By Liz Viola and Kathie Nawrocki
We had the privilege of spending two weeks in Pune visiting the girls at the Girls Home. We stayed at the Hiwale home where Joseph and Vishranti live. The place buzzed with visitors; and the singing and cawing of many birds could be heard throughout the day. Butterflies flitted in and out, and a mama cat and her young son played around the gate.
The street that the Hiwales live on is a side street, but it is full of activity. Women in bright saris were cooking on campfires in their yards. There were people washing themselves and their children in buckets. They also washed their dishes and their clothes in the same container. There were women with pans of gravel and cement on their heads walking to nearby construction sites.
On our first day we loaded up our suitcase, which was filled with gifts from our wonderful church in the US, and wheeled it down the street to the tall, narrow building that houses the Girls Home.
We were glad to see that there was a locked iron gate set deep into the yellow plaster walls that keeps our girls safe from intruders. We knocked, and a couple girls came to door and then went to get Veena, the caregiver. She always came with a smile and unlocked the door. She could not speak English, but with the help of some of the girls we were able to communicate enough to get by.
The Girls Home has three floors and a rooftop. The floors are stone and keep the place cool. The girls sleep in one of four dorm rooms where their beds are neatly made. One floor has a common room or study hall. Everything is very neat and uncluttered. Right behind the Girls Home is the newly built neighborhood mosque where the imam loudly called the Muslims to worship several times a day.
When we got there, the girls all excitedly assembled on their room-sized mat and put on a little show for us. Apparently the Koinonia School of Ministry students have been working with them, teaching them songs and dances. Let me tell you, they LOVE to sing and dance. One song was especially poignant: “Your mama may let you down, your papa may let you down, men of the world may let you down, but Jesus never fails.”
The girls are bright, happy, and full of life. When they got to know us they were very loving and wanted to be hugged. All of us on the team had tears in our eyes as we realized that we were witnessing a true miracle before our eyes.
As the days went by, we went to the Girls Home as often as we could. The younger girls go to school in the morning and the older girls in the afternoon. We would arrive at four in the afternoon; by then all of the girls were home from school and didn’t have dinner until 7. As soon as we would come in they would shout, “Hokey Pokey dance, Hokey Pokey dance!” You haven’t lived until you’ve tried to do the Hokey Pokey with the Muslim call to prayer blasting outside!
Each girl also made a sign to hang above her bed that she decorated in her own way with her name on it. One day we decorated construction paper butterflies with sparkles and markers, folded them in half and stuck them on the wall so they would catch the breeze.
There is a real atmosphere of love in the house, with the older girls looking out for the little ones, helping them get dressed and fixing their hair. It seemed that they were really like sisters. When the girls came to church on Sunday morning wearing their new outfits, with their new hair bands and accessories, they all looked so beautiful and happy.
We worked with translators to interview each girl and compile their history and better understand their needs. They come from various backgrounds – some have a sister or two with them, some have brothers living in other homes. Many of them have been through some really traumatic changes in life. As they became more comfortable with us the stories began to come out, and there were tears. Some lost parents to murder and alcohol, others were taken out of abusive situations. All the girls wanted us to pray for what might be left of their families.
Each one of these girls is a precious flower. We are so blessed to see where they are now, surrounded by people who love them: the KSOM students, the local church, their lovely caretaker Veena, whose husband was recently murdered, leaving her to raise four girls by herself. Pastor Joseph took the family in, and now two of the girls are at the Home and two are at KSOM.
They are taught about Jesus continually by pastors, the Bible college students and Joseph and Vishranti – and it shows.
The four women on our team will be forever changed by this experience. We will never forget how when we left them for the day they would line up on the different floors and wave out the windows at us saying, “Goodbye Didi (sisters), come back soon.” As we drove past the vast slums of Pune, and saw the mind-numbing squalor, we thanked God for rescuing these precious girls. And thank you to all who have given gifts or talents or time or prayers to make this home a reality! We hope to move into an even larger facility one day so that more girls will be able to come, by the grace of God. To Him be the glory!