2017 has been a tough year -- from hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and fires, to political news. If you're itching to make a difference, but you live a busy life or you're not sure how to help, this episode is for you. Sarah Davison-Tracy runs Seeds of Exchange, an organization that uses storytelling to make tangible change. Sarah gives advice for getting involved in service -- with small, doable steps. In this episode, she talks about helping the Lighthouse Foundation, which rescues Nepalese girls from a life of sex slavery. Bonus at the end: Hannah Badi, one of the first girls to be rescued from this life, tells her own story.
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- To live a life of meaning and purpose requires three components:
Sarah defines each one.
- Without a tribe, service is unsustainable. We burn out. Grow a tribe or turn to your existing one to continue offering service (and to continue creating something new, which is hard).
- Raju Sundas began the Lighthouse Foundation because he watched a TV documentary about the Badi people, who live in a village 20 hours from his city of Kathmandu. At the time, nine years ago, he had no money himself, but he was moved by the plight of the villagers and felt he had to do something about it. The Lighthouse Foundation now houses, clothes, and educated more than 700 children.
Resources mentioned in the episode:
Dignity from Dust
She is handed a black round thing. Her heart is beating—fast—because she
knows what this is. A bomb. Her name is Hannah. She is five years old, and she has no
choice but to carry it. The Maoist rebels have been hiding out in her village in the far
west of Nepal. It’s the ideal location, as not many care about her people, called the
Badi. No one will go there to look for these rebels. The Badi are an invisible and an
“Careful,” he tells her. “One wrong move and you’ll blow up. You’ll be dead.”
She knows this story. She has been told what to do by everyone her whole life.
As have her sisters, mother, grandmothers, and women neighbors.
They are Badi women.
This is what they do.
They know what they cannot do:
walk, eat, or drink with others—
no one wants to be near them.
They are the lowest of the low,
called the dust of Nepal.
Even when she was being formed, still in her mama’s stomach, her fate seemed
to be locked in place—a sexual object to be used, abused, and tossed away. And yet,
despite the prevailing messages that she was worthless and unwelcome in any part of
the world beyond that of her people, a longing for a different way of life compelled
Hannah towards seemingly impossible dreams, almost from the day of her birth. She
hungered for an education as a little girl. This was an impossible dream, as parents
from other tribes didn't want their children in the same room with an untouchable girl, a
Badi. Undeterred, she walked five miles to school, hiding quietly under an open window
and craning her neck to try and catch every word. When discovered, she was chased off
the school grounds, only to return the next day to try again. She persisted and kept
returning to that window.
It hasn’t always been such a struggle. The Badi haven’t always been disdained.
In centuries past, her people were esteemed artists in the court of Nepal’s king and
queens. But, as often happens in the human story, this gift was slowly distorted, so
much so that now Badi women are lucrative objects sought after for sex trafficking and
are taken to brothels throughout Asia where they live enslaved in deplorable darkness.
Some are kept in their villages in Nepal, where men crawl through their windows,
asserting their right to have sex with these women. “No” has not been a permissible
answer. Submission to the power of men has been the only way, that is, until recently.
The same feet that trudged through the jungle, with hands trembling as the bomb
lay nested in her fingers, are now leading a movement of youth that is impacting the
current state and the future of the Badi of Nepal. Hannah is just getting started. She’s
launching into her next big dream, and she will be the first Badi woman in history to
attend university. She now travels the world, voicing her story, opening up people’s
hearts to the realities of injustice and struggle among the Badi and in the world, and
invites listeners to wake up, connect, and join the fight for dignity and a future for all.
She is writing a new story for herself and her people, this one ablaze with hope. Hannah
and her community of sisters and brothers are a band of fierce warriors of love and
Because of Hannah and her community’s collective voices, a growing number of
Badi women are free for the first time in generations. Free from sexual trafficking and
slavery, free to be educated, side by side with their Badi brothers, and free to have a
future of big dreams.
I was able to be with Hannah in her village in Nepal when her big sister, Alisha,
returned home for the first time after her rescue from a brothel in which she’d been held
as a sexual slave for twenty-one years in India. I have a vivid memory of Alisha leaning
on the doorframe of her childhood home, eyes sparkling, mouth slightly turned up to a
gentle smile, hand on her momma’s shoulder, toes tapping to the beat of her father’s
song. Hannah whirled, bare feet beating the dirt floor of the porch.
The village members slowly gathered to join the party. I felt it. I was witnessing a
homecoming, a miracle. Alisha was home, free. She, too, is rising from the ashes.
Alisha is being companioned and healed by her tenacious tribe and robust faith, each
and every day.
One by one, these girls and women are becoming free. They are using their
freedom to benefit their own people, create futures of hope, and share their stories with
all who will listen. Hannah and her community have faced and seen more unspeakable
disregard for their common humanity and dignity than most of us can imagine, let alone
understand. How can it be that she loves so big, that her smile lights up a room, and her
words have such hope, her spirit bold and formidable? Her love is not weak sauce, airyfairy.
It propels her to go into places of danger and of desperation, to the very brothel
that enslaved her sister in order to rescue more girls and women. Her faith is alive and
sustaining. It’s the real deal. It has seen her through many a dark night of seemingly
endless stories of brutality and hopelessness.
The stories Hannah shares—about being invisible, dismissed, ashamed, and
hopeless—crack open the hearts and minds of many other people. It happens at events
around the world as she takes the microphone, steps on stages, and shares about her
family and her people. It’s happened in my very own living room.
Recently, Hannah visited Denver. A dear friend of mine had spent the evening
listening to Hannah share about her life. Hannah’s story woke up my friend. Suddenly,
human trafficking wasn’t a distant cause, but was right there in her midst. It became
real, as seen through the eyes and voice of Hannah. My friend was broken open. She
sobbed on her way home, pounding the steering wheel at the injustice done to Hannah
and her community. She was moved by Hannah’s resolute courage and joy despite her
years of struggle. After some time of allowing herself to cry and feel angry, she felt a
sense of peace wash over her. This peace was followed by a question in her heart:
What about the struggle in your life? Why have you never cried or pounded the steering
wheel for your own pain, for you own story? My friend’s personal struggle has been
great, but she’d never been emboldened enough to face it, acknowledge it, and weep
over it. Until she heard and connected with Hannah.
This is what I mean by finding our stories in the stories of one another. We
discover, we heal, we see, we commit, we love.
Hannah is a leader, a COURAGEous warrior of love.
She inspires and awakens us,
adds fuel to a passion for depth and connection that transcends culture,
which shifts how we see our part in the world.
She has ignited not only the women of Nepal,
but countless others
with her passion to set the world ablaze with hope.
Today, Hannah is free,
dancing her way through life,
twirling around the world,
sharing stories and inviting us to join her as sisters and brothers,
to flood the dark places in the world with light, together.
Hannah Badi Tells Her Story
The following is a transcript of a short speech Hannah Badi gave at a Seeds of Exchange storytelling event in Denver in September, 2017. Raju Sundas, the founder of Lighthouse Foundation Nepal, translated for Hannah – until the very end of her talk, when she switched to English. To listen to her talk, go to the end of this One More Shot episode, following the credits.
Hannah: [00:39:00] Speaks in Nepalese.
Raju: [00:39:04] When I was nine years old I met Uncle Raju at my village.
Hannah: [00:39:24] Speaks.
Raju: [00:39:33] Being part of the Badi community. I have seen what is happening in Hannah’s village. And I myself went through that experience.
Hannah: [00:39:44] Speaks.
Raju: [00:39:52] If nine years ago if I was not rescued from that village I wouldn't be able to speak today.
Hannah: [00:40:00] Speaks.
Raju: [00:40:45 All my friends, those who used to play with me, were being sold in brothels. I have seen everything with my own eyes.
Hannah: [00:40:57] Speaks.
Raju: [00:41:12] [In Badi villages], they celebrate the girls. Because they don't celebrate girls as girls but they celebrate as income source, of money.
Hannah: [00:41:20] Speaks.
Raju: [00:41:37] Mothers teach their daughters how to entertain or how to attract a man.
Hannah: [00:41:42] Speaks.
Raju: [00:41:55] Badi people, you know, is one of the people groups that are being treated as a lowest of the society. [In Nepal’s caste system, Badi people are the lowest caste – the “untouchables.”]
Hannah: [00:42:06] Speaks.
Raju: [00:42:14] In our society the dog has value. Dogs can go from one house to another house. But Badi people cannot go from one house to another house. They are “untouchable.”
Hannah: [00:42:28] Speaks.
Raju: [00:42:32] So since our lifestyle was like that, education was just a dream. No one can study.
Hannah: [00:42:41] Speaks.
Raju: [00:42:46] When they were nine to 10 years old, that is the time they had to start the business [of enforced prostitution].
Hannah: [00:42:54] Speaks.
Raju: [00:43:24] They are treated this way in public places like police stations, bus stations, hospitals, anywhere. They are being ostracized by people. The moment the people know that they are Badi people, they are open to being abused.
Hannah: [00:43:46] Speaks.
Raju: [00:43:48] No matter what type of caste, the moment people know they are Badi people, they are seen as sexual toys. Anyone can do anything to them, all kinds of things.
Hannah: [00:43:57] Speaks.
Raju: [00:44:01] I thought that I would end up in a brothel. Or I would have to sell my body. I was thinking like that.
Hannah: [00:44:08] Speaks.
Raju: [00:44:10] My sister was sold in front of my own eyes. My friends were sold in front of my own eyes.
Hannah: [00:44:17] Speaks.
Raju: [00:44:22] Nobody heard our voices. We were the voiceless people.
Hannah: [00:44:26] Speaks.
Raju: [00:44:33] When I [Raju] went and spoke and told them that I was there to help them, it was difficult for them to believe a man. They didn’t trust me.
Hannah: [00:44:42] Speaks.
Raju: [00:44:45] When I went in her village for the first time, she performed a dance.
Hannah: [00:44:50] Speaks.
Raju: [00:45:03] When I met Uncle Raju, I felt that the future of my life was in his hands. I can trust someone like that.
Hannah: [00:45:14] Speaks.
Raju: [00:45:17] I brought Hannah and 31 other girls to Kathmandu.
Hannah: [00:45:19] Speaks.
Raju: [00:45:22] She started to go to school.
Hannah: [00:45:24] Speaks.
Raju: [00:45:28] I had a great struggle in the school as well, being Badi.
Hannah: [00:45:32] Speaks.
Raju: [00:45:39] Ever time they encounter problems in school, we always encouraged them, that their time will come. You will rise.
Hannah: [00:45:47] Speaks.
Raju: [00:46:00] When I came to Lighthouse, I found the authentic love. There is no fake, no selfishness. And people from other parts of the country also shared love, you know.
Hannah: [00:46:16] Speaks.
Raju: [00:46:23] I came to know my value.
Hannah: [00:46:27] Speaks.
Raju: [00:46:32] I have completed my college degree [note: college is high school in Nepal].
Hannah: [00:46:35] Speaks.
Raju: [00:46:38] So soon I'm going to study political science in university.
Hannah: [00:46:43] Because I want to be a prime minister of Nepal.
Raju: [00:46:46] That's amazing (cheers from audience).
Hannah: [00:46:52] I want to change my nation and I want to change the caste system, and I want to support Badi people. I want to be a strong woman of Jesus Christ. And I am so happy I'm here. And thank you for everyone here. So thank you for your love. Thank you for your support. Thank you for your prayer. And thank you for you make me strong. And thank you for helping us, Uncle [Raju]. He's my great father and great mother.. And thank you so much for everything and please help us.
Raju: [00:47:37] Thank you. No need to translate now! (Cheers from audience.)
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