The way Su and I were brought together is pretty amazing when you look back on the chess boards of our lives and see how many strategic moves had to be made to get us ready for our lives to intersect. Then when we finally got together we had to build iSanctuary and all those adventures played out like a combination of a comedy of errors and a coming of age movie rolled into one.
Su and my interest in aftercare started to converge long before we ever met each other. And at the same time that I began talks with International Justice Mission (IJM) about economic self-sufficiency Sunita’s heart was moved to work with girls in aftercare and she began volunteer for IJM. She enjoyed spending time sitting and talking with the girls in the government homes and began to pray that God would use her in a bigger way.
And so He did….
My idea to start a social enterprise to help the girls in aftercare homes earn money for their futures was met with great anticipation by IJM leadership. When they asked me what I needed from IJM, I simply requested a translator and so Sunita was assigned to me. Little did I know…Sunita barely knew English and had never translated before. Actually, it was only a couple years ago that Su revealed to me that she didn’t have a clue what I was saying for the first two weeks we taught together. But through repetition, patience, and hard work Sunita not only learned English but she also learned how to make jewelry.
Sunita quickly grew from translator to assistant and from assistant to partner. Her responsibilities were many and she took them on with a cheerful spirit. With no previous experience in manufacturing, talking with vendors, or teaching Sunita performed her duties remarkably well. Working side by side with me 6 days a week, slogging it out in the markets and searching for vendors that would take a young village girl and a white lady seriously was no small task. In the exhausting heat, lugging kilos upon kilos on our backs through the crowded market
and then onto the trains was hard for us but we often found ourselves laughing at the absurdity of the scene.
(Oh, and I forgot to mention that at this point Sunita still hadn’t been released from her previous employment. So Su was up early morning preparing tea, breakfast and lunch for the household and when Su got back from her day with me she had to do her housecleaning, their laundry, and prepare the dinner).
After a few months Sunita’s employer decided to move across the state and expected Sunita to accompany her. Su, for the first time ever, had the opportunity to choose what she should do with her life. Stay with the security of the familiar; even if it was a new town the work would be the same, the employer would be the same—life for all practical purposes would be the same. Or, take a chance on this crazy foreigner and the US-based organization which she is trying to start; which would mean she would have to leave the only home she ever knew in Mumbai, find a new home, and provide for herself. All of Sunita’s friends, even those in the anti-trafficking community, advised her against staying with iSanctuary, stating that iSanctuary wouldn’t last another six months. Thankfully, for iSanctuary and the 150+ ladies we’ve helped, Sunita is a faithful and loyal person and she believed in what iSanctuary could do in the lives of rescued ladies including her own.
This decision to step out from the norm and into the world, led to many difficult obstacles and realizations about life that challenged the way Sunita saw others and the world. She started to learn that she had opinions, likes and dislikes, and the right to take care of and stand up for herself. Sunita has learned a lot about the human spirit and the harsh truths of life and uses these lessons every day as she talks and advises the iSanctuary staff. Though she is not much older than the other women working for iSanctuary, Sunita’s experiences and how she has so wisely learned from them, makes her a mentor and a compassionate leader…A leader who sacrificed all for iSanctuary.