GoPhil donor Jane Morrell connects in person with the program she has been supporting for 2 years

Our first stop on this year’s annual visit to our India partner program was to Lalitha who runs the SMS program in the red light district of the city.  We get the typical roll of the eyes when we ask drivers to take us there.  It’s taboo, even dangerous to venture to GB Road, the hub for underground prostitution. In the past decades, thousands of women have been trafficked to this area from other parts of India, Nepal and other neighboring countries. They now live both physically and psychologically trapped, alongside the children they bear,  in a world of shame most will never escape.

Thankfully though, Lalitha keeps this ugly world at bay for the children of the women forced into this life of prostitution. A sense of normalcy in this unlikely place is what we find when we enter the SMS center—a buzz of happy children with backpacks, giggling and pushing each other, with what we later learn was pre-exam jitters, as they line up to leave the crowded entrance laced with hanging clean laundry.

Once off to school, Lalitha explains how young women are sold into the business at a price of $700 each.  She shows us a map of the layout of the brothels–carefully hand-drawn marked with code names for their corresponding pimps.  It has taken years to know them all, 100 in total. She then sheds a light on what goes on within the small walls of her center, her personal passion.  Paving a road out of the brothels for the children of these women is no small undertaking.  Some will get a golden ticket– a transfer to programs like TARA, while others will spend both day and night at SMS, relying on the love from the staff, carefully planned art activities, and nutritious meals.  GoPhil is SMS center’s only funding source at the moment, outside a sliver of support from the government.  We have committed in-depth organizational development with SMS–and to helping Lalitha expand the staff and augment the food, health and hygiene at the center.

A breath of fresh air at TARA

Lalitha reconnects with children who were once at her SMS shelter in the red light district of New Delhi

Traveling in a series of vans across the midday congestion of the city, we literally feel the slow, subtle transition from the slums of GB Road to the quiet streets where TARA Homes for Children run their 3 shelters.  Entering into TARA Tots, where the youngest are brought in for long-term residential care, we are greeted with screams of delight.  The children who have come from the rough streets of GB road, have spotted Lalitha.  It is rare for her to have the time for such a visit. For the next few minutes we quietly observe what was a precious moment of joy for her and the children she had clearly loved as her own at SMS.  The rooms are full of tidy rows of books and toys, and bright light streams across the walls.  We sit in a circle to discuss the day to day details of running the shelter and yet the harsh reality of seeing where they came from to where they are now begins to sink.  It’s hard not to be incredibly grateful for seeing them begin the beautiful journey they deserve.

Yes, in fact, a lot is possible….


Part of the mission at TARA is to keep a very high academic bar

Venturing 10 minutes by car from TARA Tots to TARA Girls, we pull up in front of a beautiful three story building in a residential area overlooking a green park.  Birds chirping in the distance… is this possible in Delhi?? The more we get to know this city’s many faces, we learn that –yes in fact, a lot is possible with the right combination of commitment, compassion and drive.

When we arrived, the girls were hard at work with a tutor on the second floor.   They were quietly seated around a big sprawling table, next to a small wooden bookcase library.  On the walls were posters listing various mantras to live by— Good Habits, Bad Habits… i.e. “turn lights off when leaving a room”, and “no picking nose,” to name a few.  Our favorite though was “Tara Girls Prayer.  I will always be a strong woman—Education is power.”
There were six girls residing at TARA Girls at the time of our visit, yet three more have arrived in the past week. They will be at 20 at full capacity,  hopefully within the next year to eighteen months.

An urban garden lines the terrace

Knowing that security for young girls was going to be a serious issue in opening the third of TARA’s shelters, the team searched high and low for a building in a safe area.  “The only problem with these types of beautiful neighborhoods is that the residents are not too keen on having an NGO in their midsts,” explains Basanti, the program manager, as we sip our tea on the terrace. But after a few stressful months and several failed attempts at finding a location (including one with posters attempting to keep them out), they found their home and have since been warmly embraced by their neighbors.

Basanti’s commitment to the girls is evident, and it clearly goes beyond her job.  You can see it in her eyes that it taps into her very purpose. She describes offering activities aimed at developing a sense of self and inner strength–art therapy and jiu-jitsu being two.  “I am going to learn along side of them!” she said excitedly.

Basanti shows us how the girls make drawings of themselves as a means of self-development

Current needs

Thanks to a very generous donation from a GoPhil donor, the needs at SMS center are currently being covered.

Any assistance for TARA Girls is greatly appreciated. Details in the table below.  Donations can be made here.

School fees
School commutation
Stationeries for children
Excursions and outings
Festivals and celebrations
Telephone + Internet
Cooking Gas
House maintenance
Accountancy fees
20 march Exchange Rate ₹ –> $