Freedom Firm just hosted its 2nd Annual Wilderness camp at the Scripture Union Camp at Lake Avalanche from May 28th- June 2nd. A total of twenty-five rescued girls, hailing as far as Delhi, Mumbai, and Pune, joined the Freedom Firm girls in Ooty for days of fun, learning and challenges. Twenty-three staff joined the adventure, making it a very large event indeed! Groups came from the International Justice Mission, Oasis, Attulya and the Pune Government Remand Home, plus Freedom Firm, of course.
As groups trickled in and recovered from 24hr. train rides, we started the activities in Ooty while we waited for all the groups to gather. A horse therapy session was a big hit with many girls, who had never touched or ridden a horse in their lives. Groups went boating on Ooty lake and visited the Botanical gardens. Finally, everyone arrived, and we were off to Avalanche (accessible only by an hour hike from the main road!)
Several Freedom Firm girls led a dance exercise class (a regular feature of the Freedom Firm program). Girls tried rappelling (or absailing as its called here). It was exciting to watch girls overcome their fears and trust the rope-holder and climb down the slippery waterfall into the pool below.
Gorge walking was another exercise in trust, as our fifty campers and staff slithered and slipped on moss-covered rocks and low hanging branches up a swift mountain stream for over an hour. During the campfire that night, a couple girls mentioned life metaphors gleaned from that walk.
Spring rains came in earnest once a day, but the tents and sleeping bags stayed dry, and we all took refuge under a large shelter for times of crafts, candle dancing, endless cups of tea and fellowship.
Walks in the woods and beside rivers were woven into times of teaching about real love. Campfires at night, marshmallows and Aradhna songs were wonderful times of worship and fun. Girls often shared the things they were learning, and many took an opportunity to sing a solo!
As girls mixed with one another during meal times, craft times, and other informal, relaxed settings, they caught up on old friendships and built new ones. Girls exchanged stories, compared aftercare homes (much to our dismay), and talked excitedly about the direction of their lives. Girls were stimulated by the progress they saw in each other. Some had known each other from their stay in the government homes after rescue, and then were separated and sent to different rehabilitation homes.
Newly Rescued Girls
The five girls from the government home in Pune who were rescued just this last year were given great hope as they learned about other girls who were now getting an education and job training and most of all, love. These five girls from Pune had initially been terrified to come to the camp. To see them relax, accept affection and love, and grow in confidence and trust, was truly a rewarding experience. As they left the camp and all of their new friends, they sobbed uncontrollably. Our new Freedom Firm office in Pune will be following up with these girls to provide continued encouragement, counseling, and support.
The camp was also a time for forming new relationships among the staff members and volunteers of different NGO's, and a time of strengthening old ties. Several staff expressed the encouragement they felt from knowing they were not alone in the struggle to bring change and transformation to girls rescued from prostitution. A certain solidarity and commitment to pray for each other emerged from our time of sharing the joys and challenges of our work. Truly, we face the same calling, and that calling transcends language, country, and organization.
A very big thanks to Bethlehem Baptist Church, for funding this camp, and for sending a wonderful team of people to plan and lead the activities. Without our partners in prayer and practical giving, we would be unable to do this work. We pray that the benefits from this camp continue to impact the lives of the girls who attended this year.