This post is the third in a series about our church community’s recent trip to India in partnership with Justice Ventures International.

I’m not sure if was the heat/humidity double-punch combo, the growing realization that injustice permeated so many levels of culture around us or, perhaps, the jetlag playing catch-up with me, but my first thought when arriving in Kolkata was, Can we go back to Chennai?

While Chennai is a massive city in its own right, the humanity stacked upon itself throughout Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta) can make it seem like a small town in comparison.

In Business for Freedom

Our team had the privilege of working with Freeset for a couple of days while in Kolkata.

Freeset, located in the infamous Sonagachi red-light district, is an amazing business that combats one of the root causes of sex trafficking — the financial incentive that causes traffickers to force, deceive, or otherwise coerce girls and women into the sex trade — by providing legitimate employment to women trapped in the sex trade in Kolkata.

This year, Freeset is celebrating ten years of business. I love the heart of the women who work there: “We want our company to grow so more girls can find freedom.”

Incarnate Hope

To say that my heart was heavy throughout my time in India is like throwing coins at oncoming train in hopes of stopping it. However, the amazing people of Freeset, both staff and the women who work there, embody hope with joy, tenacity, and kindness.

The people of Freeset understand their community in a way only those who truly love their neighbors can. A few examples of their deep insight into their neighborhood:

  • Holistic training: When women are being trained to work at Freeset, they learn more than how to make bags and t-shirts. Because they have been denied opportunities for education throughout their lives, the women must learn basic math skills. For many of them, the money they earn will be the first that belongs to them — and they need to be able to shop and get correct change at the market, for example. The women learn to sign their names (as on these beautiful t-shirts) for the first time.
  • One building at a time: We were surprised to find out that many of the women, once employed at Freeset, continue to live in the very brothels in which they were trapped in the sex trade. While it may seem counterintuitive, if all the women of Freeset left their buildings, their spots would be filled immediately with newly trafficked girls and women. Instead, these women become a sort of conspiracy for good one building at a time, encouraging their friends to leave the sex trade and work at Freeset.

Before hopping onto the rope swing herself, Bora (one the talented photographers who was part of our team) took this beautiful photograph. To me, it captures the light, color, and joy Freeset brings to their neighborhood. Join in the work of freedom, justice, and restoration by purchasing her work at Photo4Life

Roll Up Your Sleeves

During one of our meetings, a team member shared how he was happy to roll up his sleeves and get his hands dirty (and he seriously worked hard — squeezing into a barely ventilated water tank on the roof of the building to help empty it by hand and locate a leak in it, among other labor-intensive tasks) because that’s what he felt Jesus would have done there. I’d say that Jesus was very much present there, in my friend’s sweat, hard work, and love.

They’re far too humble to categorize themselves as such, but the heroic women and men of Freeset bring to life what Jesus says about genuine love, laying down our lives for others.

The sacrificial love of Jesus — embodied through His people — has the power to transform. One of my most powerful memories was being able to join one of the morning devotions at Freeset, closing my eyes, and listening to the women singing hymns in Bengali — freedom songs rising up to our God who has not given up on the world.


You can learn more about the amazing work of Freeset in this video below: