Bringing hope to the slums of lost hope.

By September 14, 2005

India (MNN)–Work all day. Carry heavy loads of granite rock to a work site, then spend hours breaking it down into chips. For every measured unit, the laborer gets 25-cents.

It sounds like a scene from a prison camp, but in this case, the worker is a 13-year old boy in India. His is not an isolated case. Girls as young as 8-years old are running through the city as ‘rag pickers’ scavenging recyclable items for their owners.

For these children, the future is grim, with little hope of escaping their circumstances without an education. Grand Rapids, Michigan-based Mission India is taking on the problem of child laborers in India.

Mission India’s Dave Stravers says the cycle starts when parents are in debt to loan sharks. To satisfy that debt, they give their children over for a type of bonded slavery.

For the children, there is no future, but “Mission India has two programs that deal with this. First of all, we have literacy training, and at the same time, we use Bible-based, Scripture-based materials, so many of them come to know Christ.”

It’s a different world in the rural areas and slums, says Stravers. “The other program that we have is children’s Bible clubs.” These clubs are often held in places where children cannot attend school.

Children’s Bible Clubs are welcomed into communities as a two-week program. Many clubs are held by partners in places where living conditions are nearly hopeless.

While this program is needed, there is one challenge they are facing. “We don’t have enough trained teachers or enough materials,” explains Stravers, “to reach all those people that are asking us and, we have a waiting list of more than 100,000 children and adults waiting to get into the illiteracy program.”

It may seem daunting, but there are huge benefits too. “Right now, we have about 80-thousand that are learning literacy, evenings.” He adds that many of those who go through the programs will be able to read and do arithmetic on the 5th grade level when they finish the program.

Often, the growth doesn’t stop there. As the education takes hold, so does comprehension of what they’re studying. That means many of these students wind up plugged in to a local church.

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