Thursday, the day of Diwali, as I waited to pick up my son at school, I scrolled through Facebook and couldn’t help but smile at all the lovely Diwali posts. Pictures of people dressed in their Indian finery and celebrating this holiday left me nostalgic. I moved from my hometown in New Jersey several years ago and because of time and distance, this has been one of the few Diwalis I have not been able to celebrate with my extended family and close friends.

But, in a testament to the universality of the spirit of Diwali, I was able to celebrate it in Florida with many new friends. It is this celebration of the victory of the forces of light – righteousness, knowledge and hope – over the forces of darkness – evil, ignorance and despair – that unites millions of people worldwide. Though it is a Hindu holiday, it transcends religion and is now shared by people of many faiths and creeds.

An integral part of the Diwali festival is the lighting of diyas, or oil lamps. During Diwali, you will see millions of these beautiful diyas inside and outside of peoples’ homes. It’s something that even my young children can identify as a distinct hallmark of the occasion, and it is a simple yet powerful symbol of our common humanity. The ceremony was taught to me by my parents, and I am grateful that I can
now pass it on to my children.

Light is significant in Hinduism as it represents righteousness and compassion. The diyas are lit and kept burning throughout the night to ward off wickedness from the world, and to illuminate the path to peace and prosperity.

It is this symbol of virtuousness and hope that resonated so deeply with jewelry designer, Lisa Salzer-Wiles, when she visited shelters for survivors of human trafficking in India. When she asked the young girls to sketch things that were meaningful to them, the figure of the diya kept turning up. With this inspiration, she designed a bracelet that was not only intended to serve as a means for change but also as a symbol of what Empower Her Network hopes to accomplish.

The diya captures the essence of Empower Her Network’s mission – to be a guiding light for survivors of human trafficking. We dedicate ourselves to these amazing individuals so they can overcome the darkness they have faced and to create a new life of light, hope, and prosperity.

I am overjoyed that this timeless symbol which has helped and inspired so
many people will continue to do so at Empower Her Network.
Chet Gowda, EHN Board Member 
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