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!
Last month, Asma and her husband Jamil arrived in Mewat, Haryana from West Bengal – over 900 miles away – to work in the area’s brick kiln factories. Returning home only when the factories close during Mewat’s monsoon season, the couple brings their three daughters to labor at their side. Asmina, 8, Jamina, 6, and Jamila, 4 are already well acquainted with the harsh, hot monotony of the brick kilns that they will likely face the rest of their lives.Last year, however, Asma and Jamil took an opportunity to send their two older girls to a school in the nearest village. Every morning, Asmina and Jamina walked away from the sweltering kilns to spend their mornings learning among other youngsters like themselves. The possibility of a life beyond the factories’ 16-hour days beckoned, until one day Jamina, then 5, was accosted on her way home from school. A boy from the village attacked her, beating her badly. Asma pulled both girls from school.This year when Lotus Outreach approached Jamil and Asma to enroll their daughters, the couple resisted. Even though a brick kiln is no place for a child to spend her days, sending her unescorted to a school far from their protection was worse. Asma said that although she would love to send her girls back to school, she would only allow them to go if they have safe transportation.Last week, Lotus Outreach officers brought a van to take Asmina and Jamina to the village to enroll. Between threats from higher-caste bullies and trucks and tractors on the small, pot-holed roads the children walk upon, the dangers of walking several kilometers to school are a serious deterrent for parents. To shore up support for these children, Lotus Outreach will be providing van transportation for 100 kids like Asmina and Jamina in a pilot program to begin next week. Your continued support will help us make sure these little ones can finish what they’ve started – the long climb towards self-sufficiency and economic independence.Watch video of Asmina and Jamina riding to school at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m6TdhTEB_I4&feature=channel!You can help us get transportation to more brick kiln children by making an additional donation at http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/endchildlabor/.
“My name is Geeta and I have three children, Madhuri (8), Madhu (6) and Ajit (5). All three are now going to Malhokhra Primary School in Mewat, India. My family migrated here from Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh to Malokhra village in Hathin to work at local brick kilns, as we do not get regular work at home.
We all work more than 16 hours every day to earn two meals for the family. Lotus Outreach recently motivated us to send our children to local schools and they provided uniforms, shoes, school bags, etc. We sent Madhuri and Madhu (plus my niece) to school reluctantly, as it may lead to loss of earnings because we now have fewer hands making bricks, but the children were excited by the gifts and insisted that they be allowed to enroll.
My five year-old son Ajit is now accompanying his siblings to school even though he is not enrolled. I am told that he can be enrolled next year when he will be six. The children are very happy to go to school and don’t mind walking more than one kilometer to get there. The teachers are also good and our children are learning good things.
My whole family is very happy that we decided to send the children to school. My husband says that we are earning a little less but we are investing in our children in the long-term. Once educated, our children will become an asset for us and not a liability. Maybe my children will get good education and learn skills which can help them get work at their home town so they don’t have to migrate like we do.
We are sometimes worried about our children as they are crossing a busy road to reach school. The children are also going alone. I raised this concern with people from Lotus Outreach and they suggested that one person from the brick kiln accompany the children to drop them off at school. There are about 30 children from nine families going to school from our brick kiln and one father/mother can accompany the children on a rotation basis. We will discuss this with the nine families and will do what is required for the safety of our children.
We go back to our native place during monsoons as the brick kilns are closed during this season and when we come back, we generally go to a different brick kiln for work and this can create a problem for our children. This time we have decided that we will not shift the brick kiln so that our children are not forced to drop out of school.”
We have included a link to a video clip showing these children proudly donning their new uniforms and backpacks and leaving the kilns to attend school for the first time in their lives. Madhuri in particular has taken a lot of interest in his studies and recently told Lotus Outreach, “I want to stay in school rather than go home to my native village during the monsoon season. Please ask my parents not to leave this place so I can continue attending! I like my teachers and love playing with the other children at school".
We thank you for your continued support, which allows us to keep over 700 Indian child laborers just like these in school!
Please find a brief overview of project activities in 2009. We will also continue to provide scholarship support to these 715 kids, so please consider making a donation again in 2010!
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