Daily living presents unimaginable challenges for those who are orphaned, abandoned or poor. As a child welfare agency, a vital part of our mission is to improve living conditions for those in desperate need. Here are some of the ways Wide Horizons For Children (WHFC) offers vulnerable children and families around the world assistance, hope and opportunity for the future.
India is a country of a billion people, with the world’s largest disparity between rich and poor. A walk down the streets of Mumbai, the country’s commercial capital, reveals contradictory scenes of amazing affluence and heartrending poverty.
Most affected by poverty and social inequality are India’s children, millions of whom have lost one or both parents. Orphaned and abandoned children live on the streets or in underfunded institutions. In some cases, children who remain in their homes are forced to take on the role of a deceased parent, leaving school to find jobs – including migrant work.
WHFC has worked in India for more than 35 years. In addition to placing more than 300 children in loving homes through adoption, we have joined with dedicated partners to fund many international aid projects.
Family Service Center (FSC)
WHFC is currently funding community development and child sponsorship programs that have a profound impact on children and their families living in Mumbai’s Colaba Market Slum. Family Service Center (FSC), working out of a small office in Colaba, is our partner in this effort.
Empowering Communities from Within
Colaba is one of Mumbai’s most destitute neighborhoods. Many families live in one-room shacks with corrugated tin roofs and makeshift walls. One or both parents may have jobs as vendors or laborers, but most do not earn enough money to be able to afford electricity or running water. Few children are able to attend school.
FSC, which focuses on empowering high-risk communities from within, began by meeting with women from Colaba to identify their most urgent issues and develop plans for improvement. From there, FSC built a community center and established vocational, academic, health education and sanitation programs. Women and girls who benefit from the programs share their knowledge by teaching other women at the center and visiting families in their homes. Learn more about critical FSC programs funded through WHFC:
Self-Help Groups in Mahila Mandal
Women from the Mahila Mandal community in the Azad Nagar Slum have come together to promote economic empowerment through self-help groups. FSC social workers work closely with this group, which meets regularly to discuss topics such as health care, contraception, nutrition, personal hygiene and childhood education, as well as identify opportunities for training and self-sufficiency. Social workers have also made the women aware of public resources they didn’t know existed or couldn’t access before.
Volunteers, mainly women from the Mahila Mandal community, worked closely with city workers for the removal of trash from a large alley in the Azad Nagar Slum to greatly improve sanitary conditions. The alley, previously a dump, has been almost completely cleaned up, and two new garbage bins have been installed. Campaigns for maintaining clean surroundings now run on a regular basis with full community involvement. The women have also devised a system for garbage disposal and formed groups to help maintain sanitation and hygiene in the area.
Mahila Mandal volunteers Ehmati Shaikh and Akhtani Shaikh have developed a community-based health education program on tuberculosis. Groups formed in the slums are responsible for community discourse and door-to-door visits to TB patients to monitor their health, nutrition and hygiene. These groups also take patients to the Public Health Center for treatment. In addition, audiovisuals are used to build awareness in the community. This program has been successful in the early detection of TB cases, reducing the number of infectious individuals in the community and limiting transmission of the disease.
Preschool Education in Balwaadi
Balwaadi provides preschool education each day, a priority identified by the Mahila Mandal community. Reshma Sheikh, a Mahila Mandal volunteer, provides a daily nutritious meal to the children. The teacher, Sushma Sabre, belongs to the same community as the children. She was identified and trained by FSC social workers.
To give the children a better start in life, their interest in education is fostered through various activities. FSC provides the yearly syllabus, a food chart on nutrition, notebooks, pencils and erasers. Volunteer teachers use charts, poetry and songs to teach the children the importance of education. Every festival is celebrated and field trips are organized. In addition to preparing the children for entrance tests to municipal schools (in English, Hindi and Marathi), good hygiene and nutrition are also taught. Parent/teacher meetings are held monthly to gather feedback and motivate parents to continue to send their children to school.
Most of the parents are illiterate and unable to help their children with schoolwork. Without Balwaadi, these children would have become street beggars or put to work at a very early age with no prospect for an education. Balwaadi is playing a crucial role in supporting these families and children.
Income Generation for Women
Many women from the Mahila Mandal community expressed a strong desire to learn sewing or tailoring. FSC social workers partnered with Sonia Jaiswar, the mother of a child in our sponsorship program, and government teachers from the community to establish a self-sustaining vocational training center. They helped Sonia prepare for and pass the government exam. Sonia now conducts all the training programs and private sewing classes at home. FSC works with Taj Hotels, which provides napkins for edging, work that helps generate extra income for the family.
To increase employment opportunities for women, Mahila Mandal is looking to expand the scope of initial training activities and add new programs such as beautician training and computer literacy. Many in this community, accustomed to looking after the children while their husbands worked, were illiterate and lacked confidence. After volunteering, they have newfound confidence and a sense of achievement and pride in what they have done. They have also helped their children understand the importance of education.
We are also helping to transform lives in India by keeping impoverished families together through child sponsorship.
In addition to our work in India, we help strengthen communities in Ethiopia. In collaboration with our Ethiopian staff and local governments, we have focused our community development efforts in the Sidama Zone in the south and the northern region of Tigray.
Sidama, part of the Southern Ethiopia Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples Region (SNNPR), is a lush area benefiting from agricultural success and robust trading between neighboring countries. Nearly half the population is under 15 years of age. Only one-third of residents have access to health care, resulting in abysmally high child and maternal mortality rates. Despite the fertile soil, the agricultural infrastructure is very poor -- making large harvests obtainable to only the wealthiest. Most families farm small plots of land, growing barely enough for their basic survival. Malaria and AIDS have orphaned thousands of children, leaving them to be cared for by elderly relatives who already face a food shortage. Forced to beg or help on the family farm, few children attend school. We have expanded schools in the region and brought in clean water. In 2011, we also completed our largest initiative yet – the building of the Leku Hospital in Shebedino.
Axum / Adwa is an historical, culturally rich zone in Tigray. Adwa has suffered the brunt of the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, which has resulted in thousands of deaths in Adwa’s working population. In addition, the large number of soldiers stationed there has contributed to one of the highest rates of AIDS in the country. This combination of war, famine and disease has led to what many call Ethiopia’s “missing generation.” That is, many children have lost both parents and are being raised by their older siblings or elderly grandparents. Few government services are fully operational, with health care being one of the hardest hit. The lone hospital in Adwa, built after World War I, was constructed to serve 10,000 people. Today its crumbling walls and obsolete equipment must serve hundreds of thousands, and the lives of countless mothers and children have been lost due to preventable diseases. We have expanded schools and opened a comprehensive medical clinic in Adwa, designed to bring health services closer to those in desperate need.
Share our passion for making a lasting difference for those facing a life of grinding poverty. Please visit our online donation page or contact us at 781-894-5330 for more information.