Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Dickey shocked by squalor in streets

Jays pitcher in India on Christian mission

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R.A. DICKEY said the pictures and literature couldn't have prepared him for the young boy who approached him last week on one of the squalid streets of Mumbai's red-light district.

The boy was maybe three years old, four at best. He had no pants on. His body was covered with open sores.

"He was playing amongst the open sewage and filth with rats as big as dogs. Unsupervised," the Toronto Blue Jays' new knuckleballer said on a conference call Tuesday from India's most populous city. "You see these images and pictures that just don't seem like they should exist. And you hope that it's the only one... but that's what's representative, these lives that just don't have a voice."

The 38-year-old is in Mumbai to work with Bombay Teen Challenge, a Christian organization that has rescued women and children from sex trafficking for the past 23 years.

It's a cause that Dickey says speaks to his own narrative. He wrote about his own sexual abuse suffered as a child in his autobiography Wherever I Wind Up, My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball.

"It's authentic to me because of my past experience, also I have a sentimentality to it because the girls that I've seen first-hand in the streets, these 19-, 20-, 21-year-old girls.

"You have to look beyond that and see at one point they were daughters themselves, and having two daughters... that just for me was so compelling."

He made the trip with his daughters, 11-year-old Gabriel and Lila, who's nine.

"I want to give my children a heart for humanity," Dickey said. "The only way to really do that is to get them outside of the bubble that they live in and expose them in very measured ways to what real life is to a lot of people. They've responded beautifully."

The 2012 NL Cy Young winner said it's been "a roller-coaster" visit from the visceral red-light images of women in doorways and the cages where they keep them where they're first trafficked in.

But he also saw hope.

Dickey and his daughters stayed at Ashagram, a rehabilitation campus outside Mumbai that's home to 300 women and children.

They were the "most hopeful days" of the trip. They played cricket and sang songs with the children, many of whom are HIV positive.

"Those are the miracles, the 300 lives in Ashagram, those are 300 living miracles," Dickey said. "Sure (Gabriel and Lily) heard about the wickedness and the darkness, but they got to actually see the redemption, so their response has been really positive. This is a seminal trip for them."

Dickey, who speaks openly with his daughter's about his own sexual abuse, helped celebrate the opening of a clinic in the midst of Mumbai's red-light district.

He helped pay for the clinic, raising over $100,000 by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro last winter.

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 30, 2013 C8

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