Reflection by Kristin Keen. Kristin was a founding partner in Sari Bari and continues the fight for freesdom where she lives now in Jacksonville, FL. Here she reflects on what it was like to visit Sari Bari after two years of being away:
When i would think about India over the past two years it would be the worst of the worst….i would close my eyes and would see the young girls lining the streets or think of holding the woman at the train station while she was dying or my friends serving a customer in the bed beside where I was sitting, hidden only by a tiny curtain.
And yes…those memories are real and horrible and the reality here in the red light area but coming back to Kolkata has reminded me of how much good there is also.
Yesterday we had to walk through the red-light area to get to the new Sari Bari unit. (need to interject here….we dreamed for a safe place in Son—cchi for years and years. We even tried to start Sari Bari in Son—chhi while I was living in India but it all fell through.) We only walked through a small portion of the area but it was enough. We walked by our friend Beauty who I knew for my entire five years here. We walked by the young girls who I thought were 15 at the time but as I greeted them again this time they still looked 15. The same young girls who are still under slave labor! The same girls who are forced to work the line from 8:00am to who knows how late at night. The same young girls who are forced to wear mini skirts and bad makeup and are taught to grab men when they walk by them. The ones whose childhoods have been stolen. These are the girls whose faces haunt me. So after seeing them i am walking down the red-light district with tears streaming down my cheeks. The questions start to rise in my mind again…the anger surfaces. The questions that will never be answered.
As we come around the corner, Kyle says, “look up Kristin. that is Sari Bari”. And I go up some stairs…..not slime covered, dark stairs that lead me to a friends room where she is oppressed and her dignity is stolen, but stairs that lead to hope and new life and new beginings and grace and love and safety.
I walk into Sari Bari and can again breath. The place is open and beautiful and the ladies are laughing and I see girls and women who i knew in the red light district sewing!!! I see ladies who I knew from Ka——at now in leadership and giving freedom to the ladies in Son—acchi. I see and feel hope and I feel all the anger and hate and questions melt off of me and all i can do it sit there and cry and be amazed.
I walked from hell to a place of hope in the matter of minutes. Hope exists in Son—acchi. HOPE EXISTS. It was an impossible dream. Impossible. But through dreams, work, prayer, community, grace, power, mercy…..it exists. It is my answer to most of my questions.