Thanks to the marvel of Zoom some 35 members joined together recently for their March meeting. It was a delight for the Laurencekirk members to welcome visitors from Forfar, Kirriemuir, Brechin, Aberdeen St Fittick, Arbroath and Montrose.
In her opening remarks President Frances Wallace commented that it was hard to believe that a year had passed since these clubs were all together face to face just prior to lockdown in 2020.
The speaker for the meeting was Dr Pam Cairns, a retired GP from Carnoustie and a member of Forfar Inner Wheel.
Dr Cairns was brought up on a farm near Lockerbie, before attending University in Edinburgh and graduating in medicine and becoming a GP in Kirkcaldy. Her husband was a pharmacist and both are committed Christians, being elders of the Lowson Memorial Church in Forfar.
In 2004 Pam became involved with the Vine Trust as a volunteer medical director on board a ship in the Peruvian Amazon. This setting inspired her to write her first novel – The Dead Don’t Hurt Us – as she experienced street children sleeping in cemeteries. Her second novel – Trampled Shoots – was published in 2014, also set in the Amazon.
In 2014 she went with a friend to research writing another novel in, this time India. Whilst there she was horrified to see the effects of human trafficking in a brothel in Pune which is a sprawling city with a population of 8 million in the western Indian state of Maharashtra.
Young girls and women are lured from the North of India with the promise of work and money to send home to their poor families. On arrival they are then made to repay the often female Traffikers and discover what their work entails.
As a result in 2015 Dr Cairns established and became a trustee of The Free to Live Trust. The Trust was established to rescue and restore victims of modern slavery and their children, and to raise awareness of modern slavery. Their work is mainly in India.
Whilst in India Pam met a Christian – Seema Waghmode and her husband Shirish. For over twenty five years they have both worked to improve the life of sex workers and their children in Pune.
They rescue the abandoned children of trafficked sex workers – these young women and girls were enslaved in the red-light district of the city of Pune. Research in India has shown that an alarming 81% of the children of Commercial Sex Workers (CSW) remain in the brothels or are left to roam the streets. These children are malnourished, at risk of physical and sexual violence and have no access to education or health care. Boys as well as girls are at risk of being forced into prostitution. The children are ostracised and badly treated by the community and the police due to the stigma of being the children of CSW.
Seema and her husband also helped build a rehabilitation and child development centre for these children in Bori some 80 miles away from the city centre.
The commitment of Seema inspired Pam to fundraise for the project on her return to Scotland. She did this through her membership and associations with Inner Wheel, Soroptomists, Girl Guiding and the Church of Scotland Guild.
The Free to Live Trust were delighted to begin a partnership with the Guild for 2018-21 where they were involved with changing the lives of some of the most exploited women and children in the world. They planned to develop Seema’s Project by starting a lunch programme for children of the red-light district. Also, they hoped to increase the number of children cared for at the Bori Home. They’ve also rescued and rehabilitated some of the trafficked sex workers and provided skills training for the teenagers when they leave the school.
With the Covid Pandemic hitting the world last year, the red- light area of Pune was greatly affected and children and CSWs were left without food and work.
In June of 2020 some children were taken to Bori to quarantine and the home is now at its capacity of 60 children. £10,000 was sent out from the Free to Live Trust last June to support the project.
Seema rescued some sex workers and helped find a safe house for them in Pune where they were trained in jewellery making, as an alternative means of supporting themselves.
The ladies were able to see the success of the project with a story of two boys who had then proceeded to Horticultural College. Part of the provision at Bori ensures that the children are trained in skills such as hairdressing and gardening. They also saw a very happy video from 2019 which had been choreographed by Seema’s daughter and was set in the home in Bori.
Frances Wallace thanked Dr Cairns for her fascinating talk and also the visitors, before the Zoom Meeting went into break out rooms.
Jean Hale from the Forfar Club thanked the Laurencekirk and District Members for the invitation, whilst hoping that next year’s visit might be face to face.
The next meeting will be on Tuesday 13th April and the speaker will be retired vet Mike Robson.