Mission: ‘Do not be afraid… I will rescue you’
MISSION MATTERS SCOTLAND begins the SCO Mission feature series with an article on the October Mission Month appeal aimed at motivating Scottish parishioners to support work helping children in India and across the world. Mission articles will run in the new look, relaunched SCO on alternate months from Life Matters features
For the October Mission Month appeal, Mission Matters Scotland joined with their pontifical Mission Societies partners in Australia to bring to the people of Scotland the story of the selfless work of missionaries. On Mission Sunday October 20, 2013, parishioners in Scotland are asked to pray and give generously to support Faithful missionaries in India and across the world, as they reach out, offering practical, emotional and spiritual care to children facing horrific situations such as child trafficking, child labour and extreme poverty.
From his visit to India, Martin Teulan, director of Catholic Mission Australia, tells the horrific, yet inspiring, story of 10-year-old Vandoosha and 9-year-old Shorti, together with Sr Clara, the Director of the Marialaya Children’s Home in Chennai, India. A story of every day life for missionaries working in some of the poorest parts of the world, dealing with real life situations beyond our understanding and worst nightmares.
In India, child trafficking and child labour is the reality for 12 million children. Every day countless young children are stolen from, or sold by, their families into domestic work and prostitution against their will. Many are also forced to become street beggars just to survive:
The train station is busy and overcrowded, people bumping into each other as they rush around. In the midst of the chaos is a small girl who has just got off the train. Her steps are slow, her body trembling, her eyes afraid—searching for a friendly face.
Her parents have sent her to the city to find a job. She doesn’t know where to go or what to do—only that she must find work so she can help feed her three younger siblings who are always crying. A man approaches. Maybe her mother has arranged for him to meet her? He says he can give her work. She is so grateful that someone is so kind to want to help her family. He takes her hand and leads her to his car. Her family never hears from her again. She is trafficked to another state to work as a prostitute. She is only seven years old.
This girl is just one of the countless girls in India who are subject to this terrifying reality every single day. There are currently 12 million young children in India who have been stolen from, or sold by, their families against their will, and forced to work as domestic slaves, street beggars, child labourers or prostitutes. Some even have their precious body organs removed and sold on the black market. Distressingly, these innocent girls are seen simply as commodities.
Imagine if this was your daughter, your grand-daughter or your neighbour—what would you do?
As a father of three girls myself, I find this situation extremely horrifying and confronting. The thought of being forced to sell one of my children, simply to be able to feed the rest of my family, or for one of my daughters to one day be stolen—gone forever—is enormously distressing. I strongly believe that this is a situation that no parent or child should ever be faced with. We are all children of God—all brought into this world to share His love and His kingdom. That should never be taken away from anyone.
Earlier this month, I had the unique honour of visiting India to spend some time with an Indian missionary Sr Clara. She and her fellow Salesian sisters work tirelessly day in and day out to rescue hundreds of these frightened young girls from the tragic reality of child trafficking, child labour, prostitution and begging. The sisters then provide a safe haven for them at their Marialaya Children’s Home.
For Sr Clara, Faith and action go together, so she also helps these girls see their worth as a beloved child of God by offering education, medical care, vocational and leadership training, counselling and spiritual formation. As part of our missionary call, and in the spirit of one Universal Church, you and I can choose to act in partnership with Faithful missionaries such as Sr Clara in India and across the world, as they reach out, rescuing young girls from horrific situations such as child trafficking, child labour and extreme poverty.
During my time at Marialaya, I met many of the 2000 girls who have been rescued by Sr Clara. Several of them came up to me, holding my hand and welcoming me to their new home. My heart was especially broken by the stories of two particular girls—ten -year-old Vandoosha and nine-year-old Shorti.
Due to extreme poverty and desperation, Vandoosha was sold at the age of five by her stepmother to work as a domestic helper for their neighbour. Shortly after, that neighbour sold Vandoosha again to a businessman in Chennai.
Arriving in Chennai, Vandoosha was forced to work from 5am to midnight every day, doing all the washing, cooking, cleaning and laundry for the businessman’s family. Vandoosha even had to look after the family’s two-year-old son. She was constantly frightened as they would abuse her whenever she did not do the work to their liking.
One day, exhausted by the day’s work, Vandoosha fell asleep. As a result, the older son in the family took a pair of scissors and cut her ear. Vandoosha was distraught and in extreme pain. Thankfully one of the neighbours heard her cries and called the 1098 child line which is run by Marialaya in an extraordinary collaboration with the local police.
The 1098 number is a crucial community outreach service which identifies children at risk, rescues them from extreme and desperate situations and refers them to the police, who then place the children in safe homes like Marialaya. The 1098 child line is promoted heavily throughout Marialaya’s vast network of taxi drivers and community members, as well as at booths in busy public areas such as train stations.
The 1098 service is so well promoted that children from all over India know that if they are in danger, they can call this number, free of charge, or go to a booth, at any time, day or night, and they will be rescued and provided with a safe haven. Hundreds of girls such as Vandoosha have also been rescued thanks to community members calling this service when they have seen a child who is distressed or vulnerable.
Today, five years after Vandoosha was rescued, the memories of her time as a domestic worker are still very confronting and fresh in her mind. Having experienced severe trauma in her short life, she does not take anything for granted, including her education.
When asked what she wants to do when she grows up, she said with determination, ‘I want to become a police officer, to help and give protection to all the street children.’
Proudly, Sr Clara added that Vandoosha is coming first in many of her classes at school.
Shorti is Vandoosha’s best friend. Compared to so many children in India, she is also one of the fortunate children who have been rescued by Marialaya and Sr Clara. She was stolen from her parents at a young age and put to work as a beggar at a train station.
Shorti was rescued when she was just three years old. She was extremely malnourished at the time, and had to receive medications and treatment before starting her new life at Marialaya.
Shorti is now nine years old and in fourth grade. Despite still being affected by having been sick with malaria as a young girl, today her immune system is stronger and she is set to have a bright future. She too has big dreams for her future, as she said: “I want to become a doctor and give people injections so they are healthy.” Sr Clara told me that Shorti loves to ‘play doctor’ and pretends to give people injections!
Personally meeting Vandoosha and Shorti during my time in Chennai, and hearing first-hand their stories of heartbreak, hardship and hope was incredibly touching.
Having been blessed to see this life-changing work directly, I would like to invite and encourage you to meet Sr Clara, Vandoosha and Shorti yourselves and hear their stories by watching the short inspirational and powerful film Do Not Be Afraid…I Will Rescue You at www.missionmattersscotland.org/index.php?id=62.
I am forever grateful for the dedication, conviction and Faith of missionaries such as Sr Clara, who are reaching out, and rescuing girls from extreme and desperate situations such as child trafficking, child labour, prostitution and begging.
I am equally grateful to you. As a Faithful supporter, it is thanks to your gifts and prayers that we can continue to support the work of dedicated missionaries such as Sr Clara, rescuing young girls, who without your help, would be destined to a lifetime of exploitation, poverty and desperation.
During my conversations with Sr Clara, she repeatedly expressed her deep concerns for the future of the children at Marialaya. She is constantly worried about the fact that Marialaya is incredibly overcrowded, with up to 60 children sleeping on the floor of one dormitory, and situated in a very congested, unhealthy and extremely unsafe area of the city.
Sr Clara desperately wants to provide a better, healthier and more loving environment for the children, with fresh air and plenty of room for them to run and play, thus giving them the best opportunity to grow up healthy and strong, feeling valued and having hope for a bright future.
That is why Marialaya has purchased open rural land in Chengelput Diocese, approximately 30km from Chennai. Here Sr Clara is planning to build at least three new, simple homes for the girls. Each of the new houses will allow 30 girls to live together as a family, giving them the happy family atmosphere which they have missed during their life.
Sr Clara is incredibly grateful for the support the children at Marialaya have already received from Mission supporters. However, with the issue so great, she still desperately needs our help to build the homes for the girls. In Sr Clara’s message to Mission supporters she said ‘if you help us to build a house, we will be very happy.’
“We will always remember that you helped our children to have a better home,” she continued. “Never more they will get back to the street. They will always have that standard where they can live a better life.”
On Mission Sunday, October 20, 2013, I invite you to put Faith and action together and support the vital work of Sr Clara and missionaries across the world through your gifts and prayers. Help Sr Clara build a new dormitory for 30 girls to live safely and happily. Help Sr Clara continue to share the love of God through her tireless work of rescuing more girls such as Vandoosha and Shorti, helping give them a future with hope.
n The Mission Matters Scotland October, 2013 Appeal, with the poster image of Vandoosha, Shorti and Sr Clara together with the words ‘Do not be afraid…I will rescue you’ is an invitation for all of us to support the work of Faithful missionaries, so that they can continue to share the love of God through their tireless work of rescuing more girls and help give them a future with hope.
n Mission Matters Scotland is the working name of MISSIO Scotland. Mission Matters Scotland represents the Pontifical Mission Societies and is the only organisation to guarantee support for every one of the 1069 mission dioceses in the world. To support Mission Matters Scotland