Migrant laborers have begun trickling back to the brick kilns of Mewat, Haryana state, from their homes in the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh. Visiting on October 19, we found the family of Rameshwar and Anguri Devi was among the first to arrive after the kilns' closure for the summer monsoons. We were happy to see that their children Babita, Bijerani, Sangeeta and Shanshee would be riding our bus transportation to school again this year, one grade up from the last time we saw them. Moreover, the Devis hope to find work delivering bricks throughout the region when the monsoons come next summer, allowing them to stay in Mewat year round. If they are successful, there will be no disruption to the children's attendance either at the end of this academic year or at the start of the new one.
Also with the Devis was another migrant family they knew in their home town outside of Agra (the city of the Taj Majal). This year they opted to migrate with the Devis to Mewat to try working in the kilns, and when our bus - funded by YOU - comes to pick up the Devis' children, their son Sanee will go to school for the first time in his life.
GUESS WHAT? WE HAVE EXCITING NEWS!We know you care about Indian children's right to education, so we thought we would tell you about another GlobalGiving project that was recently selected to participate in an exciting competition happening RIGHT NOW!Girls in rural India face enormous challenges when it comes to getting to school. With secondary school located as much as ten kilometers away, they are subject to harrassment or even aggression when walking through unfamiliar villages. This is why we provide safe, chaperoned bus transportation to approximately 100 girls in Mewat, Haryana—the most regressive districts in terms of girls’ education in all of India.Lotus Outreach has been selected to participate in the first ever Girl Effect Challenge. Between now and November 15, we are competing with approximately 50 other organizations around the world to become one of six beneficiaries of the Girl Effect Fund, a collective giving pool that has raised nearly $700,000 to date.By becoming a Girl Effect partner, we will not only receive significant financial support for our Blossom Bus project in 2012, but we will also get critical exposure to Girl Effect fans around the world. Need proof that this will make a difference? The Girl Effect has 17,500 followers on Twitter, 260,000 "likes" on Facebook and nearly 1,000,000 views on YouTube! And it isn't hard to see why the Girl Effect is so popular: watch this video to learn why.WE CAN’T WIN WITHOUT YOUR HELPBetween now and November 15, our Blossom Bus project must recruit as many unique donors as possible. We are asking all of our supporters to give just $10 during this time period to help us win the competition. Every donation raised during this period will not only bring us one step closer to our dream of partnering with Girl Effect, but will ensure adolescent girls in Mewat, India can safely return to school. By providing bus transportation, we will help many of these girls escape childhood marriage and become the first girls to reach high school in the history of their villages!You can make your $10 donation today.HELP US GO GUERRILLAWe know we can do this! You helped Lotus Outreach win a similar challenge in 2009. But we also know how important it is to get our supporters mobilized and engaged. Please tell your friends, family and colleagues about this competition and ask them to pledge their support. Every donation counts so please help us spread the word far and wide through email, Facebook and Twitter!Questions? Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our campaign in Mewat, Haryana has awakened brick kiln laborers as well as teachers and authorities to children’s right to education and the laws that support it. When we started our advocacy four years ago, almost everyone simply ignored the fact that local school-age children were living as laborers. Local schools were happy not to have to deal with the extra work required to instruct them.
The good news for us all is that we have helped hundreds of parents and children develop the habit of attending school in the knowledge that education is the only way out of the ruthless cycle of poverty. Some of these families have been mired for generations in illiteracy and destitution; for some, as long as living memory.
In the current monsoon season the brick-kiln communities at Mewat have a deserted atmosphere, but soon migrating families will return from their home villages where they were tending their own small plots of land, mending flimsy homes, or laboring on farms and construction sites. Community leaders and families remaining at the Mewat’s brick kilns have told us the wonderful news that many of the children who traveled to school on our Brick Kiln Kids bus have continued to attend school over the summer break in their home villages.
We have also been told that many families may not return to Mewat’s kilns, preferring to take up the option of working through a new government rural development scheme. Designed to ensure villagers have sufficient work and are paid a minimum wage, this program will hopefully allow many families to remain in their home communities.
Whatever the outcome, we expect to see many families return to the kilns and in October we will begin transporting as many as 400 of their children as possible to school. We will keep the issue of education for migrant labor on the front burner through our ongoing partnership with national and state level education authorities. Our goal remains to see them become sensitive and proactive in creating strategies to ensure children are identified and brought to school, whether children of migrants or local villagers.
Thank you so much for the support you have shown to this migrant community. In our next report we will be able to tell you how many children have returned to the kilns, and how many are continuing their studies as a result of your contributions.
The family featured in this video migrated to Mewat's brick kilns from the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh, where they typically return each year during the rainy season. This year is different; with five of their eight children attending school regularly thanks to our buses, parents Ram Das and Malma Devi want to stay in Mewat so as not to disrupt this education - and to add literacy to their legacy.
The radiant smile of 10 year-old Brijesh, pictured below, inspires us to keep this transportation in place until we can pressure the local government to provide it instead. Brijesh, four of her siblings, and 400 other brick kiln children spend their days in a classroom rather than under the hot sun because of this program.
While we have many projects designed to keep children in school and out of work, our brick kiln kids illustrate this reality most starkly. This June 12 is World Day Against Child Labor; we hope you will take the time that day to remember the faces and families you see here. Thank you for your continued support of these happy and hopeful children.
Watch our video to meet Brijesh and her family.
Migrant laborer Sukhpal has come to work in the brick kilns of Mewat from Uttar Pradesh for each of the last 12 years. His eldest daughter is married, but two of his younger children accompany him on his annual journey to Mewat. When Lotus Outreach officers approached him about enrolling his children, Sukhpal had mixed feelings. “I was very happy as I felt it was important that my son be educated, but I admit I didn’t want to lose another income,” says Sukhpal. He decided to split the difference by keeping his daughter at work with him. As is all too typical among the rural poor, Sukhpal felt it wise to support his son's education over his daughter's.
A few days after eight year-old Neeraj began taking the Lotus van to school, 12 year-old Kamlesh shyly approached the driver and asked, “Can I also go to school?” Familiar with Lotus Outreach’s mission to provide access to all school-aged children, the driver made our officers aware that Kamlesh had been left behind.
Asked why Kamlesh was still working when she was very keen to go to school, Sukhpal explained that the loss of her income would be very hard on the family. Officer Suraj Kumar impressed upon Sukhpal that educating a daughter was just as important as educating a son, and that Kamlesh would benefit equally, if not more, from formal schooling. Sukhpal agreed to send her.
We later learned that Sukhpal had been scared Lotus Outreach would deny Neeraj the ride to school if he refused to send Kamlesh as well. Although this isn’t true, we’re glad he changed his mind. Several months later, with Kamlesh excelling at her studies, so is Sukhpal. “I’m very happy the Lotus people convinced me to send her, as she’s the only child among the 30-odd families at our brick kiln who can read English,” he boasts. “This is a matter of pride for our whole family.”
The illiterate parents who migrate to work in Mewat's kilns are very happy to have their children enrolled there, since the quality of education is better than in Uttar Pradesh. Yet even when Sukhpal returns home during the brief rainy season, his kids insist on going to school. “The children have become so involved with their studies, they don’t want to miss school even at home!”
The last thing Khatuni expected after migrating from her home state of Assam to work in a brick kiln was to be visited by an NGO with uniforms and school supplies for her children. But last fall when officers from Lotus Outreach did just that, she didn’t hesitate to send her three school-aged kids to local schools in Haryana. When the officers returned this year, however, she refused.Khatuni explains that her children were returning home from school not excited and cheerful, but weary, exhausted and glum. Walking about two kilometers to school was the least of their troubles – the road they walked on was busy with reckless motorists, and the trek exposed the migrant children to discrimination and harassment by local people. As their attendance faltered, teachers also grew impatient and responded with frustration.This year, Khatuni tried to leave her children behind in Assam with her mother-in-law so that they could attend school there, but the elderly woman felt incapable of providing for them. The entire family returned with the intent of working together seven days a week in the local brick kilns. When Lotus Outreach representatives passed through in October with enrollment kits, Khatuni and other brick kiln parents had the same message: We need safe transportation more than school supplies.A few days later, Lotus Outreach returned with a plan. Using vans from another transportation program they began operating earlier in the year, the Blossom Bus, the reps would provide rides for the children of that brick kiln’s 26 families making five trips a day, ten children at a time. Although improvised at the last minute, the program successfully filled a critical gap.In fact, the children are now enjoying their lessons so much that Khatuni’s husband is looking for a way to stay in Haryana during the monsoon season when the brick kilns temporarily close. Most migrants return home during this respite, even though it falls in the middle of the academic year. Now that children are attending school regularly and progressing in their studies, families have a stake in providing continuity. Already, Khatuni’s husband brought his mother to Haryana to tend the house while the children are in school.On December 1, eight vans contracted by Lotus Outreach collected 400 indigent child laborers – the vast majority of whom are the first in their families to receive formal instruction – and delivered them safely to school. Lotus Outreach is happily sponsoring this initiative to shatter the debilitating cycle of poverty among one of the world’s poorest classes, and we thank you for making this possible.
EXCITING NEWS: now you can ‘give the gift of hope’ to our beneficiaries and your loved ones this holiday season!It’s not easy to find original gifts for everyone on your holiday list – until now. GlobalGiving is introducing the Tribute Card this holiday season. When you dedicate a donation to someone, they’ll receive a Tribute Card detailing the difference that’s been made in their name. It’s fast, easy, and perfect for anyone who likes to help the less fortunate. To donate to Lotus Outreach and cover your holiday shopping, follow these steps:
Tribute Card shipping is free now through December 31, and cards purchased by December 20 will still be shipped in time for Christmas. Cards may also be printed directly from the site – perfect for gift exchanges and other last minute shopping!
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