Tag Archives: India

Leaving India and Sri Lanka

After spending two weeks visiting eleven of our affiliated projects in India and Sri Lanka, knowing that the St. Mary’s Girls’ Hostel in Khammam was the last home I would be seeing on my trip left me with a bittersweet feeling. India and Sri Lanka are both full of beauty, diverse cultures, and wonderful people who face extreme hardship every day. Sri Lanka has suffered greatly from natural disasters and decades of civil war; India suffers from overpopulation and dire poverty caused by gender inequality and disparities in income.

Despite how difficult it was to see so many people living in desperate conditions there, I had grown fond of both countries. I learned so much about what our amazing volunteer coordinators are doing to educate our sponsored children, and to give them a better chance at living successful lives.

A home for the disabled

The St. Mary’s Girls’ Hostel is located in South India in the rice-producing state of Telangana. The Church of South India opened the hostel in the small city of Khammam in 1980 to address the poverty that working-class families in the community faced. The thousands of field workers who plant and harvest rice are paid so little that they live in a state of continuous economic struggle. When the rice crops fail, as they often do during and after periods of drought or flooding, the situation for workers and their families becomes even more desperate. Even in the best of times, the rice workers are often unable to afford to send their children to school.

It was great to see Mr. Rao take so much initiative to provide skill training for the girls so that they will have better employment opportunities later in life.

When we arrived at the home, we were greeted by our Volunteer Coordinator, Mr. Rao, who explained to us that St. Mary’s was once a home for the physically disabled, including blind and deaf students. Unlike so much of India and the developing world, the home was built to accommodate people in wheelchairs. The matron of St. Mary’s, who is wheelchair-bound herself, has no difficulty navigating the walkways between the girls’ dorms, the kitchen, and the recreation rooms, thanks to the original design of the home.

As he showed us around the buildings, Mr. Rao told us that not only do the girls go to school every day, but they also are learning to make bracelets, books, and brooms – all of which are sold to the community to generate additional income to support the home and the girls. Additionally, the home offers computer and clothes-making classes and training for older girls and women who do not live there. In total, there are 27 staff members who teach all of the courses offered, which I thought was quite impressive. It was great to see Mr. Rao take so much initiative to provide skill training for the girls so that they will have better employment opportunities later in life.

Always in need of more funds

The home itself is a lovely facility – the grounds are full of lush, green tropical plants, and there is plenty of room for the girls to play. The hallways are covered with large, colorful pictures and posters of the special people, both Indians and foreigners alike, who have helped fund the work of the St. Mary’s Girls’ Hostel over the years – all of which contributed to the bright and festive atmosphere at the home.

Of the 47 girls between the ages of six and nineteen who are living in the home, forty of them are currently sponsored. Mr. Rao said that there is room for additional children, but they don’t currently have funding to enroll more young women. I realized then, one day before I was to return home, that I had heard this from each of our projects in Sri Lanka and India over the past couple of weeks – I was told by each and every one of them that they could reach even more kids with additional funding.

It was hard to hear that there are children missing out on going to school because of money – something we don’t worry about as much in the United States; but instead of focusing on the negative in my last few hours in this unique part of the world, I thought about how grateful I am for our sponsors, who send thousands of children around the globe to school every year, because they believe as much as we at Children Incorporated do that every child deserves an education.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN INDIA or SRI LANKA?

You can sponsor a child in India or Sri Lanka in one of three ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members; email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org; or go online to our donation portal, create an account, and search for a child in India or Sri Lanka that is available for sponsorship.

Educating a Nation

It is an unfortunate reality that even in modern times, girls have fewer opportunities than boys when it comes to receiving an education. Girls all over the world face discrimination within their cultures. They are typically seen as unequal to boys, and there is therefore an absence of emphasis on educating them. Barriers such as early marriage, low social status, chores and responsibilities, unsafe schools, and a lack of sanitation prevent young girls from learning, and from getting jobs that generate a steady income. Women without an education can’t educate their own children or other family members, either, which keeps entire families and countries living in a cycle of poverty.

“If we educate a boy, we educate one person. If we educate a girl, we educate a family – and a whole nation.”

– African proverb

Girls are the priority

 This is particularly true in India, where girls’ education isn’t seen as valuable in comparison to boys’, especially as young women age. Many girls start out attending primary school along with boys their ages, but they are expected to drop out to help their mothers care for younger siblings, or to get married and take care of their own families. This is not the case, however, at the St. Paul’s Home for Girls in Paloncha, India, where girls’ education is the priority.

The St. Paul’s Home for Girls is located in a small industrial town in the south Indian state of Telangana. Since the 1970s, Paloncha has seen a population explosion due to a rise in industry there, which includes the construction of a thermal power station. The town saw its population jump to over 200,000 people; and because of this rapid growth, many people from surrounding rural communities rushed into Paloncha in search of jobs that were never found. The result has been extreme overpopulation, and a serious lack of housing, sanitation, medical care, and schools.

Illnesses and poverty have caused many children to become malnourished and neglected. Knowing that girls tend to fare less well than boys when it comes to getting an education in India, the Church of South India established the St. Paul’s Home for Girls. Thanks to our contributors, 62 girls are currently enrolled in our program, and are receiving an education.

A happy home

Luis Bourdet, our Director of International Programs, and I arrived at the home to visit with the children in our program, as well as with our Volunteer Coordinator, Mrs. Samson, who greeted us warmly, along with her husband. Mrs. Samson is not only in charge of the Children Incorporated sponsorship program there, but she is also the matron of the home. She and her husband live in a small house on the property with their two children, and she explained to us that she loves spending a lot of time with girls after school and on the weekends to ensure they feel supported and cared for while living at the home.

As a result of her dedication to the girls, she feels that the girls are very happy in the home – and based on what I saw there, I agree. As we spoke, it was a lively scene behind us as the girls ran around the courtyard, laughing and playing; and it was apparent they were having a great time together.

As we toured the facility, I couldn’t help but notice that this was one of the nicest projects Luis and I had visited on this trip to India. The buildings are well-maintained and freshly painted. The bathrooms are brand new, with tile floors and wide sinks. The girls’ dorm, which was built with funds from Children Incorporated more than ten years ago, remains in great shape, without cracks in the walls or leaks in the roof.

Without support from their sponsors, many of the girls would never get an education in life.

Mrs. Samson tells us that the girls come from local families that are too poor to feed their children, or to send them to school. She continued, saying that at the home, the girls are provided with more than just food, shelter, and an education; they also receive guidance and care. Without support from their sponsors, many of the girls would never get an education in life.

A symbol of progress

After our tour, I spoke with the girls in the courtyard while Mrs. Samson helped Luis plant a symbolic fruit tree at the center of the grounds of the home, among other small plants and flowers, in remembrance of our visit, and as a way to say thanks for all that Children Incorporated does to help these girls get educated. It was a sweet gesture, and an appropriate one as well; just as the fruit tree will grow bigger and stronger over the years, these young women’s knowledge will flourish in the safety and security of the St. Paul’s Home for Girls. Thankfully, they have been given the important opportunity they deserve to be educated, which shows progress in closing the achievement gap between boys and girls in India.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN INDIA?

You can sponsor a child in India in one of three ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members; email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org; or go online to our donation portal, create an account, and search for a child in India that is available for sponsorship.

Getting Clean Water Flowing

A few months ago, we reported on our partnership with the international nonprofit organization Wine To Water, which works to bring clean water solutions to some of the most remote parts of the world. Before Luis Bourdet, our Director of International Programs, and I left for our trip to India in August, I visited the Wine To Water headquarters in Boone, North Carolina, and took a training course on how to use Sawyer water filters, which when used properly, can last for up to ten years.

Children need to be healthy to learn.

A Sawyer water filter provides clean water for up to ten years.

Requiring little maintenance and upkeep, the Sawyer filters were perfect for us to take to India to distribute to our affiliated projects. I could easily fit thirty of them in a suitcase – enough to give three or four to each of our volunteer coordinators in India, so that they could provide clean drinking water for the children in our program, reducing their risk of contracting illnesses such as typhoid or cholera.

Training day

When Luis and I arrived in India, we found that most of our projects, including the Grace Aaron Boarding Home in Bhoorgampahad, had wells on their properties and used groundwater as their source for cleaning and drinking water. In fact, Children Incorporated supporters funded the installation of the well and pump at the Grace Aaron Boarding Home about ten years ago so that the home would have a fresh water source for cooking, cleaning, and bathing. The problem with the groundwater there, however, is that it is not safe to drink, because sewage disposal in the country is ineffective, and wastewater from toilets is fed into the same water system from which well water is pumped.

On our first day in India, four days before we visited the Grace Aaron Boarding Home, where 68 girls in our program live, Luis and I held a training session for all six of our coordinators who work at our affiliated projects in and around Dornakal. I showed them how to properly assemble the Sawyer water filters and how to correctly use them. The filters require two containers – one on which to attach the filter, where the contaminated water is contained, and another for the clean water that comes out of the filter. All of our coordinators were enthusiastic about using the filters, and they were grateful to have them to start using right away at their projects.

Sanitary practices all around

The girls at the Grace Aaron Boarding Home now have clean water, too, which is essential to their well-being.

When we arrived at the Grace Aaron Boarding Home a few days later, our Volunteer Coordinator there, Mrs. Jesintha, had set the filters up in the activity room where the girls practice singing and dancing after school. Now all the girls have access to clean drinking water throughout the day, whenever they want it. As we toured the rest of the home, we saw that the structure had newly-updated bathrooms, which included tile floors and large hand-washing sinks, which are important in good sanitation practice, helping keep the girls healthy so that they can attend school.

On top of receiving nutritious meals every day and having a safe and sanitary place to live, the girls at the Grace Aaron Boarding Home now have clean water, too, which is essential to their well-being. What seemed at first like a small gesture – providing basic, easy-to-use water filters to our projects – I now understand to be a crucial part in providing basic needs to children living in poverty.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN INDIA?

 You can sponsor a child in India in one of three ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members; email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org; or go online to our donation portal, create an account, and search for a child in India that is available for sponsorship.

Keeping Kids Healthy in India

It is difficult to compare India to any other countries where Children Incorporated works. Although a developing country economically, India is still far behind other countries when it comes to providing support for children living in poverty. During my time in India, I could see that the children at our projects, although well cared for, were coming from extremely poor living situations.

Education is the key to children's success

It is important for children to stay healthy so they don’t miss school.

In comparison to other impoverished nations like Kenya and Ethiopia, where the children in our program face similar challenges, of the many noticeable differences that I saw, one that really stood out to me was a lack of access to mosquito nets – an important resource to keep children safe from preventable mosquito-borne illnesses – in India.

The need for protection

While in Kenya and Ethiopia last year, Luis Bourdet, our Director of International Programs, and I visited the homes of some of our sponsored children’s families – homes where there were mosquito nets covering beds to help prevent family members from acquiring diseases such as malaria and dengue. The nets were provided by our Mosquito Net Fund, which purchases hundreds of nets for children in Africa every year. Requested by our volunteer coordinators, the nets are an inexpensive way to help keep the children in our program healthy so that they can attend school every day.

While visiting the Dornakal Girls’ Hostel in India in August, I noticed that there weren’t any mosquito nets over the children’s bunk beds in any of the dorms. When we asked our coordinator if the children ever fell ill from mosquito-borne diseases, she replied that they did sometimes suffer from dengue. I realized then just how much our projects in India were struggling in comparison to our projects in Africa.

Unfortunately, with all the concerns our coordinator has with regard to providing for the children she serves, and making do with very little funding outside of the support she receives from Children Incorporated, she hadn’t thought to mention a need for mosquito nets.

It is crucial for all the girls to stay healthy, so that the older girls can graduate and make better lives for themselves, and the younger girls can be well enough to go to school – and move on to get a higher education themselves.

Mosquito nets for everyone

Children Incorporated has been affiliated with the Dornakal Girls’ Hostel since 1982. 63 girls live in the home permanently, and 59 of them are in our program. Only a short walk from the bishop’s home, the hostel is located on the Dornakal Diocese Compound. The age range of the girls is wide – the youngest are in kindergarten, and the oldest are taking college-level courses, which I found to be wonderfully surprising.

At most homes, when teens finish high school or when they turn eighteen, they have to leave the home to make room for younger children, and they no longer receive support. Instead, at the Dornakal Girls’ Hostel, youth are encouraged to work hard to obtain their degrees before leaving, which gives them the advantage of being more prepared for the job market when they move out and are on their own for the first time in their lives.

I was happy to see the young women at the Dornakal Girls’ Hostel receive support through college; and it made me grateful to know our sponsors are a big part of that. I appreciated having had the opportunity to visit these dorms, and having had the chance to ask about mosquito nets, specifically.

We will now start sending support from our Mosquito Net Fund to this hostel, as well as to our other affiliated projects in India, as we have already been doing for our projects in Africa. It is crucial for all the girls to stay healthy, so that the older girls can graduate and make better lives for themselves, and the younger girls can be well enough to go to school – and move on to get a higher education themselves.

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HOW DO I CONTRIBUTE TO THE MOSQUITO NET FUND?

You can contribute to our Mosquito Net Fund in one of three ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members; email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org; or go online to our donation portal, create an account, and donate to our Mosquito Net Fund.

The Advantages of Fluency in English

Through my work with Children Incorporated, I have become accustomed to not always speaking the same language as our sponsored children. The language barrier doesn’t keep me from doing my job of reporting on the burden of poverty that they face in their lives, however, because what they can’t communicate with me, I can see for myself at their homes, schools, and in their communities. I hear stories from our volunteer coordinators about the kids’ families’ daily struggles. It wasn’t until I traveled to India in August, though, that it occurred to me just how important it can be for children to learn English in school.

Education is the key to success

Boys at the English Medium School and Hostel are learning English starting at a young age.

On our second day in Dornakal, a small town located in the eastern region of the state of Telangana, Luis Bourdet, our Director of International Programs, and I visited the English Medium School and Hostel. When I first heard the name English Medium, I was curious about it, because I wasn’t exactly sure what it meant. Many of our projects are named after recognizable locations or people; just the day before, for example, we visited the J. Calvitt Clarke Home, named after our founder’s father. I asked Luis about the origins of the English Medium name; he explained that English medium describes a type of education system in which English, rather than a regional language, is the primary medium of instruction.

A language of opportunity

Fluency in English can be incredibly important because it can lead to more opportunities in life, especially for our sponsored children, who already face a great deal of adversity, coming from poor families.

Although English is not the most spoken language in the world (Mandarin comes in at number one, followed by Spanish), it is an official language in a large number of countries, and it is estimated that more than one billion people use English to communicate on a regular basis. It is the most widely-used common language for communication among peoples of differing nationalities. Even beyond conversational usage, fluency in English can be incredibly important because it can lead to more opportunities in life, especially for our sponsored children, who already face a great deal of adversity,
coming from poor families.

The United States a primary leader in the worlds of technical innovation and economic development, and English is the language most often employed in both of these fields. English is also one of the principal languages featured in the realm of science – and approximately fifty percent of content on the internet is in English. When a child learns English at a young age, he or she may have better job prospects as an adult, which can lead to an increased standard of living. Also, if impoverished parents were given the opportunity to learn English and teach it to their kids, their children would be better-equipped to compete in the global workforce, and therefore help break the cycle of poverty.

Education in India is important

Mr. Franklin, our Volunteer Coordinator, stands with a former sponsored child near the English Medium Hostel.

I thought about the Indian children enrolled in our program who are not being taught English in school now, and who might not start to learn it until later in life, particularly if they wish to pursue a higher education. I considered how that could possibly keep them from being able to successfully compete for employment in the future. Not all schools in India are of the English medium variety because, in part, they are more expensive to run, as salaries are higher for those who speak English, including teachers – which continues the unfortunate cycle of the importance of learning English paired with not enough opportunity to do so.

English medium on the rise

Mr. Franklin, our Volunteer Coordinator at the English Medium Hostel, an energetic middle-aged man with curly white hair, showed us around the home when we arrived. The building itself is two stories high; the boys’ dorm is on the second floor, and the study room and kitchen are on the first. All of the 39 boys that live at the home, who range in age from five to seventeen years, are enrolled in our program, and are benefiting greatly from sponsorship: not only do they have the opportunity to attend school, but also to learn English, which can give them an advantage in life.

When we spoke with Mr. Franklin about the English Medium School that the boys attend, he explained that gaining admission into this academically-challenging school is an achievement; he maintains a strict schedule at the home so that the children have plenty of time to study in both the mornings and afternoons.I asked if he thought that all of the 440 million children in India might ever be able to have the chance to go to English medium schools. He told me that the schools are gaining popularity throughout the country as urban middle-class Indians who have recognized that English is a global language are sending their children to English medium schools, increasing the demand for them. Additionally, he continued, many families living in poverty are sending their children to English medium schools due to the poor quality of education in government-run schools where only native languages are taught. I am hopeful for all the children in India that this trend will continue so that they all have the knowledge of the language they need to get ahead.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN INDIA?

You can sponsor a child in India in one of three ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members; email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org; or go online to our donation portal, create an account, and search for a child in India that is available for sponsorship.

Our Founder’s Father, Honored in India

After spending a long day visiting two projects outside of Hyderabad, Luis Bourdet, our Director of International Programs, and I prepared to travel even further into India’s rural landscape to a small town called Dornakal, in the state of Telangana, where we would be visiting six more homes. Before we left, Luis had explained to me that our projects in Dornakal are nestled in a cathedral compound run by the Diocese of Dornakal, which is a sector of the Church of South India, the largest Protestant denomination in the country.

We were picked up early in the morning by a young priest, Reverend Pratap, with whom Luis had worked on his last trip to India three years prior. A few hours later, when we arrived at the Dornakal Diocese Compound, we were greeted at the bishop’s home by the bishop himself, Reverend Doctor Prasada Rao, and our volunteer coordinators, as well as many of our sponsored children.

The boys enjoy three nutritious meals a day together at the home.

Three of our affiliated projects, established more than thirty years ago by our founder, Mrs. Jeanne Clarke Wood, are in walking distance to one another, within the walls of the compound. As Luis and I met with the bishop and our coordinators, we were looking very forward to visiting each project over the course of the next three days. As Luis and I met with the bishop and our coordinators, we were looking very forward to visiting each project over the course of the next three days.

In remembrance of J. Calvitt Clarke

After the coordinators left, we sat down to lunch with the bishop. Reverend Doctor Prasada Rao has been affiliated with the Diocese of Dornakal for three years, and he explained to us that in that time, he has seen the cost of food and boarding for the children rise; but unfortunately, the Church has not received any additional funding from outside sources. For now, he relies on donations from the congregation and support from Children Incorporated sponsors and donors to ensure that the children have a safe place to live, food to eat, and that they are able to attend school. As I have seen so many times before with our work around the world, without sponsorship, these children would not have the opportunity to go to school.

After eating, Luis and I, along with Reverend Pratap, took a short walk across a large, empty field to the J. Calvitt Clarke Home – named after Mrs. Wood’s father, a Presbyterian Minister who started working with impoverished children in 1938, when he founded China’s Children Fund to aid Chinese children displaced by the Second Sino-Japanese War. Because the mission had expanded to other countries, the name of the organization was changed on February 6, 1951 to Christian Children’s Fund, and then later to ChildFund International, a name which the organization still uses today.

As we approached the home, I thought about how amazing it is that Mrs. Wood had so long ago taken such a great interest in her father’s humanitarian work that she started her own organization. It was special to see Children Incorporated’s history honored in such a way in India. It was in 1964 that Mrs. Wood visited Guatemala for the first time, and witnessed the deprivation of children there. When she returned home, she wanted to do something to help.

Out of her home in Richmond, Virginia, she established Children Incorporated and wrote letters to friends, family, and acquaintances asking for support for the 95 children she had met during her travels. Those children comprised our first affiliated project; and today, Children Incorporated supports over 300 projects in 23 countries. I can’t help but think that Mrs. Wood, who had great admiration for her father, named this project after him as a thank-you for having lead a life of example, so that she herself could go on to do her own work to help hundreds of thousands of children all over the world.

Monkey trouble

When we arrived at the home, Mr. Samuels, our Volunteer Coordinator, was waiting for us. A tall, thin Indian man with a full gray mustache and glasses, Mr. Samuels has been at the J. Calvitt Clarke Home since the 1970s. Today, 34 boys who come from incredibly poor families that cannot afford to take care of them, let alone send them to school, live at the home. Fortunately, all of them are currently enrolled in our program; they attend local schools where they study math, science, social studies, and their regional language, Telugu.

Luis Bourdet and Reverend Pratap greeting boys outside the J. Calvitt Clarke Home

As we toured the home, Luis told me that in the last ten years, Children Incorporated has built a dorm for the boys, as well as purchased cots and mattresses for them to sleep on. The home has a dining hall and study room, and there is a lot of land for the boys to play on in the afternoons. Mr. Samuels told us that there is a small clinic nearby where a nurse treats the children when they fall ill, mostly of illnesses like typhoid, due to a lack of clean drinking water or because of contaminated food.

As we continued talking with Mr. Samuels, we discuss the obstacles he faces as an administrator. He indicated that he is mostly concerned about a lack of funding for improvements to buildings on the compound. Other than the recently-constructed dorm, an undertaking that was facilitated by Children Incorporated supporters, there are cracks in the walls and ceilings of the other buildings on the property, which were built as many as forty years ago.

Mr. Samuels said that he wishes there were funding to enroll more children in the home, too, because the needs of children in and around Dornakal are so great. There are many poor families who make very little money farming, and that cannot afford to feed their children or send them to school. The home has empty beds, but Mr. Samuels doesn’t have the additional money required to fill them.

In an effort to offer a solution to the problem, Luis asked Mr. Samuels why he doesn’t grow food for the children. It was obvious to Luis and I both that there is ample land on the compound property that isn’t being utilized. Mr. Samuels answered with one word: monkeys. Although seemingly harmless to some foreigners, for the locals, monkeys are pests. They roam the compound freely, in large packs, eating everything they find, making it impossible to grow crops or even have fruit trees from which to gather food. Mr. Samuels said that they are only able to grow tea plants, but not enough to sell to generate income.

As we left the project and walked back to the bishop’s home, I watched the mischievous monkeys climb around in the trees, and I thought about how even with the challenges that this project faces today, Mr. Clarke would be so proud of his daughter. I don’t know if he ever visited the J. Calvitt Clarke Home in India, but from what I saw, thanks to the support of our sponsors, donors, and Mr. Samuels, the home is doing amazing work to help poor children in India – children who, without the vision of people like Mr. Clarke and Mrs. Wood, would not otherwise have the opportunity to receive an education.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN INDIA?

You can sponsor a child in India in one of three ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members; email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org; or go online to our donation portal, create an account, and search for a child in India that is available for sponsorship.