My journey began in Goa where I joined the Freedom Firm staff for the annual retreat. Though it was intimidating traveling to a new country and joining a retreat with 25 individuals I had not met, I was welcomed by the staff who included me as a part of the team instantly. I was humbled on hearing their experiences, dedication to the work and willingness to consistently go above and beyond to make sure that the girls we rescue are safe and provide care to recover from the trauma of life in the brothel.

From Goa I traveled to our headquarters in Ooty where I spent time with four girls working in our Ruhamah workshop. It was wonderful to see how well the girls took to new techniques of making hand hammered jewelry and also used their own creativity to develop beautiful pieces of jewelry. It gave me hope that they may actually be able to overcome the wounds of their past and build a bright future.

My next stop was to Pune where the rescue and legal work takes place. Of the over 300 girls we have rescued, our aftercare team is in touch with over 200 of them. The staff travel long distances by train and bus (sometimes over 15 hours) to visit the girls, check-in on them, provide them with resources and care when possible. Our legal team is currently following up on over 100 different cases, in different stages of the legal process. One of the greatest challenges the team faces is finding interested and qualified individuals to join the team to expand this critical work.

Before I knew it I was on a train to Nagpur for the inauguration of our newest Ruhamah workshop at a local state run facilty where a large number of our rescued girls are housed. It is different from our other three Ruhamah offices as the girls are being trained in jewelry making while they continue to live in the government facility. Once they are released the girls are given an opportunity to be employed in one of our three Ruhamah offices in Pune, Ooty, or Kolkata. If they choose to follow a different opportunity we ensure they are able to successfully support themselves and are safe from being trafficked again.

The final stop in my journey was to the Ruhamah workshop in Kolkata. The girls in Kolkata specialize in Aari, a unique form of sewing and beadwork done by hand, requiring a significant amount of time, patience and care in order to develop a beautiful and final piece. The workshop has just welcomed 16 rescued girls and is currently the largest of our workshop facilities.

My time in India was an experience I will carry with me for the rest of my life. It was truly life changing. The most important thing that I took away from this experience was that the work being done by Freedom Firm is REAL. The people doing the work are REAL. They are dedicated, hardworking, caring individuals who are striving every day to right the wrongs being done to young women throughout the country. The work they do is not easy. It is physically, emotionally, and spiritually challenging and they face those challenges with grace and confidence. The girls we are rescuing are REAL. Their stories are heartbreaking. Despite the harsh realities of their lives and their circumstances Freedom Firm has provided them with a ray of light in the darkness, with hope for a better life where there was once none.

*Katie’s account of her three week journey to India to meet the staff and visit our offices in Ooty, Pune, Nagpur, and Kolkata. Katie serves as Freedom Firm USA, Director.