A new study by an international children's charity has found that 4 percent of India's child population of 20 million are orphans and that around 20% of the population is living below the poverty line. There is a large gap between the rich and the poor in India and the two classes are vastly separated. Some of the most expensive and luxurious condos crowding the skyline of Mumbai offer direct views of the second-largest slum in the continent of Asia.
But is not here in Mumbai where our story begins. We are taking you on a journey to a small village named Vrindavan in the state of Uttar Pradesh. It is here that we are given glimpses of hope through the amazing work of an organization called Food for Life, Vrindavan.
FFLV runs schools providing free education, meals, skill training and medical help to over 1500 girls. The girls receive financial support through a sponsorship program to complete their education while developing proficiency in skills such as craft making and agriculture that can be used in the future to obtain an income.
Along with our writer Sundari and our translator Govind, we had the honor of spending a day at FFLV getting to witness their tireless efforts first hand. The classrooms were filled with attentive children while numerous volunteers busily scurried here and there fulfilling their various services.
That's when we meet Rani. Rani is a 14-year-old girl who wants to become a journalist. She has been a student at food for life for many years and is consistently getting good grades. “How has the school helped you personally?” we asked Rani. She responded by saying that she would have never been able to obtain an education if it weren't for FFLV. Her family did not have to pay a penny for her education.
Ranis mother earns around 3000 rupees per month ($46) as a cleaner at the school while her father, also employed by the school, spends his equivalent paycheck on his alcohol addiction.
“If it weren’t for FFLV and their support, our family would have nothing and our daughter would not have the education she needs” says Rani’s mother, Lakshmi.
Their family fell well below the poverty line. Rani’s family moved to Vrindavan in hopes that they would obtain a better income. They lived in a tarp tent for two years before settling into their one-room apartment when they discovered and got employed by FFLV.
“Some of these girls will continue on to college in cities such as Delhi and Mumbai- an opportunity that would have been very slim given their social circumstance" said Paul- their staff photographer.
From fflv website:
According to a survey by BYUH: 97% of the mothers of our school girls have had no formal education.
That says a lot about the state of women education in the area. Most of the girls at Sandipani Muni school are from poverty stricken backgrounds, living in slums and struggling for basic needs. Many girls were seen begging near the temple before they joined the school. Even in this holy land of Vrindavan, the young girls face intense hardship in the form of child marriage, child labour and other forms of abuse where young girls are forced into adult roles. This is why we aim to educate the girls and enable them break this cycle of poverty and to improve their standard of living.
Send a Girl to School:
FFLV has a Sponsorship Program in place that is aimed at preventing child marriage by keeping the young girls in school until the age of 18. A girl can be sponsored at $45 per month. Out of $45, $40 is used towards their education, uniform, meals, skill development, medical care etc. The remaining $5 is held per month in a special fund until the girl is 18 years old. After which she will get the funds and be able to choose how she would like to spend it. Education is proven to pave a pathway to employment, enabling the girls to end the cycle of poverty.
Donate to FFLV Here:
Writers: Sundari Dasi and Rupini Dasi
Translator/ assistant: Govind Krishna Das
Special thanks to Paul for showing us around and Rupa Raghunath Dasa for allowing us to do this feature