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!
There is really no way to put a value on the education of a child that would have never spent a day in school unless we had helped them to do so. Lotus Outreach would like to share that sense of achievement with the hundreds of donors who contributed to our GlobalGiving challenge last year, putting 715 children of migrant laborers in school.
Hundreds of families have migrated to rural Mewat, Haryana to work up to 18 hour days in the 31 brick kilns that dot the countryside. Although the population is almost entirely illiterate, LO staff found attitudes were overwhelmingly positive towards education, both on the parts of parents and children.
One beneficiary of the GlobalGiving campaign, nine-year old Zarina, has four siblings. None of these children had ever set foot inside a school before LO staff intervened to enroll all five at Malokhra Primary school. “I have always wanted to go, and it hurt me every time I saw children in uniform on their way to school,” said Zarina. “It’s just hard to believe that now I’m the same, and go to school every day in my new uniform with a school bag and books.”
While the biggest impediment to attending school was financial, various factors deterred families from participating. Zarina’s father, Junaid, explained other difficulties. “We would have liked our children to go to school in our home village, but our whole family is here working. There’s no one left at home to look after them, so we felt we had no choice,” he said. “Of course the money was an issue for us. We work long hours to earn enough to survive, but I think we would have felt afraid the local people would oppose any idea of our children mixing with the local children. We just wouldn’t have had the guts to bring any demands before the local people and authorities without the intervention of the LEARN program people.”
LO extends its heartfelt thanks to all who provided us with the resources to forge a new path ahead for these disadvantaged children.
We just added a new project to the GlobalGiving community: http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/nfecambodia/
We invite you to show your support and spread the word about this exciting initiative. With your support, 130 women and girls will receive the education and training they need to escape Cambodia’s commercial sex trade for good.
Please download the attached newsletter to read an article on the latest developments in the scholarship program for child laborers in Mewat (page 2).
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Lotus Outreach International
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