The monsoon season is coming to a close in India, and poor migrant families from neighboring states have started their long treks in search of work in Mewat’s many brick kilns. Just these past few weeks, the Child Laborers Scholarship project has successfully enrolled 150 new arrivals into the program, the vast majority of whom will be attending school for the first time in their lives. This brings the total number of children currently being served by the program up to 248, with figures expected to rise in the months ahead.Twelve year-old Muskan is one it these new students. Her family is landless and uneducated, with little economic opportunity in their home village. Though Muskan had never attended a day of school in her life, she longed for the opportunity to become educated and courageously lobbied her parents to allow her to join the program. Her parents initially ignored her pleas, arguing that they depend on her brick-making to help feed the family. Like many Indian families—particularly given the recent epidemic of high profile rape cases—Muskan’s parents are also fearful of what might happen to her if she is alone in a public place. Lotus Outreach and the owner of the brick kiln not only informed Muskan’s parents of the punishments they could face for violating India’s child labor laws, but assured them that Lotus Outreach is a well-established and respected organization in Mewat, and Muskan would be perfectly safe riding the bus with her peers. In fact, Lotus Outreach spent a considerable amount of time talking to the families at all Mewat’s brick kilns about India’s 2009 Right to Education Act which guarantees free and compulsory education to all children between the ages of 6 and 14, regardless of their caste, age, state of origin or the time of year. For many of these families, these information sharing sessions are the first time that they will come to understand education as both a basic right and an essential catalyst for human development.Muskan will be the first child in the history of her family to attend school, and her 28 year-old brother Sunil shares her pride in knowing that she will have a better future once educated—something he unfortunately was never given a chance at. Twenty-two year-old Priti is likewise happy that her little brother, eight year-old Satish, will be given an opportunity denied to her. “I feel bad when I see girls of my age working as teachers while I spend 18 hours every day making bricks for only a small wage,” she shares. “But I am very happy to have at least someone in my family who will be able to attend school.” Both cases demonstrate that even a small intervention has the potential to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty. For Muskan and Satish, the annual cost of basic supplies and a ride to and from school is just $60 a year.We thank you for helping Lotus Outreach bring the gift of education to these children, and we look forward to watching them grow into capable, compassionate and educated young adults in the years ahead.
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