When Kushi first arrived at the Redlight Greenlight Aftercare Home, the abuse she had suffered was worse than what most people can imagine.
Girls like Kushi arrive at the home with blank, expressionless faces, having just been rescued from sex trafficking. We give them a few days to rest and readjust, and then start to assess their physical and psychological needs. We ask, ‘What is your dream? What do you want to be when you grow up?’
Often a girl does not answer. It’s as if she doesn’t understand the questions. If we do get an answer, it’s likely to be, ‘I want to get married’. All that’s asked of most girls in this South Asian country is that they do housework and school work (if they are fortunate enough to go to school) so that someday they can get married, serve their husband and produce children.
A taste for education
We want these young people to get a taste for the fun and importance of education. So we create an Individual Educational Plan (IEP) for each one. After Kushi had been at the home for awhile, she smiled and said to a staff member, ‘Mother, before I came here, I went to school, but I did not learn anything. But now I know that I can read a textbook and find answers to questions on my own, so I can learn. Now I like to study.’
Kushi has dreams and goals. ‘My Plan A is to be a police woman,’ she says. ‘Plan B is to be a nurse and Plan C is to be a teacher. If none of them work out, I will apply to work here at the home as a caregiver!’
We regularly talk with the girls, emphasising education and suggesting possibilities for their future. But, even with our encouragement, they face many difficulties. Because they’re traumatised, they struggle to concentrate. Police visits, court appearances and medical trips interrupt their studies. Our caregivers persist in trying to motivate them, stressing their potential.
I marvel that Kushi is dreaming. She sees many possibilities for her future and she has started working towards her goals. There are still challenges ahead, and she will need help to continue moving forward. But for now we celebrate with her that her dreams are emerging like flowers in springtime.