Singaporean Josephine Tan’s Touch Nature video clip recently won third prize in the Singapore International Foundation’s Better World Story contest. That caught people’s attention.
Every year, around 10,000 Nepalese girls, most of them between ages nine and 16, are sold to brothels in India. More than 200,000 Nepalese girls are involved in this Indian sex trade.
OM worker Josephine and her husband, Rajnikant Gaikwad, founded Touch Nature to help women who are rescued from the sex industry in Kolkata to start a new life. Touch Nature provides a home for the ladies and trains them in vocational skills in making soap and other products, thus growing their confidence and independence.
When asked why she started the Touch Nature enterprises Josephine said, “God led me to ponder over James 2:16: ‘If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed’, but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?’ So, in His mysterious ways, God led me to start my first compassion enterprise.
“In Kolkata, the Lord showed us that many women were trafficked from Nepal to work in the sex industry there. These women were not living the lives they were meant to live. God then challenged us to be the light for these women in Matthew 5:16: ‘In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.’ Since then, there has been no turning back.”
There are many opportunities for the ladies at Touch Nature to know God. The team has morning devotions, exploring God’s biblical truths together. Many of the ladies come to accept Jesus as their Lord and Saviour during their time together. Others are very open to knowing Him.
Josephine said, “We share the love of God with the ladies. It is this préma or this ‘love’ for the ladies that I keep seeing in my time at Touch Nature. It touches the hearts of the women and gives them renewed courage.”
The ministry is not without its challenges. Doing business in a developing country can be very overwhelming. As Touch Nature tries to be self-sufficient there is a need to earn enough revenue to keep all of the staff employed and constantly boost the business in order to keep the work demand constant.
The staff also carry many other burdens, as most of them came to Kolkata when they were teenagers and have been badly betrayed in their lives. Many of them bear emotional scars, which affect their self-image and their relationships with others. Sometimes, the team is harassed by thugs who have dealings with the sex trade and those who try to extort money from them.
Josephine shared, “Although the team experiences anger, anxiety and fatigue, most of the time, by God’s grace, we are able to overcome these challenges with His help and strength. Overall, in Touch Nature, we are like a big family. We share our problems and struggles. Then we pray for each other and support one another.”
Maiya, a lady rescued from the red-light district of Kolkata and now one of Touch Nature’s staff members, affirmed this community support, “I want to thank Sister Josephine from the bottom of my heart because I have no one to call my own. She has loved me a lot. I wish we’ll be together when we are old. May our vision be fulfilled that many sisters like me can come and work with us.”
For more information about Touch Nature’s work and products, visit www.touchnature.com. Touch Nature is also looking for volunteers to come to Kolkata for an extended period of time to provide training in administrative and accounting skills for the local staff or work with children in teaching English, sharing Bible stories and running activities. If you have an interest and expertise in these areas, please contact your local OM office.