Shelter Helps Free Children from Labor Balaji was still a small child when his parents sent him to work in a mechanical shop during his summer holiday. Soon after, the same systemic poverty and domestic strife that led him to become a victim of child labor practices also forced him from his home and the company of his parents and older brother. Balaji found himself a ward of the state. But Balaji’s story doesn’t end there. Not long after coming into government custody, Balaji was admitted to the Home for Abandoned Children in Tiruvallur in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Now safe at the shelter, Balaji is free from the threat of child labor and has a stable environment in which to focus on his studies. He’s in the 8th grade now, studying every day, regularly attending classes and—most importantly—has the chance to focus on the one thing children should focus on: being a kid. “Before joining this home, I didn’t attended school regularly,” says Balaji. “Now I am going to school every day. And with the help of other children my age, I am motivated to study well. Goodbye child labor!” Balaji’s isn’t the only story of hope and triumph that has come from the Home for Abandoned Children. Since it was opened in 2011, the home, a joint effort between the Klein-Brabant Lions Club in Belgium and the local Perambakkam Lions Club, has provided shelter for children whose difficult family situations have forced them from their homes. The home was made possible by a US$14,000 International Assistance Grant from Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) in 2007. Since then, it has been managed by the Integrated Rural Community Development Society, an NGO, in cooperation with Side by Side India, Lions from Belgium and India and with financial support from the Indian Government. With a maximum capacity of 40 children, the Home for Abandoned Children isn’t intended to be a permanent home. Instead, the shelter aims to provide a safe living environment and constructive, educational experiences for children in need until their domestic situations stabilize or they reach an age where they become independent. While at the home, children receive the love and attention they need to grow into healthy, independent adults. This includes safe and sanitary living conditions, access to education, a balanced, healthy diet, health care and extra educational assistance for children with learning disabilities. In 2014, construction began on an expansion to the first floor of the shelter. The added living space and bathrooms will allow for the home to better serve its inhabitants. Lions volunteer at the home as well as donate funds, food and even board games. To find out more about LCIF International Assistance Grants, visit www.lcif.org. New School Provides Opportunity BY CASSANDRA BANNON Valuing education but lacking resources, parents in Kemba in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) built a one-room schoolhouse with mud and straw. Those raw materials proved to be less than ideal. The walls crumbled. The school lacked windows, desks, chairs and bathrooms. Rain poured through the holes in the roof. Its 140 students learned amid dismal conditions. Aware that the literacy rate is about 30 percent in the DRC and illiteracy dims work prospects and limits even access to health care, the Acqui Terme Host Lions Club in Italy set out to help Kemba parents. The club teamed up with the Kinshasa Bondeko Lions to build a new primary school. The Acqui Terme Host Lions drew up plans for a school that would encompass four buildings: two with 12 classrooms each, one to house four staff offices and a library, and a separate building for restroom facilities. The Lions held a gala to raise funds to support the project and received help from other local Lions clubs. The Acquie Colline Acquesi, Cortemilia e Valli, Nizza-Canelli and Carpentras Comptat Venaissin clubs donated time, money or materials. The Lions then turned to Lions Clubs International Foundation (LCIF) for a US$35,750 Standard Grant to raise the remaining funds needed to build and equip the school. LCIF’s most common grant, Standard Grants provide matching funds from US$10,000 to US$100,000 for large-scale Lions humanitarian efforts. Standard Grants generally provide capital funding for equipment and infrastructure needs. Typically funded are mobile health units, hospices, medical equipment, blind and disabled centers, eye clinics and schools in developing countries. Drawing up the plans proved to be the easy part of the project. Located approximately 137 miles southwest of the capital city of Kinshasa, Kemba does not have a strong roadway system. Most Kemba residents get around on foot, so the streets are not equipped to handle heavy vehicle traffic. The main thoroughfares in the area are rivers, but there isn’t a river close to Kemba. So building materials were brought downriver by boat and then taken via trucks to their final destination. The Lions persevered and the new school is now up and running, providing a safe place for students and teachers alike. Lions expect this new school to serve up to 240 students when children from nearby villages start attending.The roof does not leak and the floor is made of concrete, not dirt. There are wooden doors and shutters on the windows. Students and teachers now have desks and chairs. The work of the Acqui Terme Host Lions did not end once the school was built; they have pledged to send books, notebooks, pencils and other supplies to the school for the next five years. Thanks to Lions, Kemba now has one more tool to use in the fight against illiteracy and poverty. To find out more about LCIF Standard grants, visit lcif.org and search for "standard grants."
Published by International Association of Lions Clubs . View All Articles.
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