StoriesFromMauHeader was honored to partner with Khusi Hona and a partner organization, Guria, in the building of a vocational facility that provides opportunity to children otherwise destined to serve in the sex trade of India. Over the next few months, we encourage you to follow Matthew’s journey as he visits the site where the facility is being built, and your impact is coming into fruition. This post is a part on an ongoing series called Stories From Mau.

The last time I visited Guria to check on the project, the feeling was very different. Varanasi was in the middle of one of the most heated political elections since memory could serve the local residents of the area. This time things were back to normal. Well, as normal as they can be in one of the most populous places on earth.

This time, I was accompanied by a small group of high school students from Woodstock, New York who were taking part in programs at several of the projects that we support in Nepal and India. Things seemed to be back to normal in this ancient and colorful corner of the world.

Early in the morning, we piled in a van and headed out of Varanasi towards Mau. As we were driving out of Varanasi and towards the project to Mau, one of the students said to me ”this is simply overwhelming to all my senses.” Unlike the last visit, the founder of Guria, Ajeet Singh, did not accompany us on the drive. Ajeet was near the border of Nepal working on an emergency rescue of an exploited child the night before, and would meet us in the red light district of Mau where the vocational training center is being constructed.

Not unlike the last visit, we were asked to keep a low profile as we approached the center, walking straight through the middle of the winding and dirty alleys of the Mau red light district. Being the middle of monsoon season in India, I was surprised to see how far along the construction had come. It often comes to a standstill due to the heavy rains and the fact that many of the laborers return to their villages to tend the fields that flourish during the rainy season.

It quickly became evident that we were in the right place when we were inundated by groups of smiling and laughing children. The facility had about doubled in size since my last visit and construction crews were working feverishly in the midday heat that easily surpassed 100 degrees. We caught up with the staff and volunteers, played games with the kids, and learned of all the changes and additions to the building since our last visit. We also learned that the building would likely be completed in the next few months. It’s so exciting and encouraging to think what this place will be like.

The center, once complete, will truly be a light in a dark place. The vocational training center will serve as a place in the community where both rescued women and children of the sex workers can come to receive a non-formal education in computer training and sewing/fashion design. It will also serve as a community center with access to resources like counseling and support groups. A similar model in Varanasi, India, just 75 miles from Mau, has helped to create the first childfree red light district in India.

It’s pretty hard to imagine that booking your flight and hotel, renting a car, shopping for books, applying for a mortgage, buying furniture and household items, sending gifts, searching for apartments, picking out a cell phone plan, ordering web hosting and office supplies or even subscribing to magazines and newspapers would ultimately transpire into something so powerful.

These are activities we are all doing online, but simply doing them through the innovative shopping platform allows charities like Khusi Hona to implement projects like this one. The end result is something we can’t share with words, photos or videos – freedom for a group of people that are simply not accustomed to such a simple idea, a right, a life other than what is expected of them or in some cases forced on them.

Please click here to download the We-Care app and to be a part of the #FeelHappy movement! In the coming months we look forward to sharing more on this project as it’s being developed and lives are being impacted. A big thank you to We-Care for giving us this opportunity.

About the Author: Matthew van Rooyen is the founder of The Khusi Hona Orphan Project. In mid 2012 Matthew created Khusi Hona to raise funds for orphans across South Asia through the use of a digital PR and marketing strategy, social campaign, live blog, and an e-commerce feature of the charity. The goal of the platform is to be scalable and eventually implemented in other nations around the world.