By: Charuni Ranchigoda (ELF Office Manager)
I was once a girl – and then I lost my way. I was pushed into a deep forest. It was cold and dark, all I felt was despair. I’m still confused at times when I think back, I’m not sure if I was pushed or somehow I did something to be pushed in there. However, I felt battered, afraid and confused. I did not know how to feel anything – without being constantly hurt. I felt guilty. Wrong. Ashamed. No one would accept me now. Things will never be the same. They can’t be..
And then I was rescued. This was better, but I hurt still. No one was there for me. No reassurance. No love. There were many more like me, and it didn’t help. I had my baby then. He is my joy now. It wasn’t easy back then, though. My body was too young and I suffered so much.
While I was there (being protected, still unloved) one day dawned special. A beautiful woman came to see us. We knew something was different with her. She didn’t look at us the way most other people did. Most importantly, she seemed to care! About us! She taught us something beautiful. She taught us how to put our feelings in a necklace! What a joy! My troubles, all that I have suffered, became beautiful beads that I put into lovely necklaces. Things were much bearable, now that I had the lovely beads. We were overjoyed to know that money from selling these necklaces will be put into our own bank account. Some of the other girls were not sure how this would help them, yet they loved beading. But I knew. I knew my own money meant freedom for me someday. Freedom for my son.
While you admired our beautiful necklaces, I was there with you. I was a tag with a lotus on it and my initials. I had to be that for my own protection. I couldn’t see your smile as you picked me up but I sure felt its warmth.
A lot has happened since those days. Some of it painful to me and some of it extremely precious and happy. I have evolved since then. I am a woman now. A mother and a wife. A friend in need. I love my work because I help many more like me through it. I am confident now. I’m no longer a name without a face, or a court case. I’m not even a beautiful lotus tag in a beautiful necklace. I’m me!
( With many thanks to the special young lady who inspired me to write this. Thank you for sharing your story with me. I never asked, because I didn’t want to offend but I’m honoured that you entrusted me with it. You are beautiful and courageous. I respect your immense strength. I joined Emerge because I wanted to see stories like yours in this world. Stories that say ‘ There is still hope’.)