Despite India’s emergence as an economic power on the global stage, the contrast between rich and poor is profound. Very little international aid funding or corporate funding trickles down to marginalised communities in India.
What are the challenges?
Grinding poverty and illiteracy. In the city slums of Kolkata and Mumbai over one third cannot feed their families adequately. Home is a makeshift shack or lean-to hovel. Wages are very low and unemployment is high.
In the Patripul slum, home to 30,000 people including around 15,000 children, our partners run the GCare Centre – a care centre and informal pre-school for 80 children. Mostly of Dalit heritage, the so-called ‘untouchables’, this community is subject to much discrimination and prejudice. In 2015 a second centre opened, supporting a further 40 children, all from the Dalit community.
They study English, Hindi, Marathi and Maths, in either morning or afternoon sessions. This offers academic support to those already in school, and encourages children who have dropped out of school back into education. Our staff work with families, encouraging them to value education and supporting children with further welfare care. They also advocate for children with teachers in government schools who may be subjecting Dalit children to bullying and discrimination, and challenge cultural practices, including selling Dalit children into bonded labour.
There has been considerable local opposition to this project, especially from higher-caste groups who do not believe Dalit children deserve an education. We are committed to continuing to support this important work, providing skills for life to children from a marginalised community who historically have had very few opportunities to better themselves.