COVID-19 has wreaked havoc in India. As I write this, nearly 8 million Indians have tested positive, and the count of daily cases continues to rise. The Indian economy is struggling and the government is attempting to balance the economic needs of reopening and the public health needs of keeping people safe.
In a normal year, students would have returned to school in June, but schools are still closed and students are stuck at home. Many of their parents have lost jobs and are struggling to care for their families. This compounds the challenges many children face.
Sangeetha’s family is one of them. Her father, the breadwinner of this family of seven, lost his job driving a scrap truck when the coronavirus lockdown went into effect in April and couldn’t find work.
Sangeetha’s mother looked for work doing manual labor in nearby fields, but the farmers preferred to hire Sangeetha who, at age 14, can do the same work for half the pay.
Now Sangeetha spends eight hours a day digging up elephant root (taro), cleaning the mud off the tubers, and carrying them from the fields, with a 30-minute lunch break.
She says, tragically, “I’m happy I can feed my family. In the beginning it was very hard for me to work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day. Now I am used to it.”
She’s paid about $2 at the end of each day.
This is not how an adolescent girl should be spending her days! Sangeetha’s just one of many children who are being forced by circumstance to grow up too early and work back-breaking jobs to help feed their younger brothers and sisters.
Your support is needed now more than ever! Girls and boys like Sangeetha need school as an alternative to work. They need the education that school provides to dream of a different future.
Here are three ways you can help children like Sangeetha, and their families:
1. Provide Emergency Food Relief
With your support, the Arcot Lutheran Church has already distributed dry food packets to 1500 families in need.
They are currently purchasing additional food to distribute another round, as many parents have lost their jobs during this pandemic and face major hardships in feeding their families. Your help is needed to pay for supplies and dry food items.
2. Bring school to the students
Teachers, parents, volunteers and leaders from LPGM-sponsored boarding homes, English+ and other programs of the Arcot Lutheran Church (ALC) are working together in local clusters to bring school to the students, rather than bringing students to school.
These cluster leaders are going to local villages to hold outdoor, socially distanced education for students who cannot currently attend schools because of the pandemic.
This is a new, experimental model of education, and we’re working closely with the ALC to monitor how it’s going and adapt as needed to help students in the best ways possible.
3. Help schools prepare to reopen
The national government of India has recently provided guidance for schools across the country to reopen. But we don’t yet know when the state of Tamil Nadu – which has consistently faced high COVID-19 rates – will offer its own timeline and guidelines.
In the meantime, teachers, caretakers and staff in your student’s boarding home still need wages to feed their own families. They are working hard right now to prepare their campus for reopening, ensuring that there is adequate space for social distancing, installing more sanitation and hygiene stations, and engaging in their own professional development.
We all are one in Christ
2020 has been a hard year for many of us. My own son just started virtual kindergarten, meeting his new teacher and classmates for the first time through a school-issued iPad. While I’m grateful that we live in a place with the resources to (imperfectly) manage virtual school, I also know that in faith, “there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28).
Our neighbors around the world need us right now. And we need them. Over the past year I’ve heard over and over again how many people in India, Tanzania, C.A.R. and Guatemala are praying for us here in the United States, as they watch our struggles with the coronavirus, racial violence and injustice. We need each other!
Will you give a special gift today – in addition to your regular sponsorship support – to help Sangeetha and other students look to a future filled with hope?
Your financial support is a testament to the gift you’ve received in God’s love (1 John 4:9-11). And in the love of God, we have faith that “neither death, nor life… nor things present, nor things to come… nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8).
Thank you for listening to the needs of your neighbors like Sangeetha – who dreams of one day becoming an English teacher — and responding in faith and love. Your gift today will bear witness to the love of Christ in you.
In Christian love,