Girls from Nepal are sold, sometimes before they're born, to a life of prostitution in India for as little as US$3 dollars.

That was one of the grim realities Penny and Jen de Jongh faced when they traveled to Kathmandu in September to volunteer for the Lighthouse Foundation Nepal there.

The mother and daughter duo spent two weeks helping the foundation's ministry look after 504 children.

Lighthouse Foundation Nepal goes into villages and rescues girls before they are sold to brothels in India - as young as 9 years old.

"That was the only way that families could come up with to raise money," Penny de Jongh said.


"Even just for a couple dollars, it was as low as $3," said Jen de Jongh.

"Then once they would go to India, that was it. They wouldn't be able to send any money back to them.

"They were stoked when they got daughters because it meant that they had a little bit of income. Before they had even given birth, they said 'if this is a girl, [she is] going to be sold."

But the foundation has managed to rescue some girls from that fate and they were living in five big hostels, which is where the de Jonghs helped out.

"They [the foundation] go into the village before they are a sellable age and ask the families - 'would you like your girls to come to Kathmandu and have an education?' They go back and visit their families every year but essentially their new family is in Kathmandu," said Penny de Jongh.

"They go to a school, are fed well and they have love, care and a future. They get taught that education is key. After school they can look for what they would like to do for a job."

The pair would help dish up meals of dahl, vege stew and rice at 7am and 6pm daily while also sweeping floors, mopping, cleaning shoes and washing clothes.

They also raised $7500 here, which they took with them to buy new clothes for the children. They were able to buy each girl a full outfit, including new shoes, for as little as NZ$10.


Some of the girls had been rescued after spending time in the Indian brothels and suffered from considerable trauma.

Penny de Jongh, who is trained as a nurse, was able to provide some care.

"One of them was having terrible nightmares because she'd just come out of the brothel," Jen de Jongh said.

"She was having flashbacks.


"[They had] a lot of the kind of gynaecological problems after the brothels," Penny said.

"Some of the days would just be sitting with them ... kind of just holding them and giving them love. Feeding them soup."

Penny de Jongh said it would take between six months to a year of psychological and physical recovery to get to a point where the girls could relax.

For many of the girls there, just hearing about Jen de Jongh's life and work as a cancer researcher at Gillies McIndoe Research Institute was an inspiration to hear and understand a girl could "change the world".

They say they could only get away for two weeks as Penny de Jongh had to come back for work but would like to return to help the foundation once again.

Penny and Jen de Jongh visited Kathmandu in September.
Penny and Jen de Jongh visited Kathmandu in September.