Last month I had the opportunity to visit the iSanctuary India workshop. The iSanctuary ladies had a fun welcome prepared for me, with a fragrant lei, flower petals, and a red dot on my forehead. In the (already) small new but efficient office, there were twelve ladies in the program, two staff, and two interns. Many ladies have been with iSanctuary for more than 5 years, and most for more than 2 years. One is going to law school, another got recently married, and another has a 1 year old baby.
Over chai tea and biscuits, conversation flowed freely as we all got to know each other. One of the ladies asked: why is it that Americans are willing to help Indians, but Indians won’t help each other? The question allowed me to share how I was finding joy in responding to God’s call for me to engage in anti-trafficking. The ladies shared their own thoughts… which not only led to interesting conversation but also helped them practice English. When the ladies got back to work, their (loud) conversation and laughter reverberated throughout the office.
Despite the unimaginable pain each lady has known, they went about their work with joy (in stark contrast to the eerie stillness of the Dharavi slum workplaces I saw the day before). It was so inspiring to see the bonds of friendship and community among the women and the ladies that serve them.
One of the most inspiring ladies of the group is the Mumbai Director, Sunita “Su” Khursule. She grew up in a village outside of Bombay, and was sent to the city to become a domestic servant at 11 years old. It took 8 years before Sunita was finally able to leave. In 2007, Su met Stephanie Pollaro through a partner organization International Justice Mission.
Su and Stephanie developed a fast friendship, and Su moved from being a translator, to assistant, to partner in the work that Stephanie was doing. In the early days of iSanctuary, the two ladies spent countless hours trying to convince anti-trafficking NGOs, aftercare homes, suppliers – everyone – to help them get their jewelry making opportunity for trafficking survivors off the ground. Their tenacity, faithfulness, and success over the past seven years have earned them the respect of individuals and organizations throughout India and the rest of the world.
Today, Sunita is a capable leader of the iSanctuary team in Mumbai. The girls in the program are so thankful for her leadership and how much she goes out of the way to help them through the daily challenges of life. One of the girls shared with me how much Sunita has impacted her life. Another referred to her as a mother supporting her in the toughest times and reducing her anxiety.
I know that I am just one of a handful of Americans that have had the opportunity to be blessed by Sunita’s presence. I’m sure those that have met her have similar stories that express just how amazing she is… If you have had the opportunity to meet Sunita please comment here and share how Su has impacted your life.
- Written By: Robert Yi, iSanctuary Chairman of the Board