From Indiana to India

By Lisa Fipps
Kokomo PerspectiveStaff Writer

Sari Bari

“You are a very young girl. No one is looking out for you. If you come with me, I will give you a good job and look out for you,” is how one story on http://www.saribari.com begins.

Those were words of hope for Kushi, a child from India who had been beaten by her stepmother and then forced to leave. She ended up with a stranger. The stranger was going to help her – or so she thought.

“That woman sold her into the sex trade in a local red light area. She was drugged and kept in locked quarters for some time,” according to Sari Bari.

She left prostitution only to be impregnated and then abandoned by her boyfriend, a former customer. She gave the child to a relative and returned to selling her body for money. Again a customer treated her kindly, and she lived with him for 10 years. But when she could not give him a child, he didn’t want her. She went back to being a prostitute.

Then Kushi heard about Sari Bari.

The name “Sari Bari” comes from two symbols. A sari is the traditional clothing worn by women in India. Saris represent the essence of womanhood. In Bengali, the word bari means “house” or “home.” The hope of those working at Sari Bari is for it to be a safe home where women who have been exploited in the sex trade can have their dignity restored and experience a new life in the making.

The women make blankets and purses. Each product is made from an Indian sari and is marked with a woman’s name, the name of a woman who, through Sari Bari, has the opportunity to make a choice for freedom and new life.

“Kushi is now on the road to a new life. She was extremely excited to learn to read and write. Kushi has completed training and is now earning good wages and is hopeful to have a place of her own some day.”

To give to Sari Bari, or to purchase products to help the women, or to give to Waterman, go to http://www.saribari.com.

A true Giver

Sandi Giver hasn’t just heard Kushi’s story. She’s been moved to action by it.

The recent Indiana University Kokomo grad, who has a degree in social and behavioral sciences and a minor in communications, will be leaving on Feb. 9 for Calcutta (Kolkata) to live at Sari Bari and learn under the discipleship of Beth Waterman.

“I heard Beth talk about it,” Giver said of Sari Bari. Waterman, also from Kokomo, is serving at Sari Bari and shared the women’s stories when she was home in Kokomo on leave from Word Made Flesh, a non-profit that exists to serve and advocate for the poorest of the poor in urban centers of the majority world. The organization focuses most of its work on the most vulnerable of the poor: women and children.

Giver was so moved, she asked to talk one-on-one with Waterman. Over coffee, Waterman shared stories about the women sex slaves and Sari Bari’s effort to change lives, one woman at a time.

“My heart is for women and children, the people who are in despair and feel as if they are forgotten,” Giver said. “They are really people who society rejects.”

There was a time in her life when Giver felt hopeless.

“In my own family, we have quite a shattered past,” she said without going into details. “I saw in my own family how you can overcome hardships.”

Giver is a Christian and feels God has called His people to help others, but she said her longing to help women and children is simply because they’re fellow human beings.

After spending time in India, Giver will be in the Peace Corps in Africa, where she will help more women and children, specifically those with HIV and AIDs.

“I want to live my life where I see someone hurting and someone in need and not be too busy to help them,” Giver said. “I want to teach people that you don’t have to claim your past. You can be the person you’re supposed to be. You can live out your potential.”

To support Giver financially, go online to http://www.wordmadeflesh.com. Click the “donate now” button on the lower lefthand corner of the screen, and write Sandi Giver in the designation line. To contact Giver, e-mail her at slgiver@gmail.com.

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