There is a new light shining in the darkness of Sonagachi, the largest red light district in Asia (many say the world).  One of our ministry partners just opened the MOST ADORABLE COFFEE SHOP.  This is a very exclusive coffee shop, it is only open to sex workers from Sonagachi; no men, not even women from the community are allowed to enter.  There are comfy couches, AIR CONDITIONING (a commodity in this area), even a napping area up in a loft.

 

Read more about First Cup here:

Freeset: First Cup

Most of these women would never be able to afford coffee or tea from a shop, they would only normally purchase from a tea walla (street vendor).  But this shop’s prices are “suggested donations”, and the women pay what they can.  They have sandwiches, coffee, smoothies, etc on the menu.  But more importantly than the seating or food is my good friend Soma that runs the coffee shop.  I first met Soma at another NGO many years ago.  She and her husband have run a Sunday School class for children that live in Sonagachi.  When the kids in the area see her, they run to her and she freely gives hugs and love to so many.  Running the coffee shop is such a perfect fit for her.  She sits with the women and talks to them about their problems and she offers advice.  Of course leaving the trade is not an option for most of these women right now, so she loves them right where she’s at.

St. Francis of Assisi said “Preach the gospel.  Use words if necessary.”  This coffee shop is the gospel without words.  Soma uses her faithful listening ear and loving attention that she gives to every woman that enters the shop.

There were two parts of our day: the first was with a group of women from the area that have left the trade and are working with our ministry partner.  The second was with the coffee shop ladies.

We began our day with devotions and worship with the ladies.  Then we toured the facility and saw some of the products that they were making.  Of course there were many questions from both sides along the way.  The ladies were so intrigued by Amy’s “gold” hair and they wanted us to teach them a few English words and understand where Texas was.  Is it hot there?  Do you have children?  What is your food like?  We asked them what their favorite part about working there was and many of them said, “happy place”.  It truly is a happy place.  Sidenote: KBC ladies that were at womens retreat last year, this is where your “Abide” bags came from!

Then we had lunch with the team from KBC and our ministry partner at the yummiest hole in the wall Indian restaurant.  Tandoori chicken was shared by all as well as rice and a yummy sauce that I dared not question the ingredients.

We spent the rest of the day in the coffee shop.  We brought several craft projects to do with the ladies.  They come and go throughout the day but as they returned to work they would tell their friends and show them the crafts they had made and then suddenly a new crowd would arrive.  Soma kept the tea hot and we sat with the ladies coloring, making necklaces, and painting hundreds of fingernails.

When the ladies first arrived you could tell they were a bit apprehensive with us.  Those walls were broken down pretty quickly.  Our translators sat with us while we talked, heads down, painting nails and making crafts.  It’s amazing what kinds of stories women will share when their hands are busy and you can’t see their eyes.  It was such a beautiful afternoon.  As the ladies left they asked if we could come back the next day.  Love really is the best bridge.