“Zoom zoom! Have no fear, I am here!” the rickshaw driver exclaimed as we squeezed into an impossibly small space between two trucks, each edging fiercely for the right to cross the intersection. I cling to my seat, heart racing and laughing at the chaos and traffic in Mumbai. With such a thrilling start to the day, I knew this would be one to remember. We were on our way to Kamathipura, the most renowned red light district in India.
Pulling up into the district, our senses were assaulted – the smells of rotting trash, honking and calling of men, a woman’s body lying in the street; quickly moved upon seeing our arrival. We were escorted to a single room, piled high with boxes of medical supplies and a desk; the office and clinic of Set Beautiful Free, the organization our coffee helps support. Here in this space, women receive free medical treatment daily. Here in this room, dignity, hope and relationships begin.
We sat there, humbly listening to three men who tirelessly work in the fight against human trafficking share their heart and burden for the people in Kamathipura; from the madams to the pimps to the workers and their children. The heaviness of the task before them is evidenced on their faces but not without a lack of hope or determination to persevere.
It is outside this room that women and girls who have been trafficked are kept in cages for 3-5 years to pay off their “debt.” Brutally abused, their spirits are broken as they submit to the horrors of their new lives. It is not merely prostitution but slavery.
We walked through these streets, meeting beautiful women, their makeup a mask, the harshness of their world evidenced in their bodies. We looked at pictures of their children, some of whom are safe at the Academy SBF runs two hours away. One person in our group stops to play a game of caroms (much like air hockey played by flicking your fingers) with young men. We were invited into their homes, into the very brothels where underage girls are hidden away. In their faces, we see our brothers, our sisters. It is for all these women, men and children that we sell our coffee. It is for the stories of rescue that we give 40% of our profits. Thank you for joining us in this fight, to Set Beautiful Free.
More stories of our journey to India to come…
Note: For privacy reasons we are not using any real names.