Few have ever visited a Red Light District, let alone met the love of their life within one. Abhay and Hoinu are not the average couple, though, so their story is fittingly extraordinary.
Nepalese-born Abhay and Indian-born Hoinu had hearts to serve some of the world's most exploited communities. Despite the fact that there is no shortage of marginalized communities among which to work, fate brought this young couple together in 2002 while they were working separately to reach out to those trapped in one of India's Red Light Districts. Equally impassioned about their work and one another, they were married that same year.
Neither an indulgent nor relaxing honeymoon ensued. Instead, a strong calling to "reach the unreached, to touch the untouchable, [and] to bring hope to the hopeless and home to the homeless." Their deep faith and devotion to restoration contributed to their belief that they could "light a candle, or curse the darkness." Refusing to make space for the darkness, the pair founded Manna Prayer House in 2008 after sufficient fieldwork and fundraising.
Manna Prayer House is located in one of Mumbai, India's Red Light Districts. It consists of two small and humble spaces assisting victims of trafficking, as well as their traffickers (a testament to the organization's grace). The size of the facilities pales in comparison to the immeasurable outflow of hope that Manna represents. Manna's two existing centers originally operated as brothels, but like its guests, have been transformed.
The larger of the two spaces is brightly lit with wall-sized posters of Disney characters and a Nepalese landscape. Torn out pages from coloring books decorated by the District's children punctuate the remaining wall space. This now daycare center doubles as a place where women can pray together, eat, and participate in classes- often alongside their children. The same pipe that once held a curtain separating the women from their children during "working hours" now often has children "dangling from [it] as a makeshift jungle gym"--a stark contrast.
Abhay and Hoinu also run a second facility not far from the daycare. A bit off the main walkway of the District, this space acts as a temporary shelter and a training room for Manna's jewelry-making project. TO THE MARKET picked up one-of-a-kind sequined cloth bracelets, turquoise bracelet and earring sets, and brightly colored wooden beaded necklaces. The jewelry generates a source of small income for Manna, but more importantly, it demonstrates an alternative path for the women unable to leave their entrapment due to financial reasons.
The couple envisions a time in which their jewelry making initiative can grow into a sustainable alternative livelihood for both the victims and traffickers, alike. Until then, however, Abhay and Hoinu plan to continue changing the hearts of the traffickers and the lives of the victims, serving as surrogate shepherds along the way. Inspiring, humbling, and praiseworthy, their life commitment to humanity is the true love story.
To learn more and contribute to their cause, click here.