How Sponsorship Helped Devi Avoid Early Marriage

Holt CEO Phil Littleton shares a letter he recently wrote to Holt’s child sponsors. 

Devi (top left) avoided early marriage with the help of sponsors
Devi (top left) with her mom and her younger siblings.

I recently came across a heartbreaking statistic.

According to UNICEF, “Over the next decade, up to 10 million more girls will be at risk of becoming child brides as a result of the pandemic.”

I read this in a story we recently shared about the rise in child marriage in India due to COVID-19, and how sponsors like you help to protect girls at risk. I hope you get a chance to read this story about the powerful difference you make as a sponsor.

I also want to share another story with you that we featured a couple of years ago. It’s about a young girl and her family in Pune, India — one of the communities where our local partners are now seeing an increase in child marriage.

Here’s how the story begins:

When Devi imagined her life, it looked a lot like her mother’s. She would never learn to read or write. She would get married and have children at 15 or 16. She would work on the farm or do chores for a wealthy family. Life would be difficult.

“I had in my mind that I would never go to school,” 17-year-old Devi says today. “Since I was small, all of my relatives told my parents ‘Don’t teach her. Don’t educate her. There is no point in educating a girl.’”

Can you imagine? As the father of a teenage daughter, it breaks my heart to think of girls getting married and having children at age 15 or 16.

When Devi imagined her life, it looked a lot like her mother’s. She would never learn to read or write. She would get married and have children at 15 or 16. She would work on the farm or do chores for a wealthy family. Life would be difficult.

It breaks my heart to think that my smart, capable, hard-working daughter would not have the same opportunities as her older brothers. But that’s the reality for so many girls in India and in countries where you sponsor children around the world.

Thankfully, Devi’s story has a hopeful ending.

Because of generous, compassionate sponsors like you, Devi overcame the barriers she faced to attend school. And when she met with our visiting Holt team in India, she started to cry as she shared a message for her sponsors:

“I want to say, God is helping me through you. God is working, and you are His engine for good,” she said. “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. … All my family was in darkness, but now there is light.”

Devi shares photos she received from her sponsor in the U.S., which she keeps in a family photo album.

Today, Devi would be about 20 — an educated young woman who avoided early marriage with the help of her sponsors.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a ripple effect in the lives of orphaned and vulnerable children around the world. They are at greater risk of everything from child labor and early marriage to trafficking, malnutrition and domestic abuse. But your sponsorship is powerful. You are helping to protect your sponsored child from all of these dangers.

Whether you sponsor a teenage girl in India or a baby boy in an orphanage in Korea, thank you for your incredible devotion to your sponsored child. In a time of darkness, you shine a bright and beautiful light.

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