Top US baseball player climbs Mount Kilimanjaro for Indian charity

Top US baseball player climbs Mount Kilimanjaro for Indian charity
An American baseball player scaling an African mountain for an Indian charity might seem an odd way to draw attention to human trafficking.

But that's just what R A Dickey is doing. The Mets pitcher is climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, which peaks at more than 19,000 feet above sea level (and documenting it on Bats, The New York Times' Baseball blog) in part to bring awareness and money to stop sexual slavery thousands of miles away in the gritty lanes of Kamathipura - Mumbai's largest red light district.

About 100,000 to 200,000 women and girls are working in brothels in Mumbai, according to the latest government estimates, which are a decade old. Activists say the number has since reduced to 75,000 to 100,000 in the city.

"As I am the father of two daughters, ages 9 and 8, the thought of my own being subjected to the atrocities that happen every day in the brothels and on the streets of Kamathipura is heartbreaking," Mr. Dickey wrote for the New York Times baseball blog.

The money will be used to build a fully equipped clinic in Kamathipura that would offer health screenings, antiretroviral drugs, and counseling to sex workers.

Since Mr Dickey stepped into the picture in May of 2010, Bombay Teen Challenge has met half its fund-raising goal, said the organization's founder, K K Devaraj.

Bombay Teen Challenge, just over two decades old and staffed by about 150 people, has more than a thousand individuals who support their work through donations and volunteering. Mr Devaraj said that his team provides shelters and homes for about 500 women and children in Mumbai. That includes sex workers, at-risk children and HIV-positive kids.

"We give hope to them," said Mr Devaraj, who said he is inspired by the work of Mother Teresa. Bombay Teen Challenge also distributes fresh food and medicines in impoverished areas outside the red light district.

"When I see a destitute child on the road, I feel like I'm seeing it for the first time in my life, my stomach turns," said Mr Devaraj, adding that not everyone feels that way in India. "How can people 0be so callous?"

His organization also provides a decent burial for women who die in the red light district - a common albeit disturbing occurrence.

Mr Devaraj said he's approached police and government agencies in the past to rescue trafficked girls but the response he gets is that there aren't places to rehabilitate them - a response he finds bewildering.

"If your daughter is there you're not going to wait. You're going to rush in and rescue her, rehabilitate her. You don't wait for a solution before you take them out."

Mr Devaraj said that when Mr. Dickey heard about the plight of sex-trafficked women in Mumbai after mutual friends connected the two men, he immediately offered help.

"He said 'I want to do something about it'."

By climbing an African mountain, with supporters (not just Met fans) rooting for him, Mr. Dickey already seems to have.

Mets fans and others can donate to Bombay Teen Challenge here.

Story First Published: January 07, 2012 00:56 IST

................................ Advertisement ................................

FROM THE WEB
MORE FROM NDTV