As you may or may not know, I recently spent just under three weeks in India touring the country by bus with the amazing Dragoman overland travel company. As part of our amazingly detailed and full-on itinerary, we saw many incredible sights, some iconic landmarks and some more off the beaten track destinations. One of these was a half day visit to the Sambhali Trust, just outside of the blue city of Jodhpur. We spent a whole afternoon there at the centre, sat on the floor chatting to the girls about their lives whilst they prepared us a simple meal for lunch, sang and performed for us and painted beautiful Indian henna on our hands and feet.
The centre, set up by the amazing Sambhali Trust charity, acts as an all-important refuge for women who live in the surrounding area. It’s open to all ages – the women we met ranged from the age of about 12 (some of these girls were married) up to late 60s, and every age in between. There were young women with their babies, groups of teenage girls who go to the centre after school or at weekends to hang out with each other in a nice, safe environment and have the chance to actually act their age and be kids. For them, it’s an all-important change from home, where that might mean running the entire household, looking after elderly relatives or bringing up younger siblings, cooking for the family or even going out to work to ensure there is enough money for the whole family to survive.
I have always known how important charities like these are, but actually spending time with these girls and seeing with my own eyes not just what a difference this makes to their lives but actually how life-changing – and in some cases life-saving – the charity is. Some of these girls come from the toughest of backgrounds with little to no family income or amenities to survive and sometimes (and quite commonly) abusive relationships at home. The centre not only offers them refuge and escape, but also provides so many vital opportunities – education, friendship, safety, shelter, or even just the chance to clean and wash. And you can really see the positive effects of it reflected in the bright smiles of all the kids there – the happiness of each and every one of them was just inspiring.
The trust is run by volunteers from the local community. The lovely staff members who work there – themselves also from unprivileged backgrounds – are unpaid and work there because they want to make any difference that they possibly can to others in the same or even worse situations. The Sambhali Trust now also has a little shop in the centre of Jodhpur which we visited a few days later, selling handmade goods all made by the children at the centre. All proceeds from these sales go to the charity of course. This is the link to the website of the trust if you want to donate or just find out more…And if you’re ever travelling through this beautiful part of Rajasthan, be sure to pop in for a visit.