If Sarojini looks familiar, or you feel like you have heard her story before, it is because you most likely have come across her story before.
However, you have never really met Sarojini before. Sarojini is the real name of Sandhya, whose story was featured in a 2016 fundraising campaign, and in our 2016 Impact Report. Why reveal her real name, and why feature her story again? Of course, there are many client stories we could choose from. Since our last Impact Report, Operation PeaceMaker has helped resolve an additional 2,000 cases of abuse. Yet, Sarojini’s story stands out. It is symbolic of just how much our work has grown, and just how powerful the hope that we carry for our clients is.
Sarojini ended 16 years of abuse through a middle-of-the-night escape with her two little daughters in tow. The abuse she experienced was so severe, her escape so dramatic, and her triumph in setting up a new life so inspiring, that her story reads like a script from a dramatic movie. However, it is the progress that Sarojini has made since 2016 that has made us highlight it once again in this year’s Impact Report.
Sarojini’s indomitable spirit, and irrepressible joy for life is something we are inspired by every day we get to see her. To think that this time two years ago she was still living under constant fear for her and her daughter’s lives is nearly impossible.
In 2016 we announced the beginning of Saath-Saath, our very first self-help group initiative. Sarojini was one of our very first group members. Now, Sarojini leads several Saath-Saath groups, and is a guide for many other women while they navigate the pain, processing, self-discovery and healing at various stages of their recovery journey.
Sarojini is now also helping to lead Basthi Meetings, the community-based workshops providing prevention and awareness education to local women. She is a powerful speaker, who shares from her experience, and motivates women to be strong enough to stand up for themselves. She speaks with the confidence of a survivor. She tells women that they have a choice, and that they must make the safety and peace of their own lives their first priority. Critically, Sarojini tells women that it’s okay to get help, and that there are PeaceMakers waiting to hear their stories and support them.
Sarojini does all of this volunteer work with Operation PeaceMaker in her spare time. She is hard working and entrepreneurial. Her first job after starting her new life was as a tea-seller. She then got a job as a cook, which afforded better pay and hours that allowed her to be with her daughters in the afternoon when they came home from school. Before Sarojini escaped her abusive home, she single-handedly ran a scrap shop. She managed everything from logistics and supplies to finances. It is her goal to save enough money to start her own shop again.
Sarojini has two goals to fulfil through starting her own shop. First, she believes that setting up a local shop will help her build a community of friends and neighbours. She wants her daughters to grow up with strong roots in a community where they have many well-wishers. Secondly, Sarojini knows she can earn a lot more running her own shop. Both her daughters plan to be doctors, and Sarojini knows she needs to save a lot of money to get them through university.
Sarojini is the perfect example of what women are capable of, once they are supported with the choice to live a life free from abuse and violence. However, she would not be where she is today without the help of the Operation PeaceMaker team, and some very generous donors.
Sarojini was the first ever client that we provided crisis funding to. We didn’t do it because it was a strategic objective of ours. In the past, our team worked internally to pool in and provide occasional crisis support. In this one instance, we decided to give the opportunity to donors to be generous. The result is that Pavani and Pallavi got a long term donor committed to funding their school fees while Sarojini works to build up some savings. It was the first time that we formally offered financial support to a client, and the result was deeply impactful for both Sarojini as well as the donors.
Since our initial one-off crowdfunding campaign, we have had other clients with serious, mid-crisis needs. The victim support system in India is almost non-existent. It is even difficult to find a safe home for victims, let alone financial support.
Inspired by Sarojini’s success, and in response to a persistent and tremendous need, Operation PeaceMaker has decided to build a combined crisis and start-up fund. We have named it the Lotus Fund.
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