Bridge Year: Thinking IndependentlyWhat my service work in India has taught me
The other day I walked into work with 66 bananas. Why? Because the night before, the team of people I work with at Guria had rescued 66 people from slavery in a brick kiln, and we were hosting them at our office.
I have had a lot of incredible experiences this year in India, but working at Guria—a non-profit that fights human trafficking and commercial sexual exploitation—is hard to top. It has been everything: the hardest part of my experience, the most rewarding, the most frustrating, and the place where I feel most at home.
Guria is less of an organization and more of a family. Ajeet Ji, the founder and director, describes Guria’s approach to fighting human trafficking like raising a child. You don’t look at a child and try to leverage something. You also don’t throw money and projects at a child and yell at it to grow up well so it will impress the donors. You support it from all sides, you listen carefully, you adjust, and you care—a lot. And Guria has never lost the spirit of independent thinking.
This term “thinking independently” is thrown around a lot, but I don’t think I even fully understood what it meant to think independently until meeting Ajeet Ji. It means that you think, you question, you speak out, and you do not waver from what your heart says is right—even if you are completely on your own. Thinking independently also has a lot to do with dreaming: allowing yourself to dream, and never subconsciously limiting yourself to what is usually considered possible.
This is why Guria has such a long list of activities, including : rescue operations, rural village empowerment and non-formal education centers. They don’t care about the number of activities other NGOs are doing, and they have never considered doing something more “reasonable.” Each and every activity on that list has evolved directly from Guria’s 26 years spent integrating into the communities they served, listening attentively, and evolving solutions. The amount of things that Guria does is ridiculous, but when you are working at a place where fighting human trafficking is not just a job but a way of life, anything is possible.