Tuesday, 3 February 2009
I meant to write this and post it up during the trip but quickly realised when we arrived that coming accross internet connections would be very difficult! Therefore the whole trip is below in one big post, split into days!
Sunday 18 January
Today at 1.45pm, my father and I left my home town of Beverley, Yorkshire to get the train to London. We arrived at Kings Cross station where we had to change to get the train to Heathrow. This took about an hour, which started to make me nervous, as I knew there was a 9 hour flight waiting for me ahead. At 6.45pm, we arrived at Heathrow airport, ready to set off on my trip to India! I was nervous yet excited, as I knew I was about to embark on a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Monday 19 January
As the flight was overnight, we landed in Delhi Monday morning at 10.30am. I was completely surprised at the view from the cabin window, it was so dusty and foggy and the temperature was really cool which was not what I was expecting! When we walked out of the airport, we were greeted by hundreds of people and surrounded by a road rage of taxis, all beeping their horns. I had to stand still for a while just to take it all in! It was like nothing I had ever seen before. People were staring at us which to begin with was really strange, as up until that point I hadn’t realised how different two cultures can be. We met Joy from the World Vision India office at the airport and headed off to our hotel. As I sat in the car, I was amazed at the extent of the poverty I had seen already.
The hotel was also an experience in itself as they were under-going construction work, making it impossible to get any sleep. I had some lunch and relaxed for about an hour, before meeting Sushma from the World Vision India office in the hotel reception. Sushma gave us a briefing on how money raised from the World Vision 24 Hour Famine is going to be used to help young girls in the sex worker trade and told us more about the projects I would be seeing over the next few days. I found some of the statistics that she presented me with hard to deal with, as children as young as 8 years old are involved in this type of work.
We set off around 6.30pm to head back to Delhi airport to catch our flight to Jaipur, which was delayed by 2 hours. We had a mad rush getting there, as we got stuck in loads of traffic and then the driver dropped us off at the wrong terminal! The team and I power-walked along the road in the opposite direction of the traffic in order to dodge cars! We made the flight in the nick of time!
Tuesday 20 January
Well, what a day! After arriving at the hotel last night which was absolutely lovely, the team had a good night rest so we were all bright eyed and ready to go this morning. The aim of today was to get a close look at the real India, so we could experience how the people here live. We drove out of our hotel, onto the highway and headed towards the first community. Driving along, the difference between Delhi and Jaipur is incredible; Jaipur is a lot quieter in comparison.
We arrived at the village Tilawala, where I was introduced to a 35-year-old lady, named Suseela*. She explained to us that the reason why these young girls get into this line of work is because poverty forces them to, they don’t have a choice. They are sent off to work on the highways, in order to provide an income for their families.
Suseela introduced us to a very beautiful girl, named Kiran*. Although shy at first, she didn’t want to share her experiences, however as the conversation flowed between us she began to open up more about her life. Kiran explained to us how she went off to Bombay at the age of 13, dancing in bars as well as working in the sex worker trade before returning to Tilawala with her income. She is now 19 years old and has been in the trade for six years, sleeping with five men a day, seven days a week. We asked her why she continues to work as a sex worker, now that she is back in Tilawala and she informed us that she has no education to do anything else and the money in general labour work doesn’t come close to the money she makes as a sex worker.
We were also introduced to another girl aged 23. She is also a sex worker and has two children. We asked her if she would send her children into this type of work and she informed us that both of her children are in school and will receive an education. Her children also attend the World Vision centre, located in the centre of the village, where they can learn about the high risks of HIV and AIDS. The women all seemed to want to provide a different life for the children and when we asked if they attend the World Vision centres, they said that they are too busy and that they feel it’s too late for them to change their lives; all they are interested in is providing an alternative life for their children.
Although it was shocking to see girls my age working in this trade, it was nice to see the strong bond between the families in the village. They all seemed to be looking after each other’s children, whilst the mothers ‘went to work’. We handed out gifts to the children, which included toys, pencils, pens and paper. They were delighted and it was touching to see how such basic gifts were considered to be such luxuries. It was amazing to see how much World Vision had already helped a number of families, with girls working in the trade planning a different future for their children, by putting them in schools and giving them an education.
After visiting Tilawala, we had lunch at a service station on the Highway. It was delicious and once again I got to try a new Indian cuisine. We then had an hour long drive to the next village. This village was similar to the one this morning, except the houses seemed to be less stable and there was rubbish scattered everywhere. We met a sex worker who showed us her home – one room that was no bigger than my bedroom, with two beds. It was unbelievable to see the difference between my home and theirs. She had one daughter and also looked after her elderly mother. I then went on to meet a sponsored boy who is infected with HIV. He was only 11 years old and his mother had died last year from the disease, but he seemed to be living a normal life, just like the other children in the village. He is currently being looked after by his uncle and World Vision is helping to pay for his treatment.
The next girl I was introduced to was 16-years-old (the same age as me) and had chosen education over the sex trade. It was great to hear how she wanted to be a doctor and although the money of working as a sex worker was tempting, she would not go into this line of work and will stick with her education. To meet a girl the same age as me and to compare our lives was definitely surreal – I never realised the challenges that face these young girls - in the UK, it is inevitable that children will go to school to get an education.
Afterwards, we went into our third village where we were introduced to 29-year-old Akhila*. Supported and trained by World Vision, her role as a ‘peer educator’ is raise awareness among the girls in her village about the high risks of HIV and AIDS and try to persuade them to get an education. Having formerly worked in the sex trade herself for three years at the age of 19, she soon realised the danger levels of HIV and AIDS and so now devotes her time educating young girls about the risks. Akhila introduced us to two of the 15 girls she is working with in the village. Although they are still in the sex trade, they refuse to have sex with any of the men without a condom which is the result of World Vision educating them. The girls informed us that a number of the men ask to pay more in order to have sex without a condom, however these girls stand firm as they are now aware of the risks.
Wednesday 21 January
Today we were concentrating on the education supplied to families on the highway. When we arrived at the village, they gave us a traditional welcome – it was unbelievable! There was a really loud drum and some kind of high-pitched trumpet that welcomed us into the community. A young girl blessed us by pressing red paint onto our forehead, sticking rice to it, tying a bracelet around our wrist and giving us a sweet to eat. The band of people followed us into the community, treating us like royalty.
Here we met another World Vision ‘peer educator’ named Dhitri* who was trying to improve the life of her family and of her community. She quit the sex trade once she realised the effects of HIV and AIDS. Dhitri was a brilliant person to speak to as she was very open with us – something which has been very rare amongst the women we have met. I was introduced to another 16 year old who was so shy and at first she didn’t want to speak to us, however by the end of our visit she approached me to have a picture taken with her. It was clear to see who worked as a sex worker in this village and who didn’t by the quality of their homes. The girls who gave their families their income, allowed them to build bigger more stable homes, however it was sad to know that the money used to provide all of this had come from the line of work that a girl the same age as myself was in.
After talking to the women in the community, we watched a cricket match that World Vision had organised between two villages, to help create awareness of HIV and AIDS. To decide who would bat first, World Vision would ask both teams, ‘How does HIV and AIDS spread?’ During the break, I even had a go at batting and actually hit the ball! After the match, we watched a drama group perform a piece, educating the community about the dangers of HIV and AIDS and how it is spread, which World Vision had helped to organise. It was wicked and such a good way of getting the message across! Although the play was performed in Hindu, you could still understand what was going on and the message they were trying to get across was clear.
After lunch, we headed back to the community to present prizes to the winning cricket team. I had to make a small speech and hand out some trophies. We then moved further into the community to visit the woman from earlier and to give some gifts to the little children. It was such a special feeling to see the delight on their faces and I also showed them how to use the pens on pads of paper We then headed back to the hotel as our final day came to a close.
Thursday 22 January
Today was our last day as we flew back to Delhi at lunchtime. In the morning, we explored Jaipur and rode an elephant called Chumba all the way up a hill to a palace, where we received a guided tour. We then went to a busy market – it was the most stressful shopping trip ever as there were people everywhere! We managed to get some great gifts for family and friends.
We flew into Delhi later that day and checked into a hotel, ready for our flight back to England tomorrow. I was really sad that the trip was almost over and will miss everyone that came on the trip so much! However I have seen how money from this year’s World Vision 24 Hour Famine is going to be used to help provide education to create awareness on HIV and AIDS, and provide choices to young girls who have been born into the sex trade. It’s an amazing project to be involved with.