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A woman sitting in a chair at Hawa Mahal (Palace of Wind) in Jaipur, India. Photo by Eliana Rothwell (2016 Fall Semester Photo Contest Finalist).

Service Site: Guria

Guria is my service placement here in Varanasi, India. In so many ways, it’s the most intense and rewarding group I’ve ever been a part of. Guria is a 29 year-old organization, founded and run by a man named Ajeet Singh. About Guria’s philosophy and work, one publication reads “if we try to understand the devastating gender inequality, rapid economic stratification and crippling poverty that lead to trafficking and prostitution, we can conquer it through equality, empowerment and education. If we promote freedom, art and love in a section of Indian society that focuses on oppression, slavery and destruction, we can truly crack the cycle of forced prostitution. More specifically, Guria takes a multi-faceted approach to fighting the multi-headed monster: our projects include brothel raids/rescues, legal intervention, victim rehabilitation and vocational training, non-formal education (NFE) centers for the children in red light areas, rural village women empowerment, policy reform, and activism.”

My contribution to Guria is twofold and changing daily; I spend the first half of my workdays (Monday through Thursday) at the Guria office where I’ve begun planning the 2018 iteration of an annual international awareness art exchange and exhibit called Freedom Now (www.freedomnowcampaign.org). I also manage Facebook and the Guria blog and do odd technical jobs on the computer. Ajeet works right with us every day. He’s an intense and all-over-the-place kind of guy, so sometimes he directs my work in totally disparate paths. This makes for eventful and interesting office workdays. In the afternoon, I bike from the office to the Non-Formal Education Centers in the red-light district. There, I spend a few hours with the kids, more as a mentor and friend than as a teacher or in any position of authority. I play with them, do arts and crafts, and just try to be kind and good to each and every child.

I invite you to learn more about Guria by visiting: