Last week I told you about our new centre close to the India-Pakistan border – Venturing Further Than Ever Before – A New Centre
I want to say a HUGE “thank you” to two Australian families who this week responded to our call, making a combined donation of $1709. Your generosity has made it possible for us to help this very poor community.
We started with 50 kids – most of whom have never been to a school before. The word has well and truly spread and this week even more new kids have shown up for the first time, and we now have 80 children most days. We anticipate that we will soon have 100+ enrolled.
Whilst education is a human right, the majority of children in this isolated and marginalised district are unable to attend a local school. Little 4 year-old Gurleen Kaur (pictured above) is one of these kids. Gurleen is the eldest of 4 siblings. Her mother died during the delivery of her baby sister. Gurleen’s father is an addict in a community where drugs are cheap and easily available. He would only be in his early twenties, he never comes home and he is unemployed. The kids are looked after by their ill, elderly grandparents who live in a house that is falling down. Our new teacher Sonia Rani appealed to the grandparents to allow Gurleen to attend our centre and we are pleased that she now attends school on a daily basis. As well as starting to learn new things, we see Gurleen respond to the nurture and safety that school provides – for her this is a transformative experience.
Each one of our 80 students has a similarly sad story as Guleen. Our work powerfully impacts their lives bringing love, hope and opportunities to shine and flourish. Even in these early days, we see small but significant changes. We are excited for the many possibilities.
Last month, when Rowena and I were in India we met an inspiring Christian man, Saleem Masih (pictured above), who had travelled a very long way to meet us. Saleem wanted to tell us about his work with some very poor communities in western Punjab. Saleem was compelling, as he told us about a very needy group of people who have limited access to the most basic of life’s necessities. He described his small passionate team of 5 people who work on a minimal salary ($15AUD a week) to bring help through education to 200 kids in 3 small school centres. Most of these kids do not go to school.
Further to this, Saleem told us about a small and neglected population group in the Gatti District which is an isolated and very dangerous area due to its proximity to the Indian - Pakistani border. Little has changed in this area for the past 75 years. Access to services is available only possible by crossing the river by boat (at a fee), and this does not operate during the monsoon season. Most families do not have the money to regularly cross this wide river so therefore the children do not attend a school. Therefore, the kids, like their parents, are uneducated. The area is heavily patrolled by the military, especially by drones.
A Plea for Help
The reason why Saleem had travelled so far was to ask if we would consider taking on his projects and he indicated his need to be part of a larger team to collaborate with, and to work with others who would provide mentoring and guidance for how to develop and improve his projects. He knew he’d have a better chance of convincing us if he met us face to face. His efforts were not in vain because we were definitely stirred by his determination, love and compassion for these forgotten people. It was hard for us to not immediately say “yes” but we asked for more information and clarity around the amount of support required. We now are now in a position to make an informed initial commitment.
Our Commitment for 2023
We have decided to support Saleem initially for 14 months, commencing 1st November. ‘Project Help’ has started a fourth centre at Village Hajara Gatti in the Ferozepur District (location map). The people who live here are incredibly poor and most are illiterate. The district is in a very isolated area, and is situated between the Satluj River and the Pakistani border (which is a fence).
- 50 children will attend our centre, 5 days a week. This is anticipated to grow to 100 students
- $100AUS start up fees to set things up
- $100AUS month (covers rent and a teacher’s salary)
- We will review our commitment in 6 months and confirm our long-term support in November 2023
- We will also work towards providing additional funding to improve the existing 3 centres, and (hopefully) provide meals for the children.
This story is a significant one and demonstrates the power of child safety education. Adnan has a cognitive disability. Ever since a toddler he has roamed the streets unsupervised - vulnerable and highly at risk. Attending our centre has minimised this somewhat, yet he continues to be vulnerable.
The students at our Slum Disability Centre receive frequent safety lessons and we are pleased that he knew to yell for help. We will continue to reinforce a number of safety lessons in all of our centres. Our Field Worker reported…
Adnan is a student at our Project Help, Disability Centre, and has been receiving education at our Disability Centre for three years. Adnan’s cognitive disability sometimes imapcts his judgments about other people's intentions or social situations. Adnan likes to go for long walks in the market all by himself, he often goes for long strolls without informing anyone at home. He always comes back safe and sound but last week a very serious incident took place.
On 9th October when Adnan was as usual wandering in the Kotdwara Railway station, a group of men kidnapped him by luring him with money. The men asked him to come along with them on the train ride, promising him money. Adnan naively sat with them. The men along with Adnan got as far as Najibabad station some 25km away. Reaching there he asked the men for the money and didn't receive any. Perceiving that something might be wrong Adnan started crying out for help. His screaming grabbed the attention of his brother's friend. He reached out to Adnan and noticed that he was with a group of unknown men. He asked Adnan about his whereabouts and how he reached there. Adnan narrated the whole incident His brother's friend quickly informed some nearby shopkeepers and hawkers asking for help. All of them beat up the men and rescued Adnan who was later dropped back home by his brother's friend. Adnan is currently doing well and is safe with his family.
Adnam came to school the next day with a big story to tell. We thank God for his safety.