Behind these windows, hundreds of woman are forced into the sex labor trade–and their children are next in line.

GoPhil funds mentoring program in the red light district in Delhi

For the past thirty years Founder of SMS Center Lalitha S.A. has been silently fighting for the rights of both the trafficked woman and their children, who are at constant risk of becoming the next generation of sex workers in the red light district of Delhi— GB Road. SMS provides 24-hour shelter and informal education to 60+ children who reside with their mothers in the brothels. Currently 35 children of sex workers benefit from the safety of a night care centre at the SMS facility and 60 children attend the day care centre. All children receive three nutritious meals in a day– something very rare on GB Road.  When necessary, SMS facilitates the placement of the child in a shelter home for long term care and rehabilitation so that they can dream of a life outside of the brothels. Some of the children from SMS have been placed at GoPhil’s long-term partner TARA Homes for Children.

Lalitha SA, Founder SMS Center

GoPhilanthropic has been providing financial grants to the SMS center for the past two years but we will admit to feeling challenged in helping them– at times the physical distance between ourselves and the programs we assist can be a barrier to our partnerships.  Hoping to achieve some basic milestones in organizational growth, our goals and objectives with SMS have revolved around creating and reporting on a simple budget.  We know that without this skill, they will have difficulty developing and growing a healthy base of diverse donors.  But like many of the courageous grassroots leaders we collaborate with at GoPhil,  Founder Lalitha wears a million hats during the day– from chopping vegetables for the children’s meals to counseling prostitutes, to teaching their children.  Weaving in time to communicate with GoPhil staff thousands of miles away (on the days when the electricity works) doesn’t always get on the daily agenda.  

It dawned on us that the most effective help for the SMS center might come from those who could truly understand their work from the inside–those who have walked a similar path running similar programs. Late last year we set out in hopes to find other NGOs in India working within the red light districts fighting the scourge of sex trafficking to see if any of them might consider mentoring Lalitha and the SMS program. We were led to Prerana, a pioneering organization in Mumbai accredited with several path-breaking, social interventions that address elimination of intergenerational prostitution. Co-founder Priti Patkar has had 30 extensive years as an Indian social worker and human rights activist and as if running Prerana weren’t enough for her to do, she happily offered to share all of her experience with Lalitha.  Wow– we felt as if we had won the lottery.




Co-founder of Prerana Priti Patkar mentors the team at SMS


Through a grant provided by GoPhil, for the past two months Priti has been traveling to New Delhi to spend time at the SMS Center, evaluating their strengths and weaknesses and identifying key areas for improvement.  Thanks to her assessments, she and Lalitha have created a detailed work plan together and regular Skype meetings with GoPhil have helped us to better understand where our funding is most needed to have the greatest impact.  The visits will continue for six months, the time it will take to see some developments with respect to reporting, child case files, team meetings and staff training. As someone who has had the depth of experience with this particular social issue, Priti can gently raise the bar and set in motion the changes needed for SMS to thrive–something that we weren’t able to do from our desks in Rochester and Los Angeles.  

We continue to learn that our work will rarely involve “having the answers.”  Our belief is that the power of philanthropy involves genuine partnership and the important role we each play in this.  At times this can seem like a serendipitous connecting of the dots–between globally-minded and generous donors, driven and passionate change-makers and the deserving people they serve on a day to day basis.  And sometimes the key to linking it all lies in one person’s willingness to share what they know.