In the summer of 2011, four SFU Health Sciences Co-op students, Martyna, Silvia, Lindsay and Christine went on an INCREDIBLE 4-month work term to India. Working with Destiny Reflection, an organization whose goal is to empower female victims of human trafficking to become self-sufficient through dignified employment. Their blog series, SFU Health Sciences Takes India!, captures some of the experiences on their life changing journey.
A few weeks ago Dr. Ro invited us to attend a performance at the Loretta School for Girls. It was parent’s day, so to show their appreciation the students dedicated a dance show to their loved ones. The children were brave (as for many it was their first time on stage) and very meticulous in their movements. The main message portrayed was the importance of educating girls. A play was enacted throughout the dance routines of a young girl who was forced into an arranged marriage. This couple later in life had a daughter who they enrolled in school. However, the father got into a car accident and lost his arm and was not able to provide for the family. Nonetheless, the parents recognized the value of education and kept their child in the institution.
After this performance Dr. Ro gave us a tour around the building. In the attic was a subsequent classroom. A few years ago a remarkable woman striving for social justice, Alka, founded the Archana School for Girls in the attic of the Loretta School. This school is special from any other. The girls that attend this school are destitute. They are children between the ages of 6-16 that are living on the street, and have been abandoned by their families. Many of them have experiences the suffering of repeated torture and rapes.
The Archana School is not simply and educational haven, but also their home. The attic is a large space covered with a tin roof.
A breeze continuously circulates through the room as there are no windows to withstand the elements. The attic is arranged into two sections. One area is decorated with brightly coloured desks segregated into educational levels. Students are surrounded by paintings and motivational quotes on the concrete walls, blackboards and sufficient school supplies. A barrier separates the classroom from the living quarters. Roughly 100+ students live in the attic. Each student is given a cubicle where they store all their cherished belongings. The school provides them with a safe place to sleep, a washroom to bath and nutritious meals. But most importantly these girls are receiving a gift which is unconceivable by many females, an education. These children who were destine for poverty stricken conditions finally have the opportunity to pursue their dreams. What I found most astonishing was that to educate, feed, bath, foster an environment of positive social reintegration and save one girl from the vulnerable streets of Kolkata costs only fifty Canadian dollars annually.