Workshop at the Red Light District Community Centre.

A once-in-a-lifetime co-op experience in India

August 14, 2019

Angela Marion and Jeanne Roux spent their co-op term working at a non-profit organization called Destiny Reflection in Kolkata, India from January to April 2019. 

By Angela Marion

Human trafficking is extremely prevalent with millions of women, men and children being enslaved worldwide. In India, human trafficking is a rampant problem due to the vast majority of the population living below the poverty line. In particular, Kolkata has the largest red-light district in all of India and has become a central destination for forced labour, slavery, organ harvesting, and commercial sexual exploitation.    

For the past three and a half months, I have been working at Destiny, an organization located in Kolkata that works to put an end to human trafficking and slavery through the economic empowerment of women. Destiny offers a safe environment, accommodation, reintegration programs and dignified employment for women who are either victims of sex trafficking or are at high risk of being exploited. The goal is to educate and empower these women to become self-sufficient and ultimately prevent the risk of them being re-trafficked into the trade. Destiny is not only a workplace for these women but it is also their family.

Working from the rooftop.

As an intern, I was responsible for a variety of projects including updating the website/social media, designing a brochure, creating a promotional video, organizing a child trafficking awareness event, developing a two year English curriculum, coordinating with international partners, and creating reports on all the women containing their backstory, health status, time spent at Destiny, and goals for the future. In addition to these projects, Jeanne and I conducted several workshops for the women and children at the Destiny office, the red-light district community centre, and the government shelter. These workshops were on a range of topics such as personal hygiene, menstruation, pregnancy, sexual health, nutrition, and goal setting. Throughout this co-op, we also attended a four day anti-trafficking conference in Thailand where we learned more about the devastating realities of human trafficking.

Views from home.

Not only have I learned many professional skills from this experience, but I have also learned a lot about myself. Being immersed in a new country that has a drastically different culture and with a girl I just met (who is now a lifelong friend) is not always easy but it offers the best opportunity for growth. Living and working in India got me out of my comfort zone and opened my eyes to a world of possibilities. It also made me appreciate everything and everyone in my life and reminded me just how lucky I am.

As my internship comes to an end, I am saddened to say goodbye to the city that has been my home for the past three and a half months. Compared to what I am used to, India is chaotic and loud, but it is also filled with delicious food, exceptional architecture and incredible people. I will miss our wonderful host, Debjani, the housemaid, Tapushi, and all the people in our neighbourhood who greet us every morning with a big smile. Last but not least, I will miss all the brave, resilient and inspiring women and staff at Destiny who have made this an unforgettable experience. I am incredibly grateful to have been able to work for such an amazing organization and I will treasure every moment for the rest of my life.

Read more on Angela and Jeanne's blog >>

Watch the promotional video >>

Learn more about SFU Co-op >>

You can follow more of Angela’s adventures at @angelaamarion and connect with her on LinkedIn.