. And now He's leading me to volunteer at some of these shelters in Kolkata, India -- more than just a little bit out of my normal realm and comfort zone.

And now it's only 10 days before leaving for India....