Partnering for Children

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By Christine Ennulat, Senior Writer/Content Specialist
Posted on 10/22/2014
Indian women and children  

You know that support for sponsored children goes toward helping communities transform themselves into places with children’s best interests at heart. But how does that work?

ChildFund’s work in communities is carried out by local partners – grassroots organizations made up of people who actually live in the area and thus have a stake in creating the conditions their children need to thrive. Through these partnerships, ChildFund reaches children in need directly while also involving parents, teachers, local government and larger systems in upholding children’s rights to health, nutrition, safety, education and more. The partnerships also help ensure that we respond in locally relevant ways to the challenges of growing up poor.

One such partner is PRIDE India — Planning Rural-Urban Integrated Development through Education, one of ChildFund’s 65 local partner organizations throughout India. Founded in 1982, PRIDE’s original vision was to promote the development of marginalized rural people, particularly families in the villages of Mahad, an area in southern Raigad district in Maharashtra, who had been affected by the Bombay millworkers’ strike. PRIDE set out to emphasize health, education and empowerment.

One early initiative was the launch of three preschools, or balwadis. At that time, says Isha Mehra, PRIDE’s director, “no one knew what preschool was, so they trained the women from the community who had completed the seventh [grade].”

Enter ChildFund, in 1986, with sponsorships for 2,000 children. Now, 26 years later, PRIDE reaches more than 20,000 children and their families across 40 villages throughout Mahad, with 900 of those children sponsored through ChildFund.

“Our maternal mortality rate is practically zero now. Malnutrition was 60 percent, and it’s down to 0.6 percent now,” says Mehra. “At the balwadis, we’ve had 100 percent attendance, and the parents want the children to participate in our program.” Three preschools have become 44, 43 of which have been handed over (with support and training from PRIDE) to Maharashtra’s Integrated Child Development Services program.

Mehra credits ChildFund with the deep roots of this growth. “ChildFund takes an integrated development approach, so we work with all the different areas,” she says. “So, we’re not just doing education, we’re not just doing health, we’re not just doing livelihood. I think the integrated program really works. I think when parents are working with us — and they have developed a trust in us over the last 26 years — I think they see the change in the child,” she says.

school children

In the village of Gondale-Shedgekond, small children scurry into the classroom at the teacher’s call. They are bright-eyed and sturdy, some of them shy, some of them silly, all of them ready to learn and play (which, at ages 3 to 5, are synonymous). Inside the brightly colored, busy space, they will sing, dance, play games, build castles, eat a healthy snack and more.

Not far away, in a village without ChildFund’s and PRIDE’s intervention, you can see what childhood looks like in migrant families who pull up roots to follow employment. The children are thin and disheveled, watching passers-by with wide eyes. “The children don’t have access to health,” says Virendra Kulkarni, program manager for PRIDE. “Most of them are malnourished, even severely malnourished.” He cites the example of a child from a similar tribe who lives in a village where PRIDE does have programs and who was the first of his village to pass India’s 10th-standard examination with good grades. “So it was a good story in which we can say that even children from that tribe can move ahead if they are given good opportunities and support.”

There are many such stories: a girl who started in a ChildFund-supported balwadi and who is now a member of the local government, another who has become a doctor, a boy who has completed a degree in polytechnic engineering … the list is long.

PRIDE has grown and changed, as well. “Every two, three years, we do something completely new with the communities,” says Mehra. “Right now we’re working strongly with child rights, through children’s clubs. The children can speak for themselves and say, ‘Listen, for me, not having a toilet in my school is poverty, and it’s my right to have a toilet in school.’ The children feel like that, and they can say it. And I think that’s with our intervention, with ChildFund and PRIDE working together.”

When you sponsor a child, you’re helping support a local partner organization like this one — which means you’re also partnering with ChildFund to change lives. Sponsor a child now.