by Dola Mohapatra, ChildFund India National Director
ChildFund India has begun a year-long celebration of its six decades of service to children.
Each day at ChildFund India is full of excitement and new learning. It feels much the same as my first day of work some 16 years back. Coming from a rural setting, I feel especially connected to the villages where our projects are located. I know well the desires of children who are craving knowledge and information, even as they face great challenges and have access to few rights.
Witnessing an Evolution
In the six decades that ChildFund has worked in India, our organization has witnessed the evolution of civil society. In this country of nearly 1.2 billion, vast changes have transpired in economic, social and developmental patterns. ChildFund’s niche has been to reach out to the most remote locations – those areas not normally frequented by visitors and where the need is greatest. Our ability to make a visible and meaningful contribution to the life of every child in need is what drives me.
During the past 60 years, ChildFund has made significant impact in several areas, including education. During its first 30 years in India, ChildFund worked closely with more than 100 educational institutions, orphanages and civil society organizations to provide quality education with a focus on high-level achievement. It feels great to meet successful bankers, teachers, doctors, contractors or athletes who acknowledge that they are where they are now because of the educational support they received from ChildFund.
Creating a Sustainable Future
In addition, we’ve created a protective environment for children and addressed the issues of livelihoods and food security in a sustainable manner. In southern Rajasthan, where water is scarce, 80 percent of families used to migrate to other areas for survival. When ChildFund introduced integrated programming for food security and livelihood, we were able to halt 90 percent of migration. Children started going to school regularly, family incomes stabilized and the overall indicators of child health changed completely for the better.
We also have been known as an organization that reaches out to special groups. Our innovative programs include working with children of Devadasis (temple mistresses), women prisoners, children infected with and affected by HIV and children of Musahars (a nomadic tribe of Bihar state). Some of the children from these backward tribes are now engineers and have led a generation of change in their communities. ChildFund also rescued and mainstreamed thousands of children working as child laborers in a religious colony in West Bengal, and in the glass and bangle industry in Firozabad in Uttar Pradesh.
Calling Attention to Poverty
As the National Director of ChildFund India, and moreover as an Indian, I feel a responsibility to bring forth the voices of children in need and share that need with fellow Indians. I want to make others mindful of the fact that 400 million people in our country strive each day to see light again. Our progress as a nation hinges so much on equitable and sustained growth in these remote areas, and I feel I have a duty to drive this point in various corporate, government or organizational forums.
ChildFund’s approach provides ample opportunities to bring out the perspectives of children directly or to represent them at various junctures. We must engage larger stakeholders to play their part in making a significant impact in the lives of millions of vulnerable and excluded children. In addition, we are also responsible for optimally using the support of our sponsors to provide children their due and demonstrating tangible successes that will influence many others to support our mission.
I personally love to spend time with children, creating opportunities for them to voice their thoughts – motivating our staff and volunteers as they watch the children grow and do well in life.
I believe in demonstrating the strength found in children and providing them a platform to showcase it. Over these many years, ChildFund has championed the cause of children in India. As we continuously raise the efficiency and effectiveness of our programs, I envisage our becoming a truly unique child-focused organization.
We will become a recognizable brand for children in India and a preferred partner of foundations, corporations, policymakers, government and donor agencies. We will be able to mobilize more resources to reach out to more children who are in most need.