TWU student launches art non-profit to help enslaved women and girls in India

Studying gender inequality has led a political science student at 
Trinity Western University
 to found a non-profit that uses art to help rescue enslaved women and girls.

David Punnamannil came to TWU with a personal passion for people in India who have been victims of human trafficking. A course in international politics at TWU turned his passion into a vision: After studying gender inequality in India, he knew he had to go there—specifically to help women and girls in sexual slavery.

In the spring of 2014, Punnamannil joined a team that rescued four women who had spent most of their lives drugged and imprisoned in a brothel, and brought them to a detox centre. It was Dave’s job to sit with 26-year-old Sunitha and keep her safe. The time with her was life-changing. “A lot of things happened in my life,” he said. “She probably helped me heal more than I helped her heal.”

She also inspired Punnamannil to do something that would make an ongoing difference.

On February 12, 2016, Dave and a team of fellow TWU students launched Lighthouse Voyage to help more women like Sunitha. They raised almost $500 in donations on opening night, and they’re selling art donated by student artists at TWU to fund their work. Currently, they’re partnering with established organizations called Believers Active Mission and Mercy Missions who work in India and Nepal, but they plan to eventually set up their own safe houses for rescued women and girls. 

Punnamannil was encouraged by the launch event turnout as well as the number of people who have said they want to work with him, including artists and two young TWU students who will be cycling from Belgium to India this summer to raise funds for the organization.

“It’s not just me. It’s so many people involved, and it’s just the most beautiful thing,” he said. “When people do donate and gather along with us, I want them to feel like they are a huge part of the organization. I want them to feel like it’s a big family.”



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