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reflection by Beth Waterman

Sari Bari celebrations are a normal practice for us here in Kolkata. Maybe it is a reaction to the intensity of suffering we see and experience through our friends here, maybe we just like to have a good time, most definitely we’ve chosen to declare goodness and value and joy in the face of what are often desperate hopeless, dire situations. Sari Bari is choosing to push through darkness, and live in a new way…flowers in the cracks of cement walkways, trees in a concrete jungle, hope and celebration in the face of abandonment and oppression.

Our Sari Bari 5 year anniversary retreat to the mountains was no exception. Our gift to one another was three days of fresh mountain air and 59 bundled up ladies with their new Christmas shawls, clothes, and socks soaking up every moment…for them this was a trip of relaxation. Most of them were able to leave their children at home for these few days, which meant their responsibilities of cooking, cleaning, and family maintenance were left in Kolkata as well. Gangtok was a breath of fresh air for our sisters who daily work so hard to support and care for their families.

For me the most beautiful moments of our time together in the mountains happened our last night together, a birthday celebration to mark 5 years of Freedom for Sari Bari. Listening to Sarah recount our humble beginnings and celebrate the two women who paved the way for the 70 others who have followed left me in tears and full of thankfulness that I get to be a part of this journey. As each Sari Bari training group stood to be recognized and applauded, 5 years of memories flooded and bled into one big mosaic of our time together. All we’ve been through, all we’ve suffered and celebrated and learned along the way. To have the opportunity of knowing such courageous and heroic women is my honor and great joy. Stories unthinkable fill our Sari Bari walls, but restoration and hope is overcoming even the most tragic of lives among our friends. As staff member Kyle Scott sang to our ladies in one of his most recent songs “[their] will to live, taught me to hope”…

And thus is my final reflection on our time together in Gangtok, celebrations of 5 years worth of courage and hope, through the mediums of eating, snow capped mountains and crisp air, beautiful birthday cakes and lots of Bollywood dancing. We spent three days together with sisters who have shown us there is something more powerful than the oppression they’ve experienced.

Here’s to another 5 years of new life in the making.