Eye-witness account by Mala Malstead
The small gift bag of socks, toothbrush, hand cream, lip balm topped with an appealing teddy bear sat untouched on the top bunk. Karishma* stared at it with obvious mistrust and resentment. I slowly began to unpack it for her, thinking she just didn't know what was inside. But every gift offered drew a violent shake of her head and the only English word she knew, “No!” I tried a little harder, “You'll get cold, you need the socks” Socks now flew across the room. “No!” Her eyes looked out under long bangs and locked with mine. Dismayed by her defiance, I turned to go. An hour later I peeked in. She was on her bunk bed, covers pulled over her head. Her past has taught her to resist all things, good or bad, I realized.
I left her pouting and headed outside with a bag of daffodil bulbs. It was a beautiful bright blue day, full of sunshine and warmth. I had only planted a few bulbs when suddenly she was there, hands reaching out for the bulbs. She didn't say much, but dug into the earth and planted with me.
Karishma was just 12 years old when Freedom Firm rescued her. After rescue, she was in the Freedom Firm Aftercare home for 3 months. Then the government sent her to several remand homes, before finally sending her to Freedom Firm again in 2009. Now she is 18 and has recently graduated from our program. Today she is known as Rebecca, and is currently in her home town, earning her living as a paid dancer at festivals. Sometimes she talks to other girls trapped in prostitution, trying to persuade them to choose a new life.
*name changed to protect identity