Break with tradition, break the cycle of poverty

Raj, India Holt sponsored child
Raj outside the door to her home in Pune, India.

They say history repeats itself.

In many countries where Holt has programs, cultural norms and tradition have a strong influence over how parents raise their children.

In more patriarchal societies, many parents choose to educate their sons — but keep their daughters home from classes. Or, largely due to poverty, they may feel forced to pull their children from school at a young age to begin working. If a woman was married young, she may be more likely to encourage her daughter to marry young, effectively ending her education.

Culture and tradition can both be beautiful, positive guiding forces. However, our on-the-ground staff around the world say they often have to challenge local norms when encouraging families to educate their children — both boys and girls.

One of these families is Raj’s.

Slum community in Pune, India where Raj lives.
Raj outside her home, in the community where she lives with about 30 other families.

Soft spoken, kind and funny, 13-year-old Raj attends school in Pune, India with the support of a Holt child sponsor. In this area, our programs target girls’ education specifically and only girls have sponsors, but because Raj has a sponsor, her two younger brothers also receive free tuition.

Raj’s mother is 35. She was married at 14, and had Raj’s older brother at 15. Continuing with tradition, Raj’s mother wants Raj to marry next year, when she turns 14. However, if Raj is married, she will likely leave school — also ending her brother’s sponsorship. So for now, Raj’s mother has delayed her daughter’s marriage — not because she wants to keep Raj in school, but because she wants to educate her sons.

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Raj with her mother outside their home.

This is good news for Raj, who dreams of being a doctor and every year that she can stay in school, she gets one step closer to her goal. Holt’s staff is also counseling Raj’s family about the importance of education, and this may help keep Raj in school, too.

People like you and I can also help keep Raj and children like her in school, just by providing the school supplies and uniforms they need.

Holt sponsors support Raj's education in India
Raj with several of her schoolmates, also supported by Holt sponsors.

For just $17, you can give a child without a sponsor the books, shoes, uniforms or stationary they need this year. For children whose parents might otherwise pull them out early, this simple gift can be just enough to keep them in school — since the cost of these supplies can be too expensive for an already-struggling family.
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Your gift could help break the cycle of poverty for the next generation, and ensure nothing stands in the way of a child reaching his or her dreams!

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Raj at an education-based summer camp, which she attended with Holt’s support.

What Makes Children 5x More Likely To Go To School?

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One of Mahananda’s students at the Montessori school where she now teaches.

Mahananda grew up the daughter of a single mother in the slums of Pune, India.

Where she comes from, education was never a guarantee. Public school is not free in India, and for families living in poverty, the choice between food and school fees has always been a no-brainer. Still today, India has one of the largest populations of out-of-school children in the world.

But beyond the poverty of her community, beyond her single-parent household and the barriers to basic education in her country, Mahananda faced another obstacle inherent to the life she was born into…

Mahananda was born a girl.

In India and many places around the world, girls are often kept home from school. If a family can only afford fees for one child, they often opt to send their son to school and their daughter to work.

But when Holt sponsors and supporters create opportunities for girls to go to school, the impact is far-reaching.

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Mahananda observes an activity at a summer camp for teens at the Montessori School where she teaches.

When girls are educated, they have the capacity to create unprecedented economic and social change in their communities. Girls who are educated are more likely to delay marriage until adulthood. They have fewer children. And the children they do have are healthier and stronger. An educated mother will have increased job opportunities and higher wages, giving her the resources to buy food and medicine for her children.

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Mahanada stands beside Usha, one of her fellow Montessori teachers. Usha also received educational sponsorship as a girl growing up in Pune.

Educated women are also five times more likely to send their own children to school – increasing literacy rates in their communities, and breaking the cycle of poverty.

Mahananda is one educated woman who is creating change in her community.

With the support of a Holt sponsor, Mahananda completed her education and went on to become a Montessori schoolteacher. Today, she works for our partner in the region — educating another generation of sponsored boys and girls from the same slum community where she grew up.

As back-to-school season approaches, will you consider giving a gift of $17 to help send a girl to school? By equipping a girl with everything she needs — from books and supplies to a uniform and fees — you can help one more girl to conquer the gender barrier and create a better life for herself, her family and her community.

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Thank you for your back-to-school prayers!

As sponsored children prepare to return to school this fall, we sent Holt sponsors some snail mail, asking them to join with us in prayer for their sponsored child’s health, safety and education.

Already, thousands of prayer promise cards are pouring into our headquarters office in Oregon and filling our lobby with uplifting and loving messages for children!

We are so encouraged by sponsor’s prayer promises for the child or children they sponsor! Sponsor’s commitment to help every orphaned and vulnerable child receive the educational opportunities they deserve is inspirational.

Check out this video, recapping just a few of the prayers we’ve received …

Sponsorship-Back to School Prayer cards from Holt International on Vimeo.

Haven’t sent your prayer promise, yet? You can do it now, online — even if you’re not a child sponsor … yet!

And consider giving a gift of $17, which provides school supplies, books, shoes, uniforms and any school-related materials a vulnerable child may need this year.

We’ve said it once, and we will say it again — you are a super hero for children in need!

Thank you for partnering with us to create a brighter world for the most vulnerable children.

Growth and Transformation

The children of migrant families are some of the most vulnerable in India, and they are often excluded from schools and at risk of exploitation, trafficking and abuse. Recognizing the needs of this growing population, Holt’s partner in the region completely refocuses their efforts, using education as a transformative tool.

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26-year-old mother of three, Avni stands outside her temporary home in Bangalore, India. Six years ago, Avni and her husband migrated 350 miles from their rural village to this major metropolis of more than 8 million people in search of work.They were hired to build a six story apartment building, and while they build, they also live on their job site with their two sons.

Avni pulls her husband and son’s stiff, sun-dried pants and shirts off the frame of wooden scaffolding built outside her home. She climbs the seven unfinished concrete stairs, and drifts through the wide, cement hole where a double door and massive picture windows will someday lead into the lobby of a six-story apartment building. But, at that point, her family won’t live here anymore. It will be time for them to move on in search of another job, and another home.

Avni is 26 years old, and the mother of three children — an 11-year-old daughter and two sons, Basha, 9, and Mapasha, 6. She is strikingly beautiful, and has a kind, shy smile that peeks through the whole time she speaks, the little ring in her nose glistening. Her feet are bare under her purple sari, except for a thin, gold toe ring, which married women commonly wear in India as a token of luck in marriage.

Avni and her family migrated from their rural village to Bangalore, India six years ago for work, hopeful that they could find better jobs and make a better life for themselves and their children.

They weren’t the only ones. Continue reading “Growth and Transformation”

The biggest barrier between children and education is …

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Around the world, more than 57 million children don’t attend school.

Why? Gender-based violence and discrimination are a couple reasons, but not the biggest.

The main reason? Cost.

In many developing countries, public schools are not free. The cost of tuition can be more than a few hundred U.S. dollars per term — an overwhelming expense to an already struggling family.

Helping to keep children in school is a simple — and effective — way to keep a family stable, prevent child abandonment and break the cycle of poverty forever.

Holt’s dedicated child sponsors provide the tools and support to help children reach for their dreams, focus on their studies and succeed in school by covering the cost of their sponsored child’s tuition.

But we are asking you to rise up and help children in need, too — this time to provide for the additional costs associated with the exciting back-to-school time.

For $17, you can help cover the costs of books, shoes, uniforms and supplies for an orphaned, abandoned and vulnerable child — and help a child without a sponsor to stay in school.

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Thank you for giving children and families the tools to build a successful, hopeful future. You are transforming the world for an orphaned, abandoned or vulnerable child.

For Deaf Students in Ethiopia, the First Day of School is a Major Milestone

Around the world, the extra cost to send children back to school is often an overwhelming amount for parents. Books, school supplies, shoes and uniforms all add up — and on top of already expensive school fees. However, for one special school in Ethiopia, you can help provide children with the supplies they need and ensure the first day of school is marked with joy and celebration.

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In 2009, Holt came to Shinshicho — first renovating a local clinic, and then partnering with the community to build a full maternal-child hospital to serve the region’s nearly 250,000 people. In recent years, Holt also developed programs to strengthen families at risk of separation from their children. Through our work in the community, Holt heard about the need for a school for deaf children and decided to help. A Shinshicho resident donated the land and space, and we worked with the community to build a school for deaf children. Anticipating only 50 students on the first day, we were shocked when more than 200 children showed up to learn. This year, more than 500 students will attend Yesus Mena School for deaf children.

There’s a universal kind of magic in the first day of school.

The potion is simple: mix one new outfit with two cups of optimism for what a new school year may hold — one from the child, one from the parent. Add a fresh-faced teacher and 50 sets of new notebooks and school bags. Blend it all together with a dose of excitement and a pinch of nerves. Add a new best friend and a handful of lunch-time giggles. Drink it up, knowing this school year will be the best one yet. Continue reading “For Deaf Students in Ethiopia, the First Day of School is a Major Milestone”

When You Educate a Girl…

For most girls in the slums of Pune, India, the idea that they could become a teacher or a public officer or a computer engineer — or that they could choose when, if and who to marry — is a huge shift in thought. And it’s happening right now in the one-room community center of Holt’s legacy partner BSSK.

At a summer camp in the central India town of Pune, teens and pre-teens from a nearby slum sit cross-legged on the floor in groups of 4 or 5. Each group receives a question written in Marathi on a little slip of paper. The question is to be read aloud and discussed.

“When do you want to marry?” is the question put to one group of girls.

One 12-year-old girl in a collared shirt and jeans says she will marry when her parents want her to and when they find a good boy for her. “When I become a teacher and financially independent,” says a reed-thin 13-year-old with tiny hoop earrings and a long braid down her back. Another girl — 14 and serious — says she doesn’t want to marry at all. Her father is very dominating, she says, and her mother has no say. This girl wants to be an administrative officer in the public service once she finishes school.

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This 12-year-old girl says she will marry when her parents decide it’s the right time and they find a suitable match for her.

Continue reading “When You Educate a Girl…”

Because No Child Should Ever Feel Alone…

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Abhijeet, in orange, stands outside his home in Pune, India with his mother Vimal, his grandmother and his youngest brother.

Every afternoon, 30-year-old Vimal picks up her three boys from school. Her 12-year-old son Abhijeet climbs on her back, and she carries him up, up, up …

Up three flights of steep, rickety stairs — so narrow, you have to turn sideways at places to fit. She ducks under electric wires, and is careful to avoid the sharp, cutting edges of serrated tin.

Three flights up, and the family arrives — exhausted — to their single-room house in a slum community in India.

Abhijeet, the oldest son, has always struggled to walk because of a leg deformity. He also has a learning disability, and rarely speaks. The children in his neighborhood exclude him from games and festivals. Already struggling financially, Vimal and her husband couldn’t afford his school fees — much less resources to care for the specialized therapies he would need to help his legs and communication.

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Vimal and her mother climb down the stairs from their home. Vimal has to carry her 12-year-old son up and down these dangerous stairs each day.

Vimal said she doesn’t mind carrying her child up the stairs, but it breaks her heart to see him teased and harassed. Vimal’s youngest son dreams of being a doctor, but she feared that Abhijeet would never dare to dream because of his learning disability. Continue reading “Because No Child Should Ever Feel Alone…”

In Booming Bangalore, Children with Special Needs are Left Especially Vulnerable

In the progressive tech capital of India, jobs and work are plentiful — and while this is good news overall, some of the adverse side effects from rapid urbanization and an increasing migrant population make caring for orphaned and abandoned children with special needs particularly challenging. During a visit to partner program Swanthana in April, Holt Creative Lead Billie Loewen met the children and caregivers most affected by these challenges.

16-year-old Alyssa lives in a care center for children with special needs in Bangalore, India. Alyssa says she would like to be a teacher some day.
Sixteen-year-old Alyssa lives in a care center for children with special needs in Bangalore, India. Alyssa says she would like to be a teacher some day.

A pair of deep, brown eyes peer curiously around the corner of a dark hallway. Pushing herself through a doorway, a small girl with short hair and a long purple dress appears in an old, metal wheelchair. She keeps her head low, her eyes shielded behind a red headscarf. Her short hair is held back with a barrette and a bindi decorates her forehead.

Alyssa is 16 years old, and she is paralyzed from the waist down. Abandoned by her family years ago, likely due to her disability, Alyssa has lived in a home for children with profound special needs for three years. She is one of the few residents at her care center who is able to express her thoughts verbally. Her voice is quiet, but in English she will tell you about her dreams.

Alyssa wants to be a teacher, someday, and teach little children how to dream big. She wants to live independently.

Sadly, at the moment, Alyssa’s dream is just that — a dream. She doesn’t receive any life skills training because her caregivers are too busy for that kind of one-on-one attention. She never travels beyond the very limited borders of her care center. She is stuck in a world that has forgotten her, and it isn’t her fault. Continue reading “In Booming Bangalore, Children with Special Needs are Left Especially Vulnerable”

A letter to sponsors from China!

Dear Sponsors,

Today is the Chinese Lunar New Year and all of my family members are gathering together for a family reunion. On this most important holiday in China, I can’t help but think about you and the children who benefit from your sponsorship.

Because of you, in 2014, a total of 304 children from Longchuan, Yunnan province were able to stay in school — their daily nutrition guaranteed. Because of you, none of these children had to worry about the cost of school supplies, health insurance, immunizations or school uniforms. Because of your sponsorship, they didn’t have to face the risk of leaving school due to the extra cost. As part of Holt’s family strengthening program, the elementary students who attend boarding school in Yunnan were also able to go home for a family reunion on Chinese holidays and school breaks. Without your sponsorship, they could not afford the round-trip fare home. I still remember a time when I visited the school and saw one girl crying very hard because all her classmates were able to go home for the holiday to visit their parents, but she wasn’t sure if her grandmother would show up to take her home.

This Chinese New Year, she could visit her family with the help of her sponsors!China-2 Continue reading “A letter to sponsors from China!”