We are inspired by every country in which we work. But India, in particular, holds special meaning to the Adopt a Village team, because our story starts here.
It was on a trip through South Asia in 1995 that Craig Kielburger witnessed first-hand the working conditions of child laborers. Three years later, with a small group called Free The Children, he set out to build a rescue home in India for freed child laborers.
It was clear from the beginning there was no quick fix to the problem of child labor, which impacts at least 12% of Indian children, and is rooted in systemic poverty.
More than a quarter of India’s population lives below the poverty line, and nearly half of all children in rural areas are underweight. Only half of girls attend secondary school, and 35 percent of women are illiterate.
We began working in India 1998. In 2008, India officially joined our list of Adopt a Village partner countries, and we’ve since seen incredible progress in the communities in which we work. We have successfully built and refurbished hundreds of schools, created health centers, organized women’s alternative income groups and more.
Our Adopt a Village projects in India take place in the Udaipur and Rajsamand district in the northern desert state of Rajasthan, which suffers from many environmental, economic and social crises. Girls in India, specifically among tribal populations of Rajasthan, experience a great number of gender disparities—they have the highest female illiteracy rate in the entire country. Child labor is also a rampant throughout the region.
Our goals here are to combat child labor, and provide access to education for the indigenous and most marginalized people. Here’s how we’re doing this.
India boasts relatively high school enrollment rates, but the drop out rate in rural communities is high, and quality education is uncommon. According to a report by The Economist, half of students in rural communities can’t read at a basic level, and the same percentage of students drop out by age 14. These numbers are even worse among girls. We know that education levels and literacy rates among women have a direct correlation to the well-being of families, which is why Free the Children is determined to improve access to education for all children, and in particular girls. We do this by:
India is home to more than one billion people, and the population is growing. This puts a huge strain on the country’s water and sanitation resources. World Bank estimates that 21 percent of communicable diseases here are related to unsafe water, and hundreds of thousands of people die every year from diarrhea alone. According to UNICEF, 33 percent of the population lacks access to latrines, and more than 50 percent of people go to the bathroom in the open. We help by facilitating the provision of:
Childhood and maternal mortality are tragically high in many parts of India, because of a lack of hospitals, clean water and sanitation, and quality doctors or nurses. More than 2 million children die every year from preventable illnesses, according to UNICEF, and fewer than half of children are immunized. Women tend to suffer from malnutrition, high rates of breast cancer, and post-partum illness or death. We help by providing:
Indian children are among the most underweight and malnourished in the world, according to The World Bank. Women are particularly underfed because they usually eat after the rest of the family has finished, and often food that’s less nutritious. People who aren’t well fed are more susceptible to illness and disease, and are less productive. Our programs support healthy communities by:
Empowering the people in rural India with the tools they need to improve their ability to earn an income is a key Adopt a Village pillar. Here’s how we help:
The community of Lai in northwest India has a population of approximately 700 people, of which 250 are children. In 2008, the community had one local school with two classrooms serving grades 1 through 3. Students were taught by a single teacher and the school had no furniture or learning materials such as books or pencils. Enrollment was low, and so was attendance. Girls were discouraged from attending school. Unsafe drinking water, improper health practices and little or no access to health care meant children missed school because they were sick.
Since we partnered with Lai, the village has experienced huge improvements to the wellbeing of the people who live here. Here’s how:
Free The Children has built five classrooms, and expanded the school to Grade 5. This has brought more teachers to the school. Enrollment and attendance have both seen a steady increase.
In the warm climate of India, waterborne diseases are easily spread. Cross-contamination of drinking water was a major issue in Lai.
Community members from Lai have taken ownership of health projects including care and management of the medicinal garden.
Women are leading the charge among projects implemented as part of the alternative income and livelihood pillar.