What a day. This was an amazing way to begin our trip in India – and we couldn’t imagine the things that were in store for us today. First let us start with probably the most important item of the day – David Hircock has safely arrived in Delhi. We had been told that he missed his train, but as it turns out we were only told that so we wouldn’t worry. In reality, his train was hijacked by gunmen last night a few stops before he got on. Obviously the hijacking caused a delay and quite a commotion here in India – it was front page news in all the newspapers and on all news networks. Are we nervous that we’re going on a train tomorrow? No, not really. David assures us that after last night’s incident, the trains are probably safer now than ever. That’s what we like to think.
As we were driving to the Mukti Ashram, the group was overcome by the sights they were seeing outside our tour bus. The poverty and the chaos are indescribable. It makes you understand why it’s so important that we help make a difference for people here. Amidst the chaos was a sight that lifted everybody’s spirits – an elephant walking down the middle of the street amid bustling traffic. Apparently elephants here are highly regarded and used in festivals and wedding ceremonies. He commanded respect not only by his size but by his significance.
Undoubtedly, the highlight of the day was our visit with children rescued from India’s mica mining industry. These children are now in the care of the Save the Childhood Foundation, founded by Kailash Satyarthi and his wife, at the Mukti Ashram outside Delhi. Here they are educated, clothed, sheltered, rehabilitated and in most cases returned to their families.
The mica mining industry is notorious for child labor practices and with David Hircock’s guidance, Aveda has been working to help change industry practices so that child labor can be eliminated. We’ve been working with the Save the Childhood Foundation to support their efforts to rescue children from mining and establish “Child Friendly Villages” where they will be protected from child labor. As part of Aveda’s Earth Month campaign two years ago, our Global partner, Global Greengrants Fund, made a grant to Save the Childhood Foundation specifically to help rebuild and install clean water wells in nine Child Friendly Villages – this made our visit today even more meaningful. We expected to see children beaten down by society but instead we saw children filled with hope, strength and love. A shining example was Mohammed who just two weeks ago was rescued from a mica mine. His goal used to be to learn how to read bus numbers. Now that he has been rescued, his new goal is to become a doctor. Other children spoke about becoming judges, electricians, and working to eliminate child labor forever.
We were so proud of Rochelle who spoke to the children on behalf of our group. After arriving on her first trip overseas and away from her husband and children, she was emotionally overwhelmed by the ride to the hotel. She was the last person we expected to be able to keep a dry eye and speak to these children without breaking down.
Rochelle speaks on behalf of our entire group when she says the children’s strength inspired her and gave her hope for a better future for them and for us all. While she didn’t cry, everyone else was in tears…except the children who laughed, sang, spoke, performed for us and danced with us.
We’re extremely glad David is safe and we loved seeing the elephant, but it is the children that we will all remember most from this day.