Rebuilding Nepalese girls' lives through mosaic art
In 2006 anti-trafficking activist Philip Holmes faced a challenge.
How could he successfully offer help, healing and a pathway to a whole new life for trafficking survivors - young Nepali women that his charity had rescued from Indian circuses. These women had been taken when they were girls from impoverished rural communities in south Nepal and then forced into a life of modern day slavery.
Each of them entered a punishing routine of training interspersed with an unrelenting performance schedule, trapped in a life of constant violence and fear.
Small wonder that most trafficking survivors suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Uneducated, burdened by mental illness, often rejected by their families and stigmatised by society as “dirty circus girls” their options were bleak.
As one approach to his challenge Philip, the chief executive of Freedom Matters, began teaching two returnees how to cut ceramic (bathroom) tiles and assemble the pieces into mosaic pictures. Setting up a studio in his own home, the first lesson was for the girls to make their names in mosaic – an opportunity for them to retrieve the identity that had been robbed from them.
The girls loved it and the class quickly grew. The healing power of art became very apparent.
Said Philip: “I remember how one day walking into the studio, unnoticed, to hear these girls who had been brutalised, even raped, singing happily together as they worked. And this group of workers became so skilled that the initiative progressed so they became a not-for-profit company which is now selling its products abroad.”
This has all been underpinned by the creative inputs of mosaic art volunteers from abroad such as new volunteer Shirley Rose.
Shirley will be joining the work of Freedom Matters on 1st March as the charity sets up a new mosaic studio in south Nepal for more trafficking survivors.
Please support her and help the artistic metaphor continue as they reassemble their broken lives through ceramic pieces. You can donate to Shirley by her fundraising page on MyDonate.
And remember, donating via MyDonate means that all the money will go to this magnificent cause.