Sunday, February 25, 2007

A Great Story - From Street Child to Surgeon, Indian Girl Follows Dream

Reuters AlertNet - FEATURE-From street child to surgeon, Indian girl follows dream

18 Feb 2007 23:03:49 GMT
Source: Reuters
By Jeremy Lovell

JAIPUR, India, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Former child prostitute Chand has a burning ambition — to be a doctor helping India’s destitute millions.

And the 16-year-old girl is bright enough to realise her dream, according to the charity that 10 years ago rescued her from the teeming streets of the northern Indian city of Jaipur with a population of some three million people.

“I want to be a surgeon. There are too many people and too few doctors here,” the slim youngster told Reuters on a visit to the Ladli centre where she lives and learns in the sprawling metropolis dubbed the Pink City from the colour of its walls.

“That is my goal. In my society girls have very little chance to get an education. Here I have a chance,” she added, seated under a tree in the dusty yard of the school.

Her story is as heart-rending as it is common. Only the end is different — maybe.

Women, still considered by many as a commodity even in the 21st century, are neglected in the educational system and often sidelined in the social hierarchy.

According to UNICEF — the United Nations’ Childrens’ Fund — there are over two million prostitutes in India of whom some 500,000 are children or minors.

Some reports suggest that up to 200 women and children a day are forced into the world’s oldest profession to pay debts or simply to provide an income for their families.


Chand’s mother was a prostitute with 16 children living in Japiur’s red light area, and the girl — her family name has been withheld to protect her — was already a child prostitute when she ran away to eke an existence on the streets aged six.

Ladli outreach workers found her and took her in to the sanctuary that it offers for abused, orphaned and destitute children in the Rajasthan state capital of 2.8 million people, 260 km (160 miles) southwest of Delhi.

“We try to give the children here their lives back,” said founder Abha Goswami, 50. “We are giving love to our children. We are giving care to our children.”

Goswami, whose mother died when she was just 18 months old and who was orphaned at 16, founded the I-India project in 1993 giving help to 500 of Jaipur’s street children.

Three years later it set up the Child Inn boys home and the Ladli girls home and in 2000 it got its two School on Wheels buses touring the streets offering basic reading and writing lessons to children who would otherwise have no education.

Last year some 3,000 children passed through the hands of Goswami and her helpers — either through the buses or the four homes and one vocational centre — also called Ladli — that I-India now operates.


But resources are scarce. The organisation can not offer residential care to more than a handful of children, so the majority go back home or onto the streets every night.

“We have street children, runaways, orphans, children of prostitutes — often child prostitutes themselves — and abandoned children from divided families,” Goswami said. “But we can’t feed everyone in our homes.”

Even for Chand, there is the constant threat of her past dragging her back to wreck her future.

“If I saw my family again they would want me back to become a prostitute again to earn money,” she said simply.

It is an endless struggle with scant help from the government and the centre heavily reliant on its own fund raising and foreign sponsors of individual projects.

One such project is for the children to make and sell jewellery.

At the moment it is 50 percent funded by a sponsor, but the goal is to make it completely self-sufficient — and for each piece that is sold some money is put into a bank account for the girls for when they grow up and leave.

The projects are a beacon of light in a country whose economy is booming but where some 35 million of the one billion population are orphans and where around 300 million people are living on less than $1 a day — of whom 140 million are children.

“Our children are safe here. We feed them and teach them … We give them skills and hope, so they can make their way and earn a living later in life,” Goswami said.

“For just a few dollars a day we can give life back to a child here,” she added.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Great report on poverty

I came across a fantastic 24-page report on poverty from the development arm of the United Nations. Many of the articles are helpful and clear in their discussion of what poverty really is. This has been helpful to our staff in allowing us to attempt to ask and answer questions of how to best deepen our work with the "impoverished" groups we work with including downtown with the homeless and prostitutes and in the precario.

The report can be found at:

Take a look and then post any comments you might have.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Interesting new report from UNICEF on the state of young people in wealthier nations

The UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre this week released Report Card No. 7: Child Poverty in Perspective - An overview of child well-being in rich countries which focuses on the well-being of children and young people in the world’s advanced economies and provides the first comprehensive assessment.

The U.S. and United Kingdom did not fare so well in this report. The document can be found at this address:

What do you think the reasons would be that the U.S. would struggle? In a wealthy country that is reknowned for it's levels of philanthropy, which has an active civil society and a church on every corner almost, what could be missing?

Is it that these countries are strong, proud and productive within a system that places the system and productivity above human relationships and well-being? Is it that these nations have large immigrant influxes and are in conflict of how to respond to them? This does seem to be a problem in so many nations. We decide who should be here and who should not and yet that doesn't stop them from coming. What it does stop us from doing is responding to them in a way that will help them. "Why should we? They are illegal!" And yet they are here.

We begin to respond to them as illegal, invisible people and sense no responsibility to pay attention to them. Many of us see it as charitable to ignore least we are not kicking them out. And yet the numbers of these people increase and they begin to define who we are as a country. Is that phenomena part of why the U.S. and U.K. are getting such bad grades in regards to how they care for their children?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Can You Take the Girl Out of the Precario?

Boy With a Ball or La Bola as we are called down here in Costa Rica took some important steps last week in our work in the precario or squatter's settlement called El Triangulo de la Solidaridad a few miles from our office.

Public schools started classes last week and the mother's of this precario when into a tizzy trying to gather the $100 or more necessary to buy all of the supplies and uniforms for their children to be able to go to school. School is so important. I know that statement may seem to be childish or overly simple, however, we are watching on a daily business as it seems that only those who go to school have any chance of making it out of this neighborhood of dirt floors and diseased soil, drug dealers, fear and hopelessness.

Costa Rica's average income is $6000 a year which is about 1/6th of what it is in the United States. The precario is even more dramatic in it's comparison to the average Costa Rican family. Family's probably struggle to make $1000-$1500 a year. (I will check on that in the next few weeks to confirm what that amount really is.) This income is made usually with the man of the house starting at 5 am and working on after dark six days of the week. Many families are in debt to the grocery stores for trying to buy rice and beans for their family.

In this economic situation, $100 for school for EACH child is impossible. Sadly, their child not being able to school is a life sentence of living in precarios.

We have made it a major focus to educate the young people and families on the importance of education. We have researched how to help kids who have dropped out get back in. So last week, when the moms began to crowd around us and beg for help with buying school supplies, we were kind of in no place to say no.

Unfortunately, as an organization, the last month was not a great one. We had no funds to put toward this. Many of us had even not received a full paycheck. However, it was impossible not to tell some of these moms that we would help...even out of our own nearly empty wallets.

As a last resort, I sent out an email update detailing the situation. I hoped one or two people might join in the fight and help us raise the $300 we needed to help these families. I was amazed by the response. One after another, emails came in. "We want to help." "Jamie, we will help." "We want to help." Individuals, couples, families, churches, girl even put out a bulletin to her friends on My Space! (Thanks Annie!)

As a result, we have been able to expand our help in this situation. Team member Anna Currie and I had to hold back tears as Joanna, a mom of three, almost broke down when she saw us walk into her house with every thing her two boys would need to go to school the next day. She had probably given up hope. She couldn't stop thanking us and thanking God.

The week kept rolling. We had another installment of Soccer Night where a really healthy group of guys from a local church gather and invite all of the young guys from the precario to come and play soccer for two hours in an indoor arena. I will have to post about this seperately another day, however, it is so dramatic to watch these young guys from the precario sense that they belong with this healthy group of amazing kids. The mentoring dynamics that are happening in this situation are worth writing a book about.

Finally, the local church we have been helping in their response to young people held a youth camp and we helped staff it. We have been inviting two young people from the precario named Raquel and her cousin, Diana, to the youth group meetings lately. Raquel is the only person we have ever met in the precario who is graduated from high school and headed to the university. Our hope has been to surround her by some of the young women in the church youth group who go to the same university to help build a peer group around her to help support her and her family as they head into this new frontier of higher learning!

Their family is surprising considering their surroundings. They run a alterations business next door to their house. The father is a great father and the mom stays at home with the kids.

We are careful to focus on helping equip people within their situation for the most part. Taking a poor young person into middle class houses can sometimes hurt them more than help them. They can get awed by pretty furniture and big portions of food and feel hopeless in the situation. There is another way to do it where they are instilled with hope by the experience. We have hoped that this would happen with Raquel and Diana. With this in mind, we invited the two to the camp.

The two girls looked uncomfortable at times. They certainly had to face significant fears. Yet as we all drove back across the city to take them home last night in a bus filled with 60 Costa Rican youth, I could not help but be content.

It seems to be working for these girls...they are gaining strength in believing that they can make it our of the precario. They are gaining interest in their studies and building friendships that they are using to help give them a map of what they will need to have and be in order to live the lives they could not have even dreamt of before.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Who made a difference in your life?

Much of the work of Boy With a Ball is focused on relationships. I honestly believe that the world is in the state it is in because of negative relationships and the painful consequences that come out of them...broken families, abandoned children, abusive parents, hopeless communities, violence, manipulation, fear. The only way to fix the result of negative relationships is through positive relationships.

We focus on four main tools in this fight to put young people in the "garden" of positive relationships: aggressive outreach (we hit the streets in teams to go to where young people are, meet them and become their friends), one-to-one mentoring relationships, small group communities (the young people we reach and mentor are set into communities of caring adults and other young leaders where they can grow while being surrounded by others growing in the same situation) and then finally educational resources (we use the mentoring relationships and small group communities as a platform to offer training/counseling/coaching in the areas that young people need.)

My life was changed at 16 years old when I met a pastor named Jim Newsom in the midst of a tumultuous time. He pulled me into an amazing community of people who were growing and learning as I wanted to and the garden of these relationships equipped me to change dramatically in just a few years. Issues like character, spiritual development, relationships, finances, my future and much more were touched on and transformed.

If you have the time and don't mind sharing a bit of your story, who was the person/people that impacted your life?