People describe our communities in many different ways.
Some say they are “red-light areas”, “slums”, or simply “bad places where nothing good comes from”. And because of this, they assume things about who we are.
But for us, we simply call them home.
We were all either born here, brought here under false pretenses, came here because there was nowhere else to go, or chose to come here in the hope of a better life. However we ended up here, it is still our home. And just like you, we are determined to make our communities the best possible home they can be!
We understand that the beauty of our places isn't always obvious to people. And we know It’s not everyone’s ideal location. But beneath the surface there are also vibrant, friendly and welcoming communities to be found, (if you are willing to look). In the midst of the pain and brokenness, we look after each other, share houses and food, protect one another, mourn together and celebrate whenever we can.
We have our share of problems. Poverty does that. It reduces opportunities, limits choices and forces people to make extremely hard decisions; like who should eat that day, can we afford to keep the family together, where is it safe to sleep tonight, is it better for my daughter if I let her go with this person offering a job in the city, or that she gets married even though she is so young? These are decisions no family wants to make. There are times we need a helping hand, but isn't that true of us all? When you’ve started so far behind, been deliberately held back, and not given opportunities, it can sometimes be hard to catch up. But we are doing it!
Together, through Joyya we…
· We learn that despite what some may say, we are of equal worth in this world
· We work hard in our business to sustain our families and create more jobs for others.
· We educate ourselves and our children so that they will have more opportunities in life than we did.
· We have access to healthcare and legal assistance so that we don’t get held back needlessly.
· We obtain proper documentation, open bank accounts and take control of our finances.
· We are trained and up-skilled both at work and in life skills.
· We have fun together! In the midst of all that is going on, we take time out to celebrate the good in our lives and just have a laugh!
Our communities are changing. Our dream is that one day others will also notice the change, and it will give hope to other communities that they too can change. And when they speak of us they will see our true identity. Communities of battlers that never gave up on the dream of a better future. Communities that refused to see themselves the way others spoke of them, but were determined to become all they knew they were and could be, just given the opportunity.
For now, we are living and working in four general locations; Sonagachi, Ram Bagan, Dhulian and Khal Par. But this is just the beginning. Join us, and together we will seek to spark opportunity for change to every community that desperately needs it, one neighborhood at a time.