As I travel through India each year to visit our schools, I am so encouraged by the children I meet and the evidence of sponsorship changing their lives. But I am also overwhelmed at the number of street children who are not in our schools and who are at risk on many different levels.
In many cases, Dalit mothers and fathers simply do not have a means of providing safe environments for their children. Sponsorship can provide parents with the help they need to protect their children. Our schools provide education and literacy crucial to bettering their futures and these schools are critical in protecting children. If a child remains at our schools from Kindergarten through Grade 10, that child is protected and cared for, and is much less likely to suffer abuse.
Every child sponsored, and every child enrolled at a Good Shepherd School, is one less child recorded in the statistics of children at risk.
The new school year is beginning in India, and we are building a new school in northern India. Both in this northern village, and others like it, hundreds of children are waiting to be rescued from a life of misery.
We can change their future—one child at a time.
With great appreciation,
In rural Indian villages like Sivikasi, too many Dalit children are forced to labour long hours. But when a Good Shepherd School roots itself in the community, people like you have the opportunity to provide freedom through education. Below are two stories of two children living in Sivikasi. One is attending a Good Shepherd School, and one is not. Read on to find out for yourself the difference an education can make.
For the past eight years, Manjula has woken up at 5:00 a.m. and walked to the matchstick factory where she works long hours in appalling, hazardous conditions. She works hard for fear of the beatings and she returns home with only a few cents for her work. What makes this even more horrific is that Manjula is only 12 years old.
Sadly, Manjula’s situation is a common story in Sivikasi—her hometown. Of the 260,000 people that live in Sivikasi, about 50,000 are children who work in local factories. Dalit families migrate to the region to find work at the factories, but they often end up facing financial hardship and borrowing money from factory owners. The factory owners then charge exorbitant interest rates that are virtually impossible to repay—leaving these families with little choice but to send their children to work. The degrading working conditions that child labourers experience takes a toll on their physical and emotional development and leaves children like Manjula with little hope for the future.
Gopinath would have faced this same fate as Manjula if it weren’t for the Good Shepherd School in Sivikasi. When Gopinath’s father passed away suddenly, his illiterate mother was left with the responsibility of providing for the family. She took a job at the local fireworks factory as soon as she could. There, she earns very little for dangerous and difficult work and her income is not enough to provide for Gopinath’s needs. “It is only due to poverty that I am doing this work,” she says.
However, because Gopinath attends a Good Shepherd School, he is able to stay in school and receive a quality, English education—without adding to his mother’s financial burden. Today, instead of working with Manjula and the thousands of other child labourers, he is a diligent student with a dream of becoming a police officer.
Gopinath’s mother is especially thankful that he does not have to work at the factory with her. With tears in her eyes she tells us, “This school has been a candle, the source of light for my son. I will always be grateful to this school.”
With an estimated 15 million children engaged in hazardous occupations, India has the world’s largest number of child labourers. As untouchables and social outcastes, Dalit children are particularly vulnerable to bonded labour and human trafficking. Young children can be found working in factories, rock quarries, as domestic servants, and even in sexual slavery.
Education is one of the most effective tools for helping children at risk find hope for the future. At our Good Shepherd Schools, every child has the freedom to learn in a safe environment. Often, we meet students who would have been trafficked or sent to work were it not for our school. Jyothi was one of those students.
Jyothi loved going to school, but her grandfather did not see the point in educating a girl. He pulled her out of school to stay home and watch her younger brother. He even threatened to sell her into domestic servitude.
Jyothi ran away to the slums, where one of our staff happened to find her. Recognizing that she was a child at risk, she helped Jyothi find a place in our shelter for girls, and enrolled her at our Good Shepherd School.
After only seven months, Jyothi was already ranked at the top of her class with a dream of becoming a doctor. Four years later, Jyothi graduated with distinction and now attends the local university where she is preparing to become a doctor. Jyothi’s story is just one example of how Good Shepherd Schools are helping Dalit children work towards a better future.
Would you consider giving a special one-time gift today to continue bringing freedom to the Dalits—or even commit to sponsoring a child’s education? Your generosity is what makes it possible for so many Dalit children, families and communities to experience freedom through education!