Visit Ep. 8: If you want to give back, do this or read the highlights and listen here.
2017 has been a tough year — from hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and fires, to political news. If you’re itching to make a difference, but you live a busy life or you’re not sure how to help, this episode is for you. Sarah Davison-Tracy runs Seeds of Exchange, an organization that uses storytelling to make tangible change. Sarah gives advice for getting involved in service — with small, doable steps. In this episode, she talks about helping the Lighthouse Foundation, which rescues Nepalese girls from a life of sex slavery. Bonus at the end: Hannah Badi, one of the first girls to be rescued from this life, tells her own story.
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– To live a life of meaning and purpose requires three components:
Sarah defines each one.
– Without a tribe, service is unsustainable. We burn out. Grow a tribe or turn to your existing one to continue offering service (and to continue creating something new, which is hard).
– Raju Sundas began the Lighthouse Foundation because he watched a TV documentary about the Badi people, who live in a village 20 hours from his city of Kathmandu. At the time, nine years ago, he had no money himself, but he was moved by the plight of the villagers and felt he had to do something about it. The Lighthouse Foundation now houses, clothes, and educated more than 700 children.
Resources mentioned in the episode:
Read an excerpt from Sarah Davison-Tracy’s forthcoming book Live Ablaze | And Light Up the World:
Dignity from Dust
She is handed a black round thing. Her heart is beating—fast—because she knows what this is. A bomb. Her name is Hannah. She is five years old, and she has no choice but to carry it. The Maoist rebels have been hiding out in her village in the far west of Nepal. It’s the ideal location, as not many care about her people, called the Badi. No one will go there to look for these rebels. The Badi are an invisible and an unwanted people.
“Careful,” he tells her. “One wrong move and you’ll blow up. You’ll be dead.”
She knows this story. She has been told what to do by everyone her whole life. As have her sisters, mother, grandmothers, and women neighbors.
They are Badi women.
This is what they do.
They know what they cannot do:
walk, eat, or drink with others—
no one wants to be near them.
They are the lowest of the low,
called the dust of Nepal.
Even when she was being formed, still in her mama’s stomach, her fate seemed to be locked in place—a sexual object to be used, abused, and tossed away. And yet, despite the prevailing messages that she was worthless and unwelcome in any part of the world beyond that of her people, a longing for a different way of life compelled Hannah towards seemingly impossible dreams, almost from the day of her birth.
She hungered for an education as a little girl. This was an impossible dream, as parents from other tribes didn’t want their children in the same room with an untouchable girl, a Badi. Undeterred, she walked five miles to school, hiding quietly under an open window and craning her neck to try to catch every word. When discovered, she was chased off the school grounds, only to return the next day to try again. She persisted and kept returning to that window.
It hasn’t always been such a struggle. The Badi haven’t always been disdained. In centuries past, her people were esteemed artists in the court of Nepal’s king and queens. But, as often happens in the human story, this gift was slowly distorted, so much so that now Badi women are lucrative objects sought after for sex trafficking and are taken to brothels throughout Asia where they live enslaved in deplorable darkness. Some are kept in their villages in Nepal, where men crawl through their windows, asserting their right to have sex with these women. “No” has not been a permissible answer. Submission to the power of men has been the only way, that is, until recently.
The same feet that trudged through the jungle, with hands trembling as the bomb lay nested in her fingers, are now leading a movement of youth that is impacting the current state and the future of the Badi of Nepal.
Hannah is just getting started.
She’s launching into her next big dream, and she will be the first Badi woman in history to attend university. She now travels the world, voicing her story, opening up people’s hearts to the realities of injustice and struggle among the Badi and in the world, and invites listeners to wake up, connect, and join the fight for dignity and a future for all.
She is writing a new story for herself and her people, this one ablaze with hope. Hannah and her community of sisters and brothers are a band of fierce warriors of love and justice.
Because of Hannah and her community’s collective voices, a growing number of Badi women are free for the first time in generations. Free from sexual trafficking and slavery, free to be educated, side by side with their Badi brothers, and free to have a future of big dreams.
I was able to be with Hannah in her village in Nepal when her big sister, Alisha, returned home for the first time after her rescue from a brothel in which she’d been held as a sexual slave for twenty-one years in India. I have a vivid memory of Alisha leaning on the doorframe of her childhood home, eyes sparkling, mouth slightly turned up to a gentle smile, hand on her momma’s shoulder, toes tapping to the beat of her father’s song. Hannah whirled, bare feet beating the dirt floor of the porch.
The village members slowly gathered to join the party. I felt it. I was witnessing a homecoming, a miracle. Alisha was home, free. She, too, is rising from the ashes. Alisha is being companioned and healed by her tenacious tribe and robust faith, each and every day.
One by one, these girls and women are becoming free. They are using their freedom to benefit their own people, create futures of hope, and share their stories with all who will listen. Hannah and her community have faced and seen more unspeakable disregard for their common humanity and dignity than most of us can imagine, let alone understand.
How can it be that she loves so big, that her smile lights up a room, and her words have such hope, her spirit bold and formidable? Her love is not weak sauce. It propels her to go into places of danger and of desperation, to the very brothel that enslaved her sister in order to rescue more girls and women. Her faith is alive and sustaining. It’s the real deal. It has seen her through many a dark night of seemingly endless stories of brutality and hopelessness.
The stories Hannah shares—about being invisible, dismissed, ashamed, and hopeless—crack open the hearts and minds of many other people. It happens at events around the world as she takes the microphone, steps on stages, and shares about her family and her people. It’s happened in my very own living room.
Recently, Hannah visited Denver. A dear friend of mine had spent the evening listening to Hannah share about her life. Hannah’s story woke up my friend. Suddenly, human trafficking wasn’t a distant cause, but was right there in her midst. It became real, as seen through the eyes and voice of Hannah.
My friend was broken open.
She sobbed on her way home, pounding the steering wheel at the injustice done to Hannah and her community. She was moved by Hannah’s resolute courage and joy despite her years of struggle. After some time of allowing herself to cry and feel angry, she felt a sense of peace wash over her. This peace was followed by a question in her heart: What about the struggle in your life? Why have you never cried or pounded the steering wheel for your own pain, for you own story?
My friend’s personal struggle has been great, but she’d never been emboldened enough to face it, acknowledge it, and weep over it. Until she heard and connected with Hannah.
This is what I mean by finding our stories in the stories of one another. We discover, we heal, we see, we commit, we love.
Hannah is a leader, a COURAGEous warrior of love.
She inspires and awakens us,
adds fuel to a passion for depth and connection that transcends culture,
which shifts how we see our part in the world.
She has ignited not only the women of Nepal,
but countless others
with her passion to set the world ablaze with hope.
Today, Hannah is free,
dancing her way through life,
twirling around the world,
sharing stories and inviting us to join her as sisters and brothers,
to flood the dark places in the world with light, together.