Just twenty-four hours after our wedding in Washington, DC, we were passed the airport security and on the flight that was the official start of our honeymoon. But, we were not on our way to a traditional honeymoon destination. In fact, less than 48-hours after saying “I do,” we were visiting a children’s feeding and education center, two actually, in a slum in Mumbai – Turbhe - known for its red light district. We spent the first day of our honeymoon with the children of sex workers, a shocking dose of post-wedding reality.
Accompanied by Sanjay Solomon and his wife Urvashi, leaders of a Christian outreach group called Pehechaan (“identity” in Hindi), we had a baptism by fire into the world of India most of us only see news stories, pictures, movies, or documentaries about.
Unfortunately, even with so much attention on international poverty, we learned that these children hardly ever gets visitors. So, we spent two days – instead of the one-day that we had originally planned – saying hello, taking photos (the kids love getting a chance to see their digital image on the screen because many of them have actually never seen what they look like), and giving hugs.
While we have been to places like Zimbabwe together, the overwhelming population and geographic size of India – with 42 percent of the country’s 1.1. billion people living below the international poverty line – is tough to fully comprehend when focusing on the kids right in front of you. The World Bank estimates that, “India is home to roughly one-third of all poor people in the world. It also has a higher proportion of its population living on less than $2 per day than even sub-Saharan Africa.”
Combine all of these factors and then imagine our reaction when we learned about all of the burdensome regulations put on organizations like Pehechaan by the government of India. For smaller organizations, it is almost impossible to accept even relatively small amounts of financial support from outside the country. This is a shame, especially after we got to visit the Pehechaan computer and Internet center fully functioning in hutments (slum) at Bandra West, Mumbai. The ACLJ already has a legal team working on the issue with Sanjay.
We will never forget the people who took such good care of us during the first two days of our married life and the children we were blessed to meet. We have a lot to be thankful for when we celebrate Thanksgiving at home in DC.