Woman on a mis­sion to end sex slav­ery

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Fran Maye fmaye@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @ken­nettpa­per on Twit­ter

Ev­ery eight min­utes, a young girl in In­dia is sold as a sex slave, ac­cord­ing to the 2103 Global Slav­ery In­dex, which is fu­eled mainly due to ex­treme poverty and lack of ed­u­ca­tion. Next month, a Ken­nett area woman will once again travel to one of the poor­est ar­eas in the world to feed, clothe and lib­er­ate young girls one at a time.

“I re­ally felt I needed to do some­thing about chil­dren get­ting into the sex trade, said Mary Cairns, 59, who has her own busi­ness as an in­te­rior dec­o­ra­tor. “There’s more to life than mak­ing peo­ple’s houses pretty be­cause in the scheme of things, it does not mat­ter. I am not mak­ing the world a bet­ter place be-

cause I make a pretty win­dow treat­ment.”

Cairns started go­ing to Anup­shar, Ut­tar Pradesh, In­dia six years ago to help teach girls about the dan­gers of hu­man traf­fick­ing. Be­cause 85 per­cent of the girls in the re­gion had never gone to school, she helped to set up a school the Part­dada Par­dadi Girls School - on a 100-acre site in one of the poor­est vil­lage in In­dia.

To­day, there are 1,400 girls at the school, with 4,000 on the wait­ing list. At the school, the girls get three meals a day, of­ten the only food they eat. Even with this food, Cairns said 65 per­cent of the girls are mal­nour­ished.

The school bud­gets about 12 cents per day on food for the girls, which con­sists of do­nated rice, but now in­cludes fruits and veg­eta­bles. It’s not bad in a re­gion where the av­er­age fam­ily in­come is the Amer­i­can equiv­a­lent of $14 per month.

Cairns said sex slav­ery is such a big prob­lem in In­dia be­cause par­ents don’t value girls.

“When a girl is born in In­dia, it’s a great time of sor­row,” she said. “The birth of a girl sig­ni­fies that a ser­vant of the house­hold has been born. Girls have no value.” Cairns said 20 per­cent of all girls are mur­dered by their par­ents be­fore the age of five in ru­ral In­dia, ei­ther through gen­der selec­tive abor­tions, or by par­ents killing them shortly af­ter they are born.

The school was set up by Sam Singh, a na­tive of In­dia who once heded up DuPont’s head­quar­ters in In­dia. Singh used his re­tire­ment sav­ings to build the school. His goal was to take one girl from each of the poor­est fam­i­lies in the vil­lages and give them ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion and some train­ing.

The school gives the girls a sense of worth. They learn that it is not ac­cept­able for par­ents to sell their young daugh­ters to men who claim they will marry them off.

“Our girls are now stand­ing up and fight­ing against their par­ents,” Cairns said.

Young girls are easy tar­gets be­cause most homes have no roofs or doors. When par­ents do not agree to sell their daugh­ter, of­ten for the equiv­a­lent of 25 Amer­i­can dol­lars, they are forcibly taken.

Cairns told of how one girl came to school and said her daugh­ter was about to go off and be mar­ried. Singh vis­ited the house and urged the par­ents not to do so, know­ing she would be a sex slave. But the par­ents were un­re­lent­ing, so Singh paid $135 to “buy” the fam­ily’s four girls and took them to the school where they even­tu­ally found a home in an or­phan­age.

The school is noth­ing like a tra­di­tional school. The gov­ern­ment in In­dia pro­vides only five hours of elec­tric­ity a day, mostly in the mid­dle of night. The school has a gen­er­a­tor, but it’s ex­pen­sive to run and of­ten fails. There is no elec­tric and no air-con­di­tion­ing, bru­tal in an en­vi­ron­ment where tem­per­a­tures typ­i­cally rise above 100 de­grees Fahren­heit. But still, it’s an oa­sis for the girls in a very poor vil­lage, Cairns said.

“We are fi­nally ed­u­cat­ing our girls as to what is hap­pen­ing there,” Cairns said. “Il­lit­er­acy is over 70 per­cent, and they don’t have ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion. They can’t read, and don’t know what’s go­ing on in the world.”

As an in­cen­tive for the girls to go to school, Singh set up a fund to pay them the equiv­a­lent of 25 cents a day for each day they at­tend school. If they go from 5th grade to 12th grade, they can make about $750, which sets them on the road to eco­nomic self-suf­fi­ciency. The money can only be taken out when they reach age 21 or when they are mar­ried. The money can­not be ac­cessed by a man, even their fa­ther.

Be­cause the girls are so poor, Cairns has taken over sup­plies the past cou­ple of years. Through so­cial me­dia, she has man­aged to muster up a fund, and buys sup­plies. Re­cently, she took over tooth­brushes which girls there had never used be­fore. Re­cently she brought over 6,000 pairs of un­der­wear, and Cairns said it is the first pair of un­der­wear the girls have had. With 600 girls in pu­berty, un­der­wear holds the san­i­tary pads man­u­fac­tured at the school, she said.

Two years ago, she took over 1,000 bras, school sup­plies, hy­giene prod­ucts and med­i­cal sup­plies to the girls, all with funds she raised lo­cally.

Last sum­mer, with lo­cal crowd-sourced fund­ing, she helped to build a med­i­cal clinic to pro­vide the vil­lagers, as well as stu­dents and staff, with qual­ity med­i­cal care. Po­lio, elim­i­nated in most of the world, is still preva­lent in the small vil­lage.

When she de­parts for In­dia in Novem­ber, Cairns will take three doc­tors from Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal of Philadel­phia who cher­ish hu­man­i­tar­ian aid, and a cou­ple of other vol­un­teers. Cairns pays for her own air fare and other ex­penses from her own pocket, which she es­ti­mates to be thou­sands of dol­lars.

“I truly feel like I have 14,000 daugh­ters over there,” she said.

In the past six years, Cairns has taught thou­sands of girls how to use soap, brush their teeth and prac­tice proper hy­giene. She guides them on how they can avoid be­ing sold into sex slav­ery. “The girls needed me, and I knew that I was able to make a dif­fer­ence over there,” she said.

Cairns said her next team is help­ing to set up a pe­di­atric med­i­cal clinic to care for the ba­bies and chil­dren, who are mal­nour­ished and dy­ing.

Cairns will de­part for her hu­man­i­tar­ian mis­sion in Novem­ber. For those who wish to do­nate, es­pe­cially bras or girls’ un­der­wear, email Cairns at marycairns1956@gmail.com. She has an on­line blog on her trips at http://marymikein­dia.blogspot.com.

FRAN MAYE — DIG­I­TAL FIRST ME­DIA

Mary Cairns of New Gar­den shows a photo of two girls who live in In­dia who she has grown close to. Ev­ery year, Cairns trav­els to a small vil­lage in In­dia to help girls avoid be­ing sold as sex slaves.

SUB­MIT­TED PHO­TOS

Mary Cairns is all smiles in a class­room in In­dia, as she teaches the girls how to avoid be­com­ing sex slaves.

One of the more prized pos­ses­sion for girls in In­dia is un­der­wear, and here they each get one dur­ing dis­tri­bu­tion. Mary Cairns of New Gar­den takes un­der­wear to the girls dur­ing her yearly vis­its to In­dia.

These girls in In­dia had no idea what a tooth­brush was un­til Ch­ester County res­i­dent Mary Cairns in­tro­duced them dur­ing her visit there.

This toi­let was built at the home of a stu­dent who ex­celled in school. The toi­let cost $480 to con­struct, and par­ents pay about $50 of the cost.

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