They Don’t Like Girls

“Why do they want to let the children to study?” says Payal, her dark brown eyes perplexed.

“Especially girls…?” Mayvis adds hesitantly — the addition to Payal’s statement that makes all four girls nod in mutual questioning. Payal, Sanjana, Manixa and Mayvis are recording a message for their Holt sponsors. And this, their biggest question, marks a drastic shift in tone.

Just five minutes ago they sat upstairs in their classroom — proudly performing an American pop song in front of their classmates. Their friend group, all between the ages of 11 and 13, calls themselves the “Planet Chicks.” They like to talk on the school bus, dance and sing, and encourage one another to do the right thing.

They are happy, carefree girls. But, as their biggest question lets on, they know things could be drastically different. The conversation becomes serious.

“They don’t like girls,” Sanjana says, “they only like boys.”

“People in the village,” Payal clarifies.

These girls all come from families that have migrated from the villages to the booming, southern city of Bengaluru. The villages they speak of are actually cities of several hundred thousand people, where people still adhere more strictly to the rules of traditional patriarchal society. Where they come from, it is common to educate boys, but not educate girls. Where they come from, young girls get married.

This is an excerpt from a longer story that originally appeared on the Holt Stories blog in July 2018. 

Just $27 can help keep a young girl safe and  in school. Right now, your gift doubles to help build girl-friendly bathrooms at school!



What Keeps Girls From Going to School?

three girls sitting at a desk for blog what keeps girls from going to school

Around the world, many girls are denied a basic right… an education.

In countries where women do not have a voice in society, they are more vulnerable to early marriage, trafficking and child labor. Around the world, school is often the greatest line of defense for vulnerable women and girls.

When a girl goes to school, she spends the day safe and protected in a classroom, and walks out empowered to make her own choices in life.

So, what keeps girls from going to school?

Continue reading “What Keeps Girls From Going to School?”

A Reason for Hope

In India, and in developing countries around the world, the COVID-19 crisis has significantly increased the risk of child marriage. But there’s one way to protect the future of girls everywhere: an education.

This is an edited excerpt from “The Child Brides of COVID-19,” which originally appeared on Holt Stories in May 2021.

Across the globe, girls who marry young are more likely to experience domestic violence. They are at increased risk of early and unplanned pregnancy. They can become isolated from family and friends. And as the demands of housework and motherhood take up their time, they are less likely to stay in school.

The global COVID crisis may set back decades of progress even in communities where our partners had effectively ended the practice of child marriage. But one key factor continues to make a dramatic difference in the lives of girls and women. And that’s keeping girls in school.

Continue reading “A Reason for Hope”

The Child Brides of COVID-19

In India, and in developing countries around the world, the COVID-19 crisis has significantly increased the risk of child marriage. But one key factor continues to make a dramatic difference in the lives of vulnerable girls and young women: child sponsorship.

For representative purposes only. To protect her identity, we are not sharing any photos of the girl featured in this story.

 Rani* was just 17. She did not want to get married. She argued and pleaded with her mom. She asked her social worker to convince her mom to delay her marriage. Rani knew her mom was struggling to support her and her two little sisters. If she got married, it would ease the burden on her family.

But she knew what she could look forward to. Continue reading “The Child Brides of COVID-19”

Meet This Year’s Class of Holt Scholarship Students in Cambodia

Every year,  exceptional students in Cambodia attend college on scholarship through Holt’s university sponsorship program. Their scholarship includes full tuition, English classes and a $30 monthly stipend to help cover additional expenses. Most of the students come from rural impoverished communities. Most are the first in their families to attend college. As girls face greater educational hurdles due to a legacy of gender bias in Cambodia, most scholarship recipients are also young women. Continue reading “Meet This Year’s Class of Holt Scholarship Students in Cambodia”

A School for Kids in the Garbage Dump

The story of the Red Stone School in Mongolia — a sponsor-supported school for children who live and work in a garbage dump.  A longer version of this story appeared in Holt’s fall 2017 sponsorship magazine

Students listen to a lesson, dressed in the uniforms they received from their sponsors.
Students listen to a lesson, dressed in the uniforms they received from their sponsors.

You smell, says the teacher. You can’t wear dirty clothes to school. You can’t learn anything. You don’t belong here.

You belong to the garbage.

On the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, high above the city at the crest of a hill, a land of discarded waste sprawls over miles and miles, shrouded by a heavy cloud of toxic dust. This wasteland, this dumping ground for a million people’s garbage, is a living place, teeming with animals and people who pick through the refuse to gather whatever they can find to survive. A rotten loaf of bread. A bone with some meat on it. Plastic or glass or metal that can be recycled for money.

To get first pick at the discarded food in the trucks that arrive at dawn, some people sleep here, using cardboard and old tires to block the icy night wind. To stay warm, they burn tires and trash, breathing noxious smoke into their lungs. In winter, when they climb up on the trucks, some of them slip and fall to their deaths. In summer, when it is hot and damp, some of them get life-threatening infections. Continue reading “A School for Kids in the Garbage Dump”

In Vietnam, Sponsors Send Kids With Special Needs to School

For generations of children with special needs in Vietnam, school has been something only other children get to do. But now, in one rural community, over one hundred sponsored children are shattering stereotypes, exceeding expectations — and loving every minute of it.

A longer version of this story originally appeared in the spring 2018 Holt sponsorship magazine.

Khang swivels his head and shakes his body to the pop-y, upbeat dance tempo that reverberates off the tile floor and blares out into otherwise quiet fields of rice on this cool January day. He opens his mouth wide and snaps it shut in a toothy grin, reaching out for a friend who dances alongside him. Continue reading “In Vietnam, Sponsors Send Kids With Special Needs to School”

The Brave Girl

How a Holt child sponsor is empowering one young girl in Cambodia to stand up, speak up and become independent and strong. 

Sreyka holds her hands together palm to palm, a traditional way to say thank you in Cambodia.

In rural Kampot, Cambodia, Holt sponsors and donors help over 350 school-age children, and 200 preschool children, go to school. Many of these children are girls who would likely drop out early if not for the uniforms, supplies, books and lunch money their sponsors provide. At school, girls sit side by side with the boys. They learn to read and write, to speak up in class and voice their ideas. Continue reading “The Brave Girl”

Nobody Sees Me, But You Do

In her early teens, Devi thought she’d never be able to attend school. But then, Holt sponsors began supporting her family —  lifting them out of the darkness.

Devi (top left) stands outside her home with her mother and two of her younger siblings.

“Can I say something?” Devi asks, shyly. Devi has a thin face and large, deep eyes, just like her mom. She looks less tired than her mom — although her eyes hold more suffering than most teenage girls. 

“Of course,” we tell her. She had been mostly quiet during our time talking with the family, so what she says next surprises us all.  

Immediately, tears cascade down her cheeks.

“I’m not speaking in English nicely, but [I want to] so thank you. It is God’s grace and mercy that you help us. I want to say, God is helping me through you. God is working, and you are His engine for good,” she says, becoming more choked up and passionate as she goes. “My mom is working and I’m working, but really, you are helping in my education and studies and all things. I am very thankful for you. Nobody sees me, but you do. You help give us medicine, milk and food. All my family was in darkness, but now there is light.”

This is an excerpt from a longer story about Devi and her family from when our storytelling team met them in Pune, India.  Read the full story now!