India has more than four million female sex workers with the number of prostitutes rising by 50% between 1997 and 2004 with 35% of them entering the trade under the age of 18.
As you may know, our ministry partners, Jatiyo Kristyo Prochar Samity (JKPS), are working across the city of Kolkata and the whole of the West Bengal region to serve some of India’s neediest communities.
Hidden behind the thriving industrialised region of Kolkata are rural communities like Bibirhat, living in extreme poverty.
The people of Bibirhat live in mud huts, vulnerable to monsoon rains and severe flooding, and many live without sanitation, healthcare or education. JKPS are the only NGO operating in this region and their work is vital, including their specific ministry via Mahima Homes.
Bibirhat is just one of the many communities JKPS are working with through their Mahima Homes ministry. Their outreach work is serving approximately 8,000 people across the wider West Bengal area including some of India’s female sex workers, estimated to be into the millions.
A House of Hope…
The Ashaloy drop-in centre in Sonagachi has been operational since 2016. Ashaloy had been set up to prevent the trafficking and sexual abuse of children whose mothers are in the sex trade and also children who live in the slums of that area. These children are the most vulnerable.
Every day after school when the business hours in the red light area begin, children that attend the centre are kept engaged in developmental activities such as learning computer skills, spoken English and psycho-social skills that teach the children to keep themselves safe in an unsafe environment. Additionally, they provide medical care through a doctor who visits once a week to attend to patients who are, amongst other medical problems, infected with HIV.
Group counselling for the community’s women is also conducted once a week. Additionally, these women also participate in awareness programs that Mahima India organises every month to educate and equip them with basic knowledge on finding alternative employment and to sensitise them about women’s rights.
Children attending the centre are benefiting from lessons about morality, music therapy, computer and life development lessons which help them to cope with their situation. This aside, the Ashaloy Centre also runs a weekly health check-up and HIV clinic for children, women and local residents of the Sonagachi community.
Seeking To Purchase A Permanent Location For The Ashaloy Centre
Ashaloy had been operating out of a building that was loaned to JKPS originally for two years. However a few months ago (September 2018) they were asked to vacate the facility. Subsequent to this, a partner organisation working in the area graciously opened their building for them where they then relocated for the interim period.
Meanwhile, JKPS conducted a survey to identify suitable properties for purchase but found that most of them were priced at a premium rate and that their owners were more than willing to sell them to brothel owners. Eventually, the partner organisation who had let them use their facility agreed to sell the property to them so that they could have their own space to run the Ashaloy programme. JKPS should be completing the purchase of the Mahima Home by June 2019.
How You Can Help
There is a great need for ongoing, long-term support. By giving monthly, you will be making a commitment to the work of Ashaloy drop-in centre
Dear Father God, Thank you for your grace and mercy and we pray now for the many, many people caught in the sex industry in India. We believe that You see every heart and every tear and we pray that you would bring justice swiftly into these situations. Please bless this growing work of Mahima Homes and the Ashaloy House. In the name of Jesus, Amen.
What God Has Joined, Let No Man Separate
Bharati, one of the caregivers of Premanand Boys‘ Home, was joined in holy matrimony with Salam, a young man trained at JKPS’ Bible Training Institute (BTI).
Bharati grew up in a small village in Burdwan and Salam spent most of his childhood on railroad platforms being orphaned at a young age. Bharati came to Mahima Homes and became a baptised Christian while Salam was rescued by a pastor from the platform, looked after by him and sent to BTI to study theology after he accepted God.
No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the LORD will take delight in you, and your land will be married.
This wonderful good news story exemplifies beautifully the redemptive, gospel-centred nature of the ministry of Mahima Homes and the developing service of Ashaloy House for sex workers in India.