Fulbright Fellowship teachers visit Guria Center

Twenty teachers under the FULBRIGHT Fellowship from the U.S. visited the Guria children centre in the redlight area of varanasi. This was an effort by the educators to explore issues, challenges and strategies related to guria's struggle against sex trafficking and child prostitution.

Giancarlo Malchiodi from the Fulbright group wrote: 
Positivity Check: Guria -- "We are a center that creates human beings who love, with love."
(No facial photos of children to both respect their privacy and their personal safety).
Power-team Ajeet and Manju (husband and wife) provide a safe space, enrichment, and emotional therapy to children of sex workers who, in some cases, have been trafficked themselves (and, in either case, are traumatized by the experience).
Their mission began some years ago when Manju saw a girl of about seven working the slum streets, saying to her husband "We must do something about this." He had previously adopted some red-light district children while in college, the first time any Indian had done so. They managed to rescue that one girl and send her to a village 100km away, and their organization has only grown in scope since then.
The rescues, which continue, and the enrichment/therapy programs are only one part of their efforts. They have successfully shut down and had the property seized of ten brothels in their area, and have prosecuted traffickers and pimps, which has put their own lives in danger: Manju has had a gun placed to her head, keeps a deliberately erratic schedule at the Guria center, and never comes and goes from the same direction.
We saw some of the work that is being done: art therapy, at which we were warmly and affectionately welcomed by the children to participate; a fashion design and cosmetology class in action; a year-long project of building a scale-model water park out of everyday materials. And we experienced a deeply powerful group meditation session in which, one by one, the children began to nod into sleep as Guria adults gently cradled them and laid them safely on the ground. All the while Manju was chanting words of encouragement and care, which-- though we could not understand them-- I think it safe to say we could "feel" them.
Manju emphasized that the children often come to Guria full of anger, poor treatment of each other, or drawn to "easy sex, easy drugs, easy alcohol." She does not preach or sermonize; instead she uses more of a "parable" method in which she relates a story and suggests to the children different choices they could make in response to the scenario, then asking the question "What kind of person do you want to be?" Case in point: "You have one chapati [flatbread] and your friend says he is hungry. Do you enjoy it by yourself, split in two to share, or give the whole thing to your friend? The choice is yours." Teaching them to care for others and to love-- with the hope of balancing against or moving beyond their ongoing painful experiences-- is the first major step towards becoming a full and functional human being with the chance to achieve a greater potential than the circumstances into which they were born or placed.
Such methodology builds an environment of mutual trust and, hopeful, self-agency. When some students slip into bad behavior, student-selected and run "vigilance committees" will visit that student's house, speak privately with him a number of times, and-- if still necessary-- report to Manju and Ajeet the problematic behavior so that Guria staff might then address it. While this "snitch" approach may seem questionable in this "snitches get stitches" era of just "looking out for self" in the West, but since the students do it to and for themselves in order to support each other, this again reinforces both community and positive behavior in a population that has neither.
Guria is an amazing inspiration drawing attention from the world-at-large. 


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