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Survivors encouraged to dream big

KOLKATA, India — IJM’s Annual Survivor’s Reunion in Kolkata brought together 21 survivors to ask one question: what are your dreams? These young women have successfully reintegrated into society and are now helping and encouraging one another to dream big.

The annual reunion has become a special occasion for the survivors. During the rehabilitation process, they develop close bonds with one another as they share their stories of pain and suffering. But as they pursue their new lives, they rarely get to meet each other. The purpose of the event is not only to bring friends together, but to encourage the young women to think about their futures.

Ms. Smita Singh, Director of Mahima Shelter Home, spoke at the reunion, using the acronym SMART to explain what a ‘real dream’ is: specific, measurable, attracted to achieve, relevant, and time. She explained that a dream could be anything—a restored job or relationship, or the ability to provide for one’s family.

Social workers from IJM helped the women develop tangible steps in reaching their goals. Divided into small groups, the team consulted each survivor and assisted the groups in devising a five-year plan. The women brainstormed ideas by drawing and painting both their current reality and ideal future. Afterward, they shared their dreams as a group.

Aftercare Coordinator Anju Sherpa said of the weekend, “This was a hope instilling event where we saw all our survivors as champions. We were deeply moved and encouraged by all of them. To us, they are our real heroes.”

The weekend also provided an opportunity for the young women to get away from the grind of their daily routine. Ice breakers, crafts, a photo booth, shopping trip, and a viewing of the film Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, provided plenty of opportunities for the women to unwind. One survivor described the weekend as feeling like a “holiday full of laughter and happiness.”

Many of these survivors will go on to carry the message of trafficking to the world, using their experiences to educate and empower others.