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How Does Our Child Development Work Help Transform Communities?
Posted By Jayaseelan Enos On July 13, 2010 @ 1:51 am In Country Staff | 13 Comments
One day Pastor Alioas saw a group of lepers and beggars who were trying to survive on municipal land. He watched as police pitilessly chased away the poor street dwellers. With a broken heart, he began to weep and pray. It was in that moment he received a vision from God.
Pastor Alioas wanted to help people who were rejected by society. He started to work among the lepers and beggars, leading spiritual meetings for the lepers and giving them food. During those days, he actively carried the gospel across different parts of Kerala, India. His traveling brought him to the community where he now lives.
The majority of the tribal people in the area where Pastor Alioas lives sold their land for meager amounts of money or goods. They are indebted to the landlords and money lenders, unable to pay them back because of high interest rates.
In this situation, the children usually become slaves of the landlords. Although the families toil hard to work the land, they have no right to demand money from their landlords. Whatever they are paid, they accept silently. They have few rights.
The tribal people seem to be trapped in a cycle of abject poverty. Almost every man in this tribe fights alcohol addiction; women and young boys drink, too. The landlords take advantage of the weakness and often pay the families with alcohol.
Many people work the whole day only to spend their money on drinking. Children are not sent to schools, but rather seen as extra hands to work. Early marriages take place. Teenage pregnancy is common.
Viewing this situation, the Lord put a great burden in the pastor’s heart. To give the people hope through Christ, Pastor Aliaos began a ministry in 1983 distributing food, clothes and medicine. He conducted awareness programs, and started a children’s home with 10 children to give them food and education.
After 20 years of working in this ministry, Pastor Aliaos had the opportunity to start a child development center through Compassion. The program began with 55 children and now more than 280 children are registered, including nearly 100 tribal children.
God has brought about an incredible transformation in the lives of the children, their families and this community. The children regularly attend schools. The educational standard of the children has improved. About 40 children participate in sports activities and they have received many prizes in school and higher-level competitions.
This center has a music band of 15 children. Their talents in playing instrumental music attract the attention of many other schools. They now receive invitations from several schools to give special programs.
The way of life for these children has changed so much that nobody would now be able to recognize them as tribal children. Their confidence and dignity has improved.
But as Pastor Alioas served these people, he found something alarming: an increasing rate of suicide among the farmers. The reported reason was economic instability, severe financial crisis, despair and hopelessness.
The farmers faced crop disease, price drops, drought and excess use of chemical pesticides and fertilizers. Agriculture became an unreliable means of living and the people became the miserable victims of the crisis. Owing to these difficulties, the farmers fell into debt.
People began to take huge loans from banks and toiled very hard in the lands. But their hope was lost as they couldn’t pay back their debts or make any money. From 2002 to 2006, 316 farmers committed suicide.
Hundreds of children lost their fathers and mothers, and wives lost their husbands. The banks began to seize properties with lapsed loan payments. Many people lost their hope for their future, along with their land.
A survey was conducted in the community the child development center serves; 12 people committed suicide in 2008 and 11 in 2009. Among them were parents of three Compassion children.
Wilson, a farmer, who was 48 years old, committed suicide by taking poison in June 2008. He was reputable in the community, innocent and well accepted by his neighbors. He was married and had two sons. Both of them are in the sponsorship program.
Wilson was not able to pay the loans that he had taken from the bank, and he committed suicide. His wife was pregnant. They suffered tremendously, but the church helped them build a house and supported them financially. Now the family is living peacefully.
Rajan, 40 years, committed suicide by hanging himself. He was also married with two children. This family lived in government-allotted colonies, and Rajan worked as a blacksmith. He suffered from epilepsy and was an alcoholic.
Unable to repay the debts nor bear his sickness, he committed suicide. The church gave the family a helping hand in those dark days.
Shiji was a mother of three children. She used to fight with her husband every day after drinking and never used to give money to the family.
Shiju was working as a cook at the development center. Unable to tolerate her husband’s unchanging character and the hardship she underwent, she poured kerosene on herself and burned herself. Her husband was watching and tried to save her, but he also caught fire.
Both of them were rushed to a nearby hospital. Shiju breathed her last at the hospital. Her husband was half-burned but survived. His hands and legs were paralyzed and he cannot walk now. His relatives took one son and one daughter with them. The son is part of of the sponsorship program.
Pastor Alioas’ church also has a Child Survival Program. There are 44 mother and their children in this program. They are taught what it means to be a family and what it means to raise children. The entire community has learned their responsibilities both toward home and society.
Family problems, quarreling among couples, use of bad words, nuisance in community, relationship problems, etc., have decreased. There has been a drastic change in people’s attitudes.
The church has also started income-generation programs to enable the families in debt to make money and thus improve their financial situations. This also helps lower the suicide rate in the region.
The poor women are provided with mushroom seeds so that they can cultivate mushrooms and make money. The church provides them with raw materials for making soaps and selling them. Each poor family is provided with a goat. This goat yields a kid after one year, and in this way the family can raise income.
The women are also taught to make umbrellas. Tailoring classes are conducted. Men are taught to drive vehicles and are provided financial help for getting driving licenses.
However, to make these efforts a complete success, men have to give up drinking, which can cause fighting and violence in the family. With the aim of helping alcoholics, recovery programs are supported. Twenty-one church families have been sent to a treatment center. Follow-up is done. Weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings are conducted at the development center, and so far alcohol addicts have given up the habit.
With this variety of intervention, Pastor Alioas has been able to help change lives.
“Through Compassion we are able to give them good education. Not only that, we are able to develop their inborn skills and talents. We concentrate on the all-round development: education, economic, social and moral. Through our continued efforts, children learn how to be responsible members of the family as well as the society.”
Compassion has had a lasting influence not only in the lives of the children but throughout the community by helping create responsible parents, helping reduce the suicide rate, bringing people into the saving knowledge of God, strengthening family bonds, and building responsible members of society.
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