During the online event
Hello everyone! My name is Yuka Iwatsuki and I am the President of ACE. Thank you so much for your support of our project.
In this issue, I would like to report on my visit to our project site in India.
June 12th is World Day Against Child Labour!
On June 12, 2023, I visited the Gadwal project site in the district of Telangana. The main purpose of this visit was to connect the project site in India to our supporters in Japan. We hoped to deliver the voices of the people in India, as well as to visit in-person the site and hear from the people involved.
The visit coincided with the Governor of Telangana’s visit to the Gadwal district, and we were worried about possible complications, but, fortunately, we managed to arrive safely and were warmly welcomed by the people in the community. At the entrance of the community, a large signboard was displayed.
At the Bridge School (a supplementary school that helps children freed from child labor to attend public school), children, volunteers, teachers from the vocational training center, and staff of SPPED (Society for People's Economic and Educational Development) gathered and connected online for the live broadcast to Japan.
With some nervous anticipation, each person spoke, including students from the schools, and parents who receive support. I felt that many more people wanted to talk than we had planned, and everyone seemed so happy and eager to share their experiences.
Toward the end of the live broadcast, the children stood up, smiled, and spoke in loud confident voices, their nervousness obviously forgotten in the energetic and welcoming atmosphere. The session was so friendly and warm, that it seemed a shame to end it.
The school building is divided into 2 sections, with one side being the Bridge School and the other side is a vocational training center.
The aim of the vocational training center is to provide training to girls, especially for those who are 15 years old and over, to learn valuable life skills, which will help secure their future income. The facility includes shelves with neatly arranged fabrics and beads, measuring tables and sewing machines. If you look closely at the photo of the girls sewing on the sewing machine table, you can see that it is a foot-operated sewing machine. At the end of their vocational training, sewing machines are lent to the girls so that they can start their own small business.
There is an open space around the Bridge School, where children can gather and play. While we were there, we witnessed an enthusiastic round of jump rope. It was wonderful to see ACE's catchphrase, "Play, Learn, and Laugh” realized so literally.
ACE started as a group of students who organized a march against child labour in 1997.
The day we visited fell on World Day Against Child Labor, so a march was also held to commemorate the day. As we walked through the communities with our banner, beating drums and attracting attention, some people came out of their houses and asked what we were doing.
The event was covered by the local newspaper, which drew more publicity, and further spread awareness of the problem of child labour.
After the march, we all took a short break to drink an Indian cola called, "Thums up!”
The children from each of the three communities who attended the Bridge School packed into an extra large “auto” (three-wheeled Indian vehicle) that can hold more than twice as many people as the typical auto (usually they hold only two or three-passengers) found in the city, and waved as they drove back home.
It had been 14 years since I had visited Gadwal district in Telangana, and I felt that the district had changed a lot, with new hotels and streetscape.
The next day, I visited the administrative organization in charge of labor supervision in Gadwal district, and was told that child labour in this area has been decreasing considerably and is now recognized as one of the best regions in Telangana. They told me that SPEED and other NGOs have contributed greatly to this.
Of course, the problem has not disappeared, but if such positive change has occurred through the projects supported by ACE, it is clear that our activities are bearing fruit.
People gathers in the Bridge school
Trainees at work on sewing machines
children playing jump-rope
Everyone paraded through the community