Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Student Post: Renee Sanderford on our Visit with FORWORD in Chennai

{FORWORD sign outside the office, Tambaram, Chennai}

Hello! We just returned from being in Chennai all weekend! We took a train ride there...what an experience! Baby cockroaches, the smell of urine and strange men sleeping on beds in the train compartment below us. Perfect. Even though these factors made the trip to and from Chennai a little bit uncomfortable, the people that I met made it so worth it. There was one woman named Shiamala Baby who touched my heart. Shiamala started an organization called 'Forword' that focuses on women's rights and development in India. This whole dream came about after Shiamala had experienced such a terrible marriage. She was beaten daily by her husband, who was instigated by his mother, for ten years. Both her and her husband were Christians, and to see him beat her was very shocking to Shiamala; how could a Christian man do this to me?

{Shiamala Auntie tells her story, and explains why she now works as an advocate for battered women and children.}

During those ten years she was blessed with two beautiful baby girls who are now all grown up. Between the ten years of her marriage, she was beaten constantly and it was only with the help of her family that she was able to escape the marriage with her two daughters (during the time of Shiamala’s marriage, it was almost impossible to get a divorce).

While Shiamala was telling her story I could not help but to cry. The reason why is because even in the midst of her horrific marriage, she still looked to God. And now that she has come out of that marriage, she can stand firm on the fact that what she had experienced in the past has now led her to help so many women empower themselves within society, and to love Jesus fiercely on top of it all.
{Renee with her sandalwood paste (yellow) and kumkum powder (red), and her garland of jasmine flowers during our welcome at the urban slum village.}

In fact, Shiamala took us to a place where there were groups of women who have been empowered and encouraged by Shiamala, and they welcomed us with many festivities! To see the joy on the faces of these women and the hope that they have in who they are in society will impact my heart forever. Especially Shiamala's story because she recognizes that what happened in the past was not God's doing. Instead, she has taken the negative aspects of those ten years of her life and she has turned them into something beautiful.

{Shiamala Auntie explaining the villagers' traditional ways of welcoming visitors.}

This was definitely the highlight of my weekend. Thank you Shiamala Baby for not just touching the lives of women in India, but now a young woman from across the globe.

you can see more pictures of our trip to Chennai on our Facebook page here.

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