Rescue sex workers & at-risk children in India

by Snehalaya 'Home of Love'
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Rescue sex workers & at-risk children in India
Rescue sex workers & at-risk children in India
Rescue sex workers & at-risk children in India
Rescue sex workers & at-risk children in India
Rescue sex workers & at-risk children in India
Rescue sex workers & at-risk children in India
Rescue sex workers & at-risk children in India
Rescue sex workers & at-risk children in India
Rescue sex workers & at-risk children in India
Rescue sex workers & at-risk children in India
Rescue sex workers & at-risk children in India
Our 10 Std students are excited for their exams
Our 10 Std students are excited for their exams

Thank you so much for your support of our children’s education. It has been an incredibly challenging few years for our students as they have spent most of their time learning online. Our 12 Std exams are currently taking place and our 10 Std exams start on 15 March. We hope you join us in wishing our children good luck, we will be waiting with baited breath to see whether our slum school teachers hav managed to keep them on track during the pandemic. We had 100% pass rates last year so fingers crossed we manage the same again. Our children are slightly nervous but also exctied for their exams. Education is so important to our children and their families and play a key role in breaking the cycles of poverty that exist in our slums.

As an example, Hema lives in Siddharthnagar, mainly known for its fights, gambling dens, and liquor sales, and has been attending our Balbhavan for the last seven years. Her father is a laborer, her mother is a housemaid and her brother also works to help his family. Despite being brought up in an impoverished family, Hema has shone as a brilliant and talented student, enthusiastically participating in every school and Balbhavan activity. Last year, she passed her 12 std with excellent marks of 83%. This helped her gain admission for ANM to study nursing. The course fees are well beyond the family’s reach but thanks to your generous support we have been able to sponsor her education and she is on track to fulfil her dreams and ultimately uplift her family’s financial and social status.

We are so grateful that you believe in our work and want to help our beneficiaries. We wouldn’t exist without you so I truly do appreciate everything you have done to support us, thank you!

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Diwali designs by our children
Diwali designs by our children

Wishing you a very happy Diwali from your Snehalaya family. We are all so happy that the current COVID situation here in Ahmendagar has improved enough that we can enjoy a return to some of the traditional celebrations of the Festival of Light.

That said, our Rehab Center which is home to over 250 children and women, is still in lockdown and we are entertaining our children with a range of activities, gifts, new clothes, entertainment which will culminate in a party this Sunday. We have also distributed gifts to women and children in our other projects, including a sari distribution to our female sex workers.

None of this would be possible without your support and we are sincerely grateful to you for ensuring we can give our women and children their own family Diwali celebrations.

Are you thinking of donating before the end of the year? If so, 30 November is Giving Tuesday and there is US$1 million in match-funding up for grabs. Save the date to make your donation go even further this giving season.

We wish you a healthy, safe and prosperous festive season and new year.

Sari distribution
Sari distribution
Light up our children's lives this Diwali
Light up our children's lives this Diwali
Save the date
Save the date

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10 people were swept away from this COVID center
10 people were swept away from this COVID center

We hope you are keeping safe and health and are experiencing some kind of return to nortmality. Here in Snehalaya, we are still recovering from the second wave of COVID which devastated India. Ahmednagar District, where we operate00 was one of the worst hit with no beds, oxygen or medicines available to our largely rural population of nearly 5 million. From March 2021 a flood of positive cases rendered the existing medical facilities throughout the district overburdened and insufficient. There was been a steep rise in the number of Corona positive patients in the district and at the start of April, Times of India reported it was in the top ten worst affected districts in India with over 1,000 new cases a day and this rose to over 3,000 new cases a day in May.

High unemployment, a severe lack of statutory healthcare, drought, poverty and a large transient population has historically perpetuated many issues for low-income families, most of whom earn their living from agriculture, daily wage or migrant work. Already struggling before the pandemic, many now also face high medical bills, racked up when their family members required treatment for COVID, which, in far too many cases resulted in their death, with added funeral costs further inflating their debts.

Since the end of May the cases started dropping and people started receiving vaccinations. (While vaccinations are now available to over 18s, the demand from the huge population far outweighs the supply and there are many who remain unvaccinated.) With reduced numbers of COVID the country started to breathe a little easier, however it didn’t last long! Last week, the worst floods in 40 years devastated large areas of Maharashtra and while Ahmednagar was not directly affected we leapt into action and currently have staff and volunteer teams in some of the worst hit areas. With a huge death toll and the number of people missing increasing, we are providing emergency supplies and helping with the clean-up operations, often arriving on the scene before the government agencies.

While we are used to responding to disasters, the last year and a half have presented extraordinary challenges. We are proud of our Mission Rahat team who have been at the frontline providing relief, support and a friendly smile to those worst hit. This includes restoring a COVID hospital where patients and equipment were swept away in a flash flood.

Meanwhile we continue our regular operations to those worst affected by the pandemic, lockdowns and floods. Since lockdown was first imposed in March 2020, many of our sex workers have had no or very little income. While we have been able to help with food and emergency financial aid, many are taking our loans from unauthorized lenders, pimps and brother keepers. It is predicted that paying back these loans will keep sex workers all over India in bondage and in some cases may result in them forcing their children into sex work from earlier ages.

As for India’s children, including those living in our shelter, their lives have been equally as disrupted with schools and colleges still closed. Continuing their education through online classes is challenging with limited access to technology and the need to isolate them to prevent the spread of COVID. While we have been working hard to manage their boredom and frustration at restricted movement through activities, the long-term impact of being locked in remains to be seen.

The challenges keep coming but with over 30 years’ experience we are ready to face them head on. It’s well documented that when disaster strikes women and children are vulnerable to exploitation but with your support we aim to continue to always be there for everyone who needs us. Thank you

Our team are literally cleaning the streets
Our team are literally cleaning the streets
Providing essential supplies
Providing essential supplies

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Happy IWD
Happy IWD

Happy International Women’s Month. To help us celebrate all of our women, we are proud to have been selected to take part in GlobalGiving’s International Women’s Week Campaign to advance gender-equality and uplift women and girls in communities around the world.  During the campaign which runs until 12 March, all donations up to US$50 will be matched by 50%.

 We rely on the support of you and partners such as GlobalGiving to help us raise much-needed funds to support women of all ages but we equally need your help to raise awareness of the issues.

The World Health Organization (WHO) considers that one out of five women has been physically or sexually assaulted by a man in her life and, in 2017, Reuters ranked India the fourth most dangerous place to be a woman. Gender-based violence such as domestic violence, sex and forced-labour trafficking, dowry deaths, rape, workplace harassment and child marriage continues to increase, irrespective of the education that’s been given on these topics.

Child marriages in Maharashtra where we operate have surged by 78.3%. Every third adolescent girl aged 15-19 years is married and every second married adolescent girl has given birth to a child. Despite harsher penalties, crimes against women and girls in the country are continuing to rise with a 31% increase in the number of reported rape cases over the past 10 years, averaging 88 cases every day. 

COVID-19 has added to the issues with the ‘shadow pandemic’ resulting in dramatic rises in the cases of violence against women and girls. On top of this, online harassment such as stalking, misuse of personal pictures, and inappropriate messages has also gone up making social media and other online platforms an unsafe place for an already restricted female population. 

With your support we are working to end this systematic violence and ensure lives free from inequality, cruelty and discrimination. We believe that every woman deserves a life with dignity and freedom and we stand with them to create a life they truly deserve with all of our love and support.

This week and month is the time to celebrate women and we hope you enjoy this video from our celebrations last year: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=atuHoGjv75E. We will once again be hosting activities for the women who call Snehalaya home. 

We truly do appreciate you and with your help we have made a significant difference:

  • Snehalaya’s Childline team (ranked no 1 in India) rescued 88 girls from child marriage during lockdown - over 40% of all rescues in Maharashtra!
  • Our 3,500 sex workers were also hit hard during the lockdown period and so far we have helped 35 of them leave prostitution and find new vocations.
  • Our women’s shelter and helpline provided sanctuary to hundreds of women experiencing violence.
  • Our adoption center, despite being 20% over capacity, continued to support pregnant women and victims of rape.
  • Food and hygiene kits distributed to 40,000 families in our poorest communities
  • Roadside assistance to 40,000 migrant workers on the long walk home from Mumbai and Pune.
  • Our new mental health project helps women rejected by their families and forced onto the streets.

You can help us to support many more survivors of abuse and violence today by building them a better, happier tomorrow. We believe in the power of you! 

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Getting ready for Diwali
Getting ready for Diwali

I hope this email finds you and your loved ones well, safe and healthy.

We are now entering our eighth month of lockdown in Snehalaya. While the restrictions in India are easing, the numbers of cases of COVID 19 continue to rise and we are remaining cautious, keeping our doors locked to visitors and restricting the movements of our staff and beneficiaries. Everyone has been amazing taking care and precautions and working without a break in all that time to keep our beneficiaries safe. Despite our efforts we did still have a minor outbreak with eight staff and older boys testing positive for Corona. By immediately isolating and treating them they were able to recover and we were able to contain the virus. If we all know anything from Corona, it is we cannot let our guard down, especially when protecting those who are immune-compromised, including our HIV+ beneficiaries, young and old!

With the mental health of many being impacted by the pandemic, our other main concerns are reassuring, supporting and keeping our beneficiaries and staff active and entertained. With the festive season of Diwali starting next week it is a particularly hard time for them to be separated from their families. Usually we would be planning family get-togethers, parties and celebrations with staff and supporters. Instead we are planning special lockdown activities that will safely entertain our whole Snehalaya family and help them to feel loved and valued, including online family meet ups and socially distanced activities.

It may seem like the world is a very grim place at the moment but every cloud has a silver lining and, in the spirit of the season, we would like to share some of our positive news.

Due to the restrictions of Corona virus many of our sex workers were unable to work to earn their living in their usual way. As we already have a program to retrain and support them into alternative careers we are really pleased to report that since the start of lockdown a total of 38 of our female sex workers have started new jobs and businesses, hopefully leaving the world of prostitution behind them for good!

As well as being able to provide daily workers with our usual range of support services and food and ration kits, we have also been able to provide them with emergency financial aid. With very few of the poorest families highly dependent on their daily wage and no savings for situations like this, this funding has literally kept starvation at bay. In many cases, the families, realising that such financial aid is not reliable or sustainable, chose to buy extra provisions to start their own food stalls. This will not only see them through the current crisis but will provides a foundation to build on once life returns to ‘normal’.

Country-wide restrictions on a maximum of 50 people who can attend a wedding has reduced the average price of a marriage ceremony, which over 500 guests normally attend, from around US$1000 to US$200. While this is good news for lower income families who are taking advantage of the opportunity to save their savings, it has also unfortunately significantly increased the number of child marriages taking place. Fortunately, our Childline team has leaped into action, locating and preventing 67 child marriages so far and ot other projects are supporting the rescued girls in a range of other ways.

With our children locked in, we have focused on developing their skills and have recently opened a new school library, beauty training parlour and skills development workshop where our beneficiaries can enhance their education and learn vocational skills.

Times may be extra tough for us all at the moment but, since day one, Snehalya has always tackled the challenges facing our beneficiaries head on, and we are managing the pandemic in the same way. It’s thanks to your support that we can continue to evolve our services to provide practical support to those who need it most. We will beat this together and I am as always truly grateful that we are in this together, thank you.

A much needed break for caregivers who work 24/7
A much needed break for caregivers who work 24/7
Our new school library
Our new school library

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Organization Information

Snehalaya 'Home of Love'

Location: Ahmednagar, Maharashtra - India
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @Snehalaya
Project Leader:
Joyce Connolly
Ahmednagar, Maharashtra India
$260,422 raised of $295,450 goal
 
3,175 donations
$35,028 to go
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