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Berhampour

Hi everyone

They discovered at Freeset that 40% of the women came from the area around Berhampour They were sold into slavery and prostitution because/of the poverty

So Mission people have/movedup here to provide work so girls arenot sold. Already one business has trained 6 girls on looms weaving scarves each different

Today we went to visit several villages with mud brick walls and thached roofs. We saw many goats, cows, and everywhere they were harvesting and thrashing rice. Lice stalks were even laid out on the road to separte out the rice and the stalk.Also silk cocoons, bright yellow

We were there as a followup visit to a local lady who has worked with Freeset for many years. She has been visiting families who are in danger of selling their girls, One mother had children and her husband had left her and married someone else. She had no income.

she is happy to come and work. Not far from the villages we have leased an old picture theater and are prearing it to have looms and produuce fabrics. We watched the new concrete floor with a smooth surface being laid in strips.

There is land bought not faraway to build n but there are permit problems

It was amazing to see a vision become concrete today

How can families sell their girlsi into prostitution. Hopefully no more.

Timeto sleep we leave the hotel at 5 45am

Wendy

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Some random pics

Today we drove to the town of Sherpore (spelling?) where we (Freeset/NZ Baptists/OTBC) have signed a 5-year lease on an old cinema building in the centre of town that we’re turning into a fabric manufacturing plant to employ 70 women.

We then drove to a village where some of the women will come from. They showed us their silk worms in action.

We hung out with some great NZers – one who knows my father from 50 years ago!

It’s been another inspiring day.

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Day 3 in India

It was an early morning start leaving the hotel at 5.45am to catch a 6.50am train to Berhampore.  Another interesting mode of travel on the train with the locals for 4 hours.  We have all sort of hawkers going through the train carriage.  However,  some of us did had a nice cup of char.

We were supposed to be picked up by the hotel transport.  However, the van was unable to take all of us and luckily Ian was at the station and he took some of us back to the hotel.

We had lunch at the hotel but we had to wait for the food and I guess it was to a certain extent not what we had expected.

In the afternoon, we went to the Freeset Business Incubator (FBI) site and was given the history and what was happening with the plans for the project.  We then took a drive to Freeset Fabrics where we were given the history and plans if what they are doing.

We rounded up the evening with some members of the team over dinner at the hotel.

Taxis and fabric

This morning we caught taxis from the BMS guesthouse at 5.45am to the Kolkata train station.

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And here’s some fabric made at the new Freeset Fabrics – fabric made from scratch:

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After a month of training they now have product to sell. They have about 6 looms at present. The plan is to eventually be employing 70 people in this Murshidabad region. Family poverty in this region is one reason girls are “sold” or sent to the city to work (trafficked into prostitution).

The FBI (Freeset Business Incubator) has a big vision of creating employment and community development in this region.

Again we have seen some inspiring work going on.

Tonight we had dinner in a literal Indian restaurant with some of the NZers living here in Berhampor. The Indian food was quite authentic. It was good to hang out with these people.

Today is also Simon’s 60th birthday: happy birthday Simon!!

Taking the train to Berhampour

I have recharged to keyboard, so I shouldn’t have any spelling hasstles!!!

This morning we were up at 5.15am to leave the BMS at 5.45. This was accomplished without any great difficult, everyone was there, even the 3 guys who were unwell yesterday. They are all ok now.

3 taxis took us on an uneventful short trip – as there was notmuch traffic at that time of the day.

We arrived at Calcutta railway station in plenty of time for the 650am depart. There were lots of little yellow taxis – somewhat like a Morris Oxford of some years ago (for the petrolheads among you). The station had quite a few peoplesleeping on the ground and lots of people coming and going. Even at 6.15am it was 23C+and quite humid.

We were met by our kiwi friends then eventually moved off to find our seats. The train must have been over 150 metres long, with about 100 people seated  on bench seats of three in each carriage, with rows on each side.  No very comfortable on the isle position – which was me – with wendy on the window and Estella inbetween.

There must have been some 12  to 15 carriages that madeup the train with an electric engine.  with the tracks being of wide guage well over 4  feet wide ,the carriages were much wider and bigger then those in kiwiland. The bench seats were comfortable – well sort of – and enough room for my knees not to touch the seat in front. We had our backs to the engine. The decor was very old and lots of fans hanging down, happily they were not operating. But I could have pulled the emergency cord as it right beside our seat, but I resisted the temptation.

Being in the isle seat I didnot see much of the country side, so I read a book on my tablet. I access ebooks from the Chch library service. I think I have read over 150 books in the last year!!. No overdue fees as it will automatically return the book on teh due date if I don’t finish it and return it before hand.

However, I was assailed by all manner of vendors trying to relieve me of my hard earnt money. I resisted “firm in my faith’. There was alsorts of thiings one could buy – sweettea, mixed grains, fruit of various descriptions. I even saw someone selling scalves.

Then at one stoplots more people got on, so the isle filled up and  it was a challenge to  be squashed, prodded, pushed,poked, as wellas being assailed by a myriad different smells and sounds of pipe playing musicians, singing minstrals and the like.

The trip took about four and a half hours, and passed without incident. It is tirering being amongst so many people, different sounds of the vendors crying out their wares and potions, as well as the smells of food and people.

I could imagine myself doingLDiscovery ChannelL documentary about traving from place toplace on Indian trains.

When we got off and as we exited the station there was this heaving mass of humanity fighting their way down the street on their way home. For us we were met and taken to our hotel. Very nice, but that is another story (like soccer on TV)

Blessing on you all, shalom,

Peter & Wendy

Arrived Berhampore

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Taxi ride to Kolkata train station

After a taxi ride from BMS Guesthouse to Kolkata train staking and then after a 5.5hr train trip… we arrived at Berhampore.

The train ride at first a little bit cramped but was it was nothing compared to the “General compartment” according to a gentleman ( Ambarish Ghosh) who I was sitting next too during  the train trip. And it wasn’t until I saw the return train from Behampore to Kolkata, I can see he was right! Jammed packed! There’s less sardines in can!

Ambarish was on his way to meet up with his friends who just had a baby. Throughout the train ride we talked about tennis, cricket, study, a new job he is starting in February and how he is enjoying bachelor life until he turns 26. (Thankfully he spared the details)
He was trained and schooled from St Patrick’s a Scottish funded school for West Bengal.

And now, we are resting before visiting freeset fabrics this afternoon.

About Freeset

Some things that were new to me

There are about 200 women working here, making bags, tshirts, screen printing abd products from old saris  I was impressed at the work done to help the women, mediical services, councellng, child care, medical insurance, .

Leavingthe

streetsis not just getting a job but a long journey.

We have takenan early train north to seenew businesses being started. Why here you ask. Itsbecausewomen and children are being sold from this area to work in the sex industry in Kolkata

The train ride was all flat through farmland and small towns. Less populated than Bangladesh but still lots of people.

Nearly time to gooff on our nextadventure this time in a van

Wendy

Day 2 in India

We experienced the Kolkata metro today as we make our way to visit Freeset.  We started our time at Freeset by joining in their morning devotion.

After devotion, we were taken around and given a tour of the place by Mairi, showing us the entire operations of how things are organised and work.  We were also given the opportunity to browse through their shop and make purchases of any their products that they have in the shop.

We then had lunch with Dan and Mai and had the opportunity to hear their experiences, joy and challenges.

In the afternoon, we spent some time with John and Susan to hear their experiences and also listened to the history of the work in Kolkata.

We had the evening free to rest and pack for our train ride early in the morning.

Calcutta again

Here we are in Calcutta. A warm day, no clouds, no rain, a little humid, hazyjust nice.

We left the BMS hostel about 8.30am to walk to the metro some 15 mins away. Weleft three of the guys behind as they were not well enought to come with us. (When we got back this evening – about 5.30pm they were all up and about, rearing to go. )

Daylight revealed a city somewhat like Dhaka – little shops all along the road with the shopkeepers getting their shops ready for the day – getting soups and food prepared for the rest of the day.

Then to dogs – again they were sleeping along the footpath. At one place I saw 3 or 4 dogs asleep on the road itself!!!! They are very pasive, hardly moving for anybody. They do not seem to belong to anyone.

The metro reminded me of the metro in Paris. The steps down, the noise, air presure, ticket-collectors, overhead hand rails – a little tricky for Wendy and the others who are short. However, as the metro was quite empty some of the men gave up their seats for the ladies in the team. Then there was 10mins walk at theother end to Freeset.

Freeset is founf down a short alley then in through a nondescript doorway – just as they want it to be. To be able to blend in with all the other buildings in the narrow street.

There is a :no photos: policy there so we took none – except of the sky directly above to small courtyard, showing all the saris drying.

What did I feel like while there? I felt peaceful, like it was a welcoming place. Somewhere thatyou could find acceptance and encouragement. A place where you could be restored to wha the Lord wanted you to be. A safe place in the midst of a city that semms never to sleep. It was cleanand tidy, even though the floor was messy with offcuts of materiel, and piles of fabric ready to be sewn in to bags or t-shirts, or whatever else was on the agenda that day.

The women where I work in Christchurch would be amazed at the tight working conditions and the small size of the cutting room

The kiwis working there were ordinary people and families, seeking to know the presence og God in all they were doing. Touching the women’s lives in deep and profound ways. Often it took time, rather always takes time to gain trust before the women begin to be restored from some of the deep wounds due to their backgrounds on the street.

The women were all chearful and laughed with each other. Communication was nigh impossible as my Bengali is no -exsitant.

After lunch, at 2.00pm, we went to visit some long term kiwis who gave us some history of Calcutta and its Christian heritage. THen home to BMS, tEa and sleep before gEtting uP very early to cAtch  a tRain just before 7.00am tomorrow morning. MY keyboard is going wierd, sO I’Ll finish. PEter