by Eileen Nickles, in the Journal Opinion
NEWBURY—The Traveling Indian Bazaar returned to Tenney Memorial Library on Sept. 14. For four hours, members of the public browsed and bought colorful scarves, handbags, aprons, jewelry, and other items handmade in India.
But there is more to the bazaar than shopping.
Minors, mostly young girls, are frequently trafficked in India. One girl, who was rescued by authorities, told authorities where many other young girls were held against their will at a brothel, waiting to be trafficked. Because of the fearlessness of just one girl, many other lives were saved. Since 2006, 900 girls have been rescued.
This story was shared with the Journal Opinion by Global Avenues Ministries co-founder Carolyn Wetherby in a telephone interview.
Husband and wife team Dewy and Carolyn Wetherby first moved to India in the 1990s, bringing their three young children with them, leaving their ‘norm’ behind in Minnesota, to work at the Woodstock School in the Himalayans of northern India.
Tom and Catherine Kidder, of Newbury, wanted their children to have a cross-cultural experience and called India home for some time. It was in India where the Kidders and the Wetherbys first met.
India was an eye-opening experience: drinkable water had to be boiled, the electricity frequently cut out, there were language barriers (Hindi), and banks had extended turnaround times with money, for example, deposited in October not available for withdrawal until December.
Though the Kidders have since returned to Newbury, their experiences in India only fostered a closer connection with the country. Catherine is the co-president of Help Kids India, a volunteer organization that helps fund preschools in rural India. HKI was cp-founded in 2008 by Ann Peck, of Topsham.
The Wetherbys stayed in India until 2012, when they decided it was time to return to the United States country, yet they wanted to stay involved in India so they established GAM in October 2012.
GAM’s purpose is to sell products from Nepal and India in the United States, where 100% of the profits will be returned to the organizations to help fight against human trafficking, bring benefit to women’s lives, support women at risk, and bring knowledge to others about the circumstances that many Indian females are forced into.
GAM currently partners with seven organizations in India, including Maximizing Employment to Serve the Handicap and Freedom Firm, with a goal to eliminate child prostitution by rescuing minor girls. The Kidders and Wetherbys collaborated to put together the Bazaar in Newbury to support the efforts of their organizations.
The money raised from bazaars purchased new sewing machines, an air conditioning unit, paid for a woman’s required surgery, and more.
“This is about freedom and justice and raising dignity for artisans – about helping and showing their stories,” Carolyn Wetherby said.
A total of 290 preschool students attend five preschools HKI helped found and fund in rural India. HKI preschools are the equivalent of Head Starts in this area, Catherine Kidder told the JO; the Indian school system does not have kindergarten.
Kidder said that it is only through the financial support from donors that they can keep Indian preschools open and funded. Everything that students need is provided to them: school uniform, backpack, pencils, crayons, lunch, snack, and even health care checks; staff salaries and building maintenance are also paid for by donors.
On the other side of the ocean, The Betsy Elizabeth Trust (an Indian-based nonprofit, considered the forerunner of HKI), coordinates HKI efforts in India.
“The purpose of HKI is to support the work of The Betsy Elizabeth Trust in raising up kids that are born into poverty,” Kidder said.
Together, GAM and HKI are improving the lives of women and children in India. Across the United States, people are gaining knowledge of these organizations and the important people and causes that they support.
That is what Wetherby and Kidder want – and they are doing that one Bazaar at a time.
Republished from the Journal-Opinion, weekly ommunity newspaper for Bradford, Newbury and surrounding towns on both sides of the Connecticut River.