I’ll never forget pulling up to the House of Palms—World Help’s partner program in India—after traveling for miles through remote villages. The sun was just rising and it showered a soft, warm light over the property.
The House of Palms is in the heartland of Indian Banchara communities and is a safe haven for girls who would otherwise enter into the Banchara tradition of child prostitution. Through sponsorship, they now have a life-changing alternative as each girl receives an education that will transform her future.
As we walked up to the building, girls of all ages ran to greet us, throwing bright marigold garlands over our shoulders and grinning from ear to ear.
Later at a reception ceremony, the girls recited Bible verses and treated us to traditional dances. Then they sang a song that seemed to explain everything . . .
“Because Jesus loves me, I can dance and sing.”
This was missing from the Banchara communities—the radical love of Christ that gives us freedom to live, move, and have our being. Instead, the Banchara are enslaved to demoralization and shame. The difference was like night and day.
While there, I spoke with 15-year-old Sanu who barely escaped the sex industry. The staff at House of Palms accepted her as their own family, and helped restore a sense of God-given value in her life. Since arriving, she’s become a Christ follower and has blossomed into a natural leader.
This remarkable young woman now wants to become a police officer to fight corruption and protect the Banchara. Take a minute to hear more of her courageous story.
Sanu is one of the fortunate ones to have escaped the Banchara’s 500-year tradition of child prostitution. Especially considering her mother and aunt have been involved in the trade since they were young teenagers. In fact, I spoke with Sanu’s aunt Pinky who told me the devastating story of how she entered the trade.
Pinky’s older sister was in the industry and helped provide for the family. After a while, she pressured Pinky to do the same. She could earn 10 times the amount as a sex worker than she could working as a field laborer.
Today, Pinky has spent half of her life in the sex trade and must sell herself every day to support her three young children. All the while, she runs the risk of contracting HIV and suffering abuse at the hands of her clients. She doesn’t have an education or any skills and worries about what she’ll do when she’s too old for the industry.
“The path to the sex industry is not straight for these women. It’s not one step. It’s taken step-by-step. It starts with exposure and abuse, then they try it once or twice, and then they’re stigmatized by their community and remain in the industry.” –Susheil, Community Development Coordinator.
I asked Pinky what her hope for the future was, and she said something that struck me.
“Hope is found in the next generation of children who are educated and don’t need to live this lifestyle.”
She understands that with the right resources, her children can be the generation to end the Banchara tradition. It’s not that these people are ignorant to the degradation of sex trafficking . . . It’s that poverty leaves them no choice.
Word has spread among the Banchara about the House of Palms, and hundreds of parents are desperate to give their children an alternate lifestyle through education, far from the sex industry.
And yet this incredible facility is already bursting at the seams with students. World Help is currently working to expand the campus to accommodate an influx of at-risk children. Construction plans are in motion, but we simply can’t grow at the rate needed without help.
Please consider partnering with us to lift the Banchara from their cultural dependence on sex for survival. It starts by equipping Pinky’s children and giving more girls, like Sanu, the chance to dream about their future.
Together, we can share the radical love of Christ, give hope, and infuse joy. We can give these children a reason to sing and dance.