The key to the success of the New Light shelters has everything to do with nurturing and treating each child as an individual. Loving behavior combined with teaching and guiding has been a successful component of New Light. With a continuum that works with children through school, New Light has assisted the most vulnerable child to stand tall and know they are precious. Each caregiver and volunteer understands the responsibility they have in being as loving, caring and firm as if they were the parent.
We encourage those who donate to also volunteer in India at New Light to see how their donation dollars have been spent. We ask that volunteers behave professionally and to respect the rules set forth put in place to protect the child. We ask that volunteers don't visit parents unless given permission although rarely granted. The children are from challenged backgrounds so try to be emphatic towards them without being sympathetic. Your respect is our respect.
Once you meet the children, you will always understand how important your donation dollars are and how much integrity New Light has in working with the children of trafficked women or women from inter-generational prostitution. New Light does its job by breaking the chain of sex work to provide children with an understanding of their worth.
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Last year we saw the children thrive at the shelter. With the issues that plague the red light district children, New Light has once again provided a year of growth and healing for the children of sex workers, pimps and drug dealers. To be at the shelter, you have to remind yourself that these happy and busy children live in a red light district and are aware of all that goes on around them.
After they are in the care of New Light, they are educated and nurtured to never fall to the pit of despair around them. They love their mothers and their mother's love them enough to want them to have a better life than they have. Its only because of the donations that come in that the children are educated, provided with nutritious meals, healthcare, and a nurturing environment. Even when they graduate from high school, they are often placed in vocational schools or college to become all that they can become.
This would never happen without you and the other generous donors. We can't thank you enough for your continuing support to stop the cycle of abuse.
It's hard to convey the atmosphere at the New Light Shelter in the Kalaghat red light district in Kolkata. You can hear children laughing and playing together, books being read by caregivers and volunteers, nutritional meals being served and Montessori-style learning in small preschool classes that engage the very young in the wonders of learning. The smells and sounds heighten your senses and yet it was somewhat of a blur.
One day while I was at New Light, a PTA meeting was being held midday. The children were in their classes and the mothers were sitting on the floor with their brightly colored saris listening to lecturing, scolding, and praising from Urmi, the inspriational director - all for the well-being of the children. Urmi is a rare individual who makes loving contact with each child and woman. The staff is not always paid on time but they are dedicated and caring regardless. The women who are sex workers in the evening come to New Light for a monthly meeting to become better parents, to be aware of the dangers that lurk for their children, and to work with New Light in making sure that the cycle of slavery is broken.
Whenever possible, New Light gives the mothers an escape route but the issues of intergenerational prostitution run deep. The women don't want their children to be victims of their low status in life and are happy that New Light is focusing on education and skills training for older boys and girls.
New Light shelter is supported by donations from individuals like yourself, corporate gifts, and foundation grants. Most of the time its very difficult to make ends meet. Each small donation goes far. If you have been donating, many thanks. I can attest to the benefits of monthly donations that ensure a hot meal, a teachers salary, a doctor and a future for children of the red light district.
After my trip to India to visit New Light and the shelter, I'm very moved by the experience.
What began as a shelter for 8 children whose mother were prostitutes in two rooms in a dark alley of the Kalighat red light district, fifteen years ago, has evolved into a 24/7 program for more than 200 kids today. The shelter, located in a permanent structure above a temple situated deep inside the Kalighat red light district, offers comprehensive care and support to the children ranging from a few months old to sixteen years.
The strength of the New Light shelter is in the dedicated staff and volunteers that provide the sex worker mothers, an opportunity to keep their young kids in the safe and loving custody of caretakers instead of being in the streets or sleeping under the bed of their mother.
Most children from the neighboring areas use the shelter as a drop-in center where they can rest, play, read or acquire computer skills. During the day the shelter is abuzz with the continuous stream of children who attend the local schools and come to relax at the shelter after a hard day outside or sit and read a book in the library.
For many of the kids whose mothers don't have any permanent residence, the shelter is the only place they can call their own. This is not just a shelter but a place where children are mentored and educated. The older children are in housing separate from the red light district. Instead of it being a warehouse for children in dire circumstances, the children are mentored and tutored and all talents and interests are taken into consideration.
They do accept volunteers so if you are also interested in visiting New Light, please don't hesitate to contact me at Shana@villagevolunteers.org You will never forget this community filled with love and laughter.
I just returned from a two and a half week trip to New Light in the Kalighat, red light district of Kolkata, India. This was not just a site visit but an intimate understanding of the interworking of this extraordinary program and the loving staff that keeps the program going. New Light is not a place that warehouses kids who are the children of the red light district (children of prostitutes) but a place for children to go with all the love and care that is needed to take children out of a living hell.
At the shelter during the day, there was a parent/teacher meeting with the mothers. While it was all in Bengali, I could understand that most of Urmi's conversations to the women seemed a little like scolding but always for the children's welfare. The children were at either of two preschools run like a Montessori style program. At night when the mothers were working, the children would come in for a meal, to play, go to the library that just opened up for the kids, and then often slept overnight on the mats on the floor. Some of the children were total orphans. One little girl, Pia, is over three but was very tiny. She and her sister were there together and were darling. I was sitting at the preschool and Pia came over and looked at me with those big eyes. I picked her up and within a few minutes she was curled up fast asleep. Their mother had committed suicide in one of the villages nearby and they were fending for themselves. As imagined, Urmi went to scoop up these two precious little girls. They are very eager to learn and New Light will give them every chance.
Walking around with Urmi Basu, the founder and director of New Light, was like being with a stern aunt on occasion, a staunch supporter on another but always a loving mentor who deeply cares. At ten years old the children are in danger of being nabbed into the sex trade, they are taken to another "boarding" situation but its large boarding homes with house parents, time for homework, and lots of extracurricular like sports and traditional India dance.
The issue I was very aware of is what it takes to run New Light. Since the results are so stellar and I saw nothing but hope and future for these children, I am asking for your assistance to perhaps do a monthly subscription of any amount.
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