It often takes a full day to fly from the United States to India, counting layover time, and that brings you just to the nearest large city. To reach Dhodlamitta, a village in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh, you’ll spend several more hours on the road.
This summer, a team of filmmakers, plus ChildFund staff members from India and the U.S., traveled to Dhodlamitta for an unusual purpose: to create a 360-degree video that will give viewers the experience of visiting the village. Using the 360 GoPro camera and other elaborate gear, the crew takes us to homes, a school and fields where people labor under the sun every day.
Annapoorna is our narrator. She’s a former sponsored child who is now a teacher, a wife and a mother. When she was growing up, child marriage was very common where she lives — and it still is in nearby villages. Sponsorship and ChildFund’s programs helped Annapoorna continue her education and finish university. She also is in a happy marriage that was her choice, and her daughter is thriving.
We hope you’ll take a look at the 5-minute video — and share it. Not everyone has the opportunity to fly across continents and oceans to Dhodlamitta, but we can offer you the next-best thing: an immersive virtual reality experience. You can also read more about Annapoorna and the making of the video.
Photo and reporting by Rashmi Kulkarni, ChildFund India
In parts of India, ChildFund and our partners have focused on building literacy rates and, more significantly, a deeper culture of reading. This is hard to do in communities where many households have no books and where adults never learned to read. Some homes don’t even have electrical power, limiting story time to daylight hours.
As you may have read in previous stories about the Books, my Friends project, ChildFund has distributed more than 40,000 book bags full of fun books, so children have exposure to more than just school textbooks and can start building a library at home. Some are written in their native dialects, and others are in English, which helps them learn to read a new language. We’ve also distributed solar-powered lamps to households without electricity, and now, we have begun sending mobile libraries out to rural and remote areas.
Today is International Literacy Day. Let’s take the advice of Anna Dewdney, the late author of the Llama Llama series of children’s books, and read to (or with) a child.
“When we read with a child, we are doing so much more than teaching him to read or instilling in her a love of language,” Dewdney wrote. “We are doing something that I believe is just as powerful, and it is something that we are losing as a culture: by reading with a child, we are teaching that child to be human. When we open a book, and share our voice and imagination with a child, that child learns to see the world through someone else’s eyes.”
If you’re thinking of becoming a sponsor, don’t take it from us. Take it from former sponsored children: You matter. We hear from many young adults who are involved in careers, higher education and leadership roles that they never expected to achieve before someone sponsored them as children. Your consistent support and encouragement help them pursue many kinds of dreams and even pass on your generosity to future generations. Here are just a few examples.
Paul, a teacher in Uganda: “My sponsor used to inspire me through the letters he sent. I used to wait so eagerly for his response whenever I wrote to him. He always reminded me to work hard at school.”
Makeshwar, a community leader in India: “We will always remain indebted to ChildFund and our sponsors. We have taken a vow, and we will continue to serve underprivileged children and help them live with dignity.”
Lidiane, a business owner in Brazil: “Today I am a warrior, a hardworking and brave woman, fighting for my goals and dreams, and you are part of this. I wish I could say more to you, but I can write a thousand words here and still would not demonstrate what you represent in my life story.”
Else, a nursing student in Indonesia: “I want to help cure people. My favorite subject is pediatric nursing. I love taking care of young children. Soon, I will be working in a hospital helping young children in need.”
Photos and Reporting by Rashmi Kulkarni, ChildFund India
World Water Day is next Tuesday, so let’s take a look at how Indian children have benefited from access to clean running water in their communities and schools. First, we see a group of schoolchildren from Udaipur, a city in western India.
One of the students, Kuldeep, says, “Before and after eating, we clean our hands and plates properly to stay healthy.” In the picture above, three boys — Mukesh, Lalu and Harish — wash dishes before lunch at school.
Next, girls from Orissa, a state on India’s eastern coast, talk about how a water pump provided by ChildFund supporters has changed their lives.
“It’s our daily routine to walk to the hand pump, which ChildFund has provided through the gift catalog, to get water,” one girl says. “Otherwise, we had to walk for several kilometers to fetch water.”
One out of 10 people in the world do not have reliable access to clean water. That’s more than 663 million people, or twice the population of the United States! Astounding, right? That’s why we should do what we can to spread the word about providing everyone access to clean water. This World Water Day, share information with friends — and lead by example however you can. ChildFund has several options for you to make a difference for children and their family members who don’t have easy access to clean water.
By Rashmi Kulkarni, ChildFund India
Samaypur Badli, an urban village in North Delhi where ChildFund India recently started a youth employment training project, suffered a terrible fire Dec. 18 that gutted dozens of homes, displacing more than 100 families. No casualties were reported, but the fire was a significant setback for the residents.
Firefighters doused the flames, which were caused by a short circuit, according to media reports. ChildFund India staff members, along with our local partner Al Noor Charitable Society, took action a few days later to help the fire victims, which numbered 300 people, including 200 children. Homes in this area are set very close together, so the fire spread quickly.
After a quick assessment of conditions and needs, ChildFund India gave woolen clothes to 200 children to ward off the freezing weather in Delhi. The 100 school-aged children received education kits, and families also were given personal hygiene materials and kitchen utensils to replace belongings lost in the fire.
In partnership with Al Noor Charitable Society, ChildFund India recently initiated the Youth United for Voluntary Action program to provide vocational and livelihood training to help young adults in this community find better jobs. Despite several industrial businesses in this region, many people live in poverty.
“We will enhance our support and intervention to ensure that these families come out of this tragedy and that their lives bounce back to normalcy as soon as possible,” says Neelam Makhijani, ChildFund India’s national director.
By Rashmi Kulkarni, ChildFund India
Heavy rainfall in November and December caused massive flooding in India’s Tamil Nadu state, especially in the region around Chennai. As many as 470 people lost their lives, while thousands more lost their homes and all their belongings. ChildFund India has responded by distributing tarpaulins, hygiene kits, mosquito nets and blankets to 183 families, as well as providing activities for children while schools were closed. We recently spoke with Subramani, a 43-year-old man who had a work-related accident a decade ago and is wheelchair-bound. He was caught in the flood and was unable to leave his home.
Subramani lives alone in a small hut with a straw thatched roof. When the heavy rains began, his roof started leaking, and the area surrounding his home became waterlogged. But because his village is next to a small lake, the residents are used to minor flooding.
Assuming this would be a similar scenario, Subramani was relaxed and didn’t take any precautions. “I never expected this much water,” he says. “Every year, if it rains a little heavily, the lake overflows and water enters our area. The flooding is never more than a foot, and that water stays only for a couple of days and eventually recedes. But this time, it was unprecedented.”
To everyone’s shock, within a couple of hours the entire village was swamped by three to five feet of fast-moving water that entered all the houses, damaging the structures and the belongings inside. Everything happened so fast that no one could cope; all they could do was to run for their lives. They could see everything they had floating away in front of them but could do nothing.
Because Subramani cannot walk or even stand up on his own, he got stuck in his flooded house. He called for help while struggling to climb to safety. Everything he owned was underwater, including his small TV and his mobile phone. “My life was at stake. There was no time to think about these things,” Subramani says.
Finally, by 10 p.m., his neighbors and friends managed to enter his house and carry him outside. Along with other community members, Subramani stayed on the platforms of a nearby railway station for several days. Flood victims received water, food and other support items from their local church and other groups, but while Subramani was sleeping on the platform, someone stole these things from him.
After the water receded, Subramani managed to get back to his home. It was filthy from the mud brought in by the flood, but he was glad his tricycle cart was still there.
Somehow, with the help of his friends, he has been able to clean his home and has managed to get back to a normal routine. But pools of stagnant water still sit near Subramani’s home, putting him at risk of mosquito bites. As a result, he was sick after returning home.
But Subramani has now received blankets, tarps and mosquito nets from ChildFund, a welcome bit of respite. Before, he wasn’t sure how he’d afford these necessities.
“After the flood, we were in real need of blankets, tarpaulins and especially mosquito nets,” he says. “ChildFund’s timely support is really helpful. It’s like a surprise New Year gift for us. I’m really touched by the thoughtfulness of ChildFund, which reached us with help.”
By Rashmi Kulkarni, ChildFund India
In parts of India, literacy rates are very low for a variety of reasons. One problem is a lack of electricity. When you are in the dark at home, it’s not easy to read.
In June, ChildFund India distributed nearly 40,000 solar-powered lamps to children in homes without electricity, as phase two of a national literacy campaign called Books, My Friends. In December 2014, our India staff members, with the help of local partner organizations and others, distributed 40,000 tote bags full of age-appropriate books in several languages. About 115,000 children have benefited from the program, which aims to make reading fun and also help them improve their literacy skills.
According to India’s Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) for 2014, many children are behind grade level in their reading skills. Among eighth-graders, about 75 percent can read at second-grade level, and 32.5 percent of second-graders can’t even recognize letters.
We used to use wax or kerosene candles. With the slightest blow of wind, the candles would go out.
In this campaign phase, called Toward a Brighter Future, children have received solar-powered lamps that allow them to read, do homework or other activities after the sun goes down.
“For me, my education is very important,” says Aarathi, who got a lamp. “I don’t like missing school even for a single day. Now that I have my own solar lamp, I can study anytime and anywhere. It’s so convenient and easy to use these solar lamps. We also use these lamps for doing group studies outside our houses.”
Although the lamps’ primary purpose is to help children study after dark, they also make it easier for family members to do household chores. “Earlier we used to use wax or kerosene candles,” recalls Jayamma. “With the slightest blow of wind, the candles would go out. We also used to feel hot while using them. Having a solar lamp is great. We don’t face any of those problems with this. My mother finds it very convenient to cook using this lamp.”
And for some, the solar lamp has a totally different benefit. “Now we can also play after dark outside our houses using these lamps,” say Prathibha and Swathi.
After the successful implementation of this second phase, ChildFund India plans to open two solar-powered model schools, more than 100 libraries in rural schools in 14 states and introduce mobile libraries, which will provide access to high-quality reading material and dedicated reading space for children and other community members.
By ChildFund India staff
Oct. 11 is the International Day of the Girl Child, a day set aside by the United Nations to recognize girls’ rights and the special challenges they face. This year’s theme for the day is The Power of the Adolescent Girl: Vision for 2030, so ChildFund’s blog will focus this week on girls who are working to achieve great things now and in the future.
In India, the country with the most child brides worldwide, an estimated 47 percent of girls are married before age 18, putting their physical, emotional and mental health at risk. Although it is illegal in India for girls under 18 and boys under 21 to marry, the tradition remains entrenched.
For a long time, ChildFund has worked with adults and youth in the state of Madhya Pradesh, where the practice is particularly prevalent, to end this harmful tradition. For many in this fight, the stakes are personal.
When 17-year-old Sonam’s parents insisted that she get married, she protested, and together with her youth club members who had taken an oath to become role models for others by not becoming the victims of early marriage, she spoke with her parents. She shared that she did not want to get married before reaching the legal age and also wanted to study further to achieve her dreams.
At the launch of a 100-day child marriage awareness campaign in 75 villages earlier this year, Sonam was recognized for addressing the issue of early marriage and for standing up against her own marriage. Anmol Jeevan, the campaign, drew great support from the community, including village leaders and parents. Thousands of people attended the event where Sonam and other youth members received awards.
“ChildFund has changed my life — it came as a ray of hope in my life and has given me courage to dream about my future,” she said while accepting the award.
Sonam has been with ChildFund India since the beginning of the project, for more than six years. She has actively participated in several of ChildFund’s programs, awareness camps and meetings on early marriage. She also encourages mothers to get their children immunized and provide nutritious food. She also has promoted literacy in her village by doing door-to-door counseling and getting children of her village enrolled in school. With Sonam’s and her youth club members’ persistent efforts, more than 62 community members have learned to read — out of the 142 illiterate village members they had identified.
After a lot of persuasion, Sonam’s parents were convinced that she should remain unmarried. With their support, she is now preparing for exams, with plans to become an engineer and help her village.
“If convinced properly,” says Sonam, “parents will support their daughters’ wishes to study instead of getting them married at an early age.”
And when they do, those girls will be able to make enormous contributions within their own communities — as Sonam has.
Photos from ChildFund’s offices in Bolivia, Brazil, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Mexico and Timor-Leste
In the lobby of ChildFund’s international headquarters, we don’t have your typical office décor. Instead, we have a sparsely furnished Kenyan classroom, a world map mural with paper dolls holding hands, and homemade toys collected from around the world. A lot of the toys are made with what some people might call trash: used plastic bottles, twine and bits of rubber and metal. But the toys themselves are not junk and are often prized by the children who made and played with them.
In these pictures below, you’ll see the ingenuity and creativity of children who play with what they have — animals, traditional games and toys made from available materials.
By Rashmi Kulkarni, ChildFund India
Raimani lives with her family in Tangiri, a small village in India. She has three sisters and one brother, and is in the 8th grade. Not long ago, she wasn’t sure if she would be able to keep going to school. She used to walk more than four miles every day to get to class, often alone, which wasn’t very safe. Sometimes she was late, or she just didn’t make it to school at all. Her grades suffered, and, because her parents couldn’t afford transportation for her, she considered dropping out altogether.
But thanks to ChildFund’s Dream Bike program, things have improved for Raimani. Now, she regularly attends school, arriving on time and with plenty of energy, and her performance has dramatically improved. She no longer has to walk to school, which allows her time to invest in her studies. Her siblings are also attending school more regularly because Raimani gives them rides on her bike, too. Having a bike also enables Raimani to participate in club meetings and other events organized by ChildFund and our local partner organization in Tangiri.
“I am very happy my daughter received a bicycle,” Raimani’s mother says. “It has turned out to be very useful as my other children can also use it to go to school. The gift of a bicycle has ensured that Raimani can continue her education. We are very thankful to ChildFund.”
If you would like to make a girl’s dream of an education come true, consider giving the gift of a Dream Bike today.