The reason I am stationed in Trichi in South India is New Life- A non-profit that provides a home for the homeless children, educates them and advocates for abused and neglected children. They run several hostels for abandoned and orphaned children including those rescued from sweat shops. Although there is law against child labor in India, by the definition of the law, only “industries” are prohibited from using child labor. Unscrupulous entrepreneurs make children work in make shift house-like premises to circumvent the word of the law. This group (New Life) uses local networks as informants to rescue these children. The children I saw today are between the ages of 3 and 13. (They run a vocational training center for those over the age of 14.)
They so eagerly recited poems, sang and danced, and told me all about what they were learning. They told me where they are from and under what circumstances they came to New Life. Education for these kids is not just for learning to read and write. The girls are taught to survive the cruel world out there, how to say no. Two girls recited a poem in a call and response fashion.--one offers the other candies, ice cream & toys to entice her to go with her, and the other responses with a "no" to each offer saying “you can keep your goodies and gifts yourself, I will not go with you, I want to go to school to study.”
While we were at the hostel (located in a village about 30 km from Trichi) a man brought his 8-year old son to be admitted to the hostel- he sees no other way to give his son an education. On further inquiry it turns out that he also has a girl child 10- years of age but she has to stay with the father because she is needed to cook for him (his wife has passed away- that is his story). Beatrice, my host and the CEO of New Life is adamant that the girl must come too if the boy is to be admitted to the hostel, and the father must learn to cook for himself. The boy is almost in tears, hope this goes well for both children.
I am going to spend a couple of days with the staff in the office- they think I can be of value in some way--- I think I am the one who is changing with this experience. Then I get to meet the Italian and French volunteer workers as well. Beatrice tells me that all the foreign volunteers are more interested in the microfinancing part of their operation only. The woman who is heading their microfinancing division has an incredible story. On Monday she is taking me to a microfinance federation (of women entrepreneurs) to show me how that system works.