The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:5
The country of Bangladesh—with more than one-quarter of it’s population living on less than $2/day—can be a difficult place to grow up. But 11-year-old Dina is a light to her destitute homeland.
Dina was born into a very poor family in a rural community and until recently, her life was going down a seemingly dismal path. Like most young girls in her community who spend their days working for their families—cooking, cleaning, fetching water and taking care of younger siblings—Dina was soon to be married.
Married… at 11-years-old.
Unable to afford to send Dina to school or support her at all, her father was prepared to make an agreement with another family and sell his daughter off to marry a much older man. By God’s grace, however, Dina’s story took a drastic turn. One day, a local teacher visited Dina’s neighborhood. When he first saw Dina, he felt bad for the thin young girl in tattered clothes that stood before him. “But as we talked,” the teacher explains about first interacting with Dina, “I was so impressed by her and her dreams.”
After talking with Dina and later meeting with her parents and telling them about an opportunity for her to attend school on a paid scholarship through World Concern, the teacher was able to re-direct Dina’s path completely.
Today, Dina is the top student in her fourth grade class. “Without your assistance, it was not possible for us to send Dina to school and lead her on a track of development to a brighter future,” Dina’s parents explain.
Families around Bangladesh are learning about the importance of sending their children to school. In a male-dominated society that does not traditionally support education for girls, this is a vital step in the right direction. In the past month alone, 60 new households heard about the scholarship program for the first time and 92 sponsored students had their tuition and exam fees paid for. As a direct result, there has been an increase in overall school attendance as well as major improvements in the way that parents are prioritizing and taking better care of their daughters.
As parents are seeing the impact of education on their children’s lives, they too are becoming motivated to learn and improve their own lives. For women like Dina’s mom, this means getting involved in a women’s micro-credit group. These groups allow women to work together and save money as well as invest in their own small businesses. Not only does this directly impact their economic stability, but it empowers them to stand up for their rights and learn new skills such as how to read and write. In one community this month, advocacy and counselling sessions helped prevent a divorce and two child marriages!
“World Concern showed me the light in my life,”Dina explains, “Otherwise I would grow up as an illiterate woman…in the future I want to be a teacher and teach the poor children in my community.”
To help more girls like Dina become lights in their communities, you can provide a scholarship for $50 and send a girl to school today!
Last month, Family Life Radio hosts Stacey and Johnny Stone visited World Concern’s work in Bangladesh. The following post was written by Stacey, who was particularly touched by the life and dedication of one young girl she met.
I’d traveled a long way to visit with young Prishna.
I had heard many amazing things about this girl and she now sat on an office chair in front of me. It was an exciting moment, and the room had filled with people all eager to hear her story.
The first thing I noticed about this precious girl was how thin she was. She was much smaller than other teenage girls, and I discovered afterwards that it was because Prishna had been severely malnourished growing up. This was my first introduction to how invasive poverty can really be.
As people mingled around her, Prishna’s head was down and her eyes fixed on the floor. But every once in a while she would look up and glance at me. Please God, make my face pleasing to this girl who needs to see your love and compassion through me.
That was my very quick prayer as we settled into the World Concern office in Bangladesh. To my amazement, it was within moments of my prayer that Prishna lifted her head and smiled at me. Thank you Jesus.
Some staff members began to sing, and while they were singing (albeit a little off key), I noticed Prishna start to giggle. Her smile was incredible, and it was an act of worship all of it’s own!
After the short service, Prishna continued to smile and laugh as the men served tea. Maybe it was a shared sense of humor toward awkward situations, but Prishna and I shared something special after that worship service. It was all unspoken but her smile, and determined attitude brought comfort to this weary traveler.
But when Prishna started to speak, and tell her story, I realized my life would never be the same again.
Prishna sat with another woman and started to tell us about her life, and why she was now sitting here with World Concern. Having grown up in a culture where girls as young as 10 become child-brides, Prishna had been one of the few that escaped this shocking cultural practice. Determined to now help other teenage girls, Prishna visits poverty-stricken neighborhoods with World Concern staff.
Since she was just a little girl, Prishna’s family had planned to marry her off on her 10th birthday. It sounded unbelievable to me, but for girls in the poor villages of Bangladesh, becoming a child bride is a dark and frightening reality. Poverty forces families to do the unthinkable, but together with World Concern, Prishna was now showing them how to avoid child marriage altogether.
Prishna is now a familiar face in the villages, as she bravely shares her story of escaping child marriage with other girls at risk. Her encouragement is simple … to say “NO”.
She first rejected child marriage at the age of 10 … then 11 … and each year after that. By the time Prishna was 14, she was so determined to make something of her life that she was fully enrolled in school, safe from being married off, and helping other girls find their voice.
Today, Prishna wants to finish her studies and become a doctor. Her dream is that she will return to this community and ensure the families here have access to good health care.
As I listened to Prishna speak, I become even more empowered to stop this terrible practice. Through her courage, and in the face of such poverty, I could see that she was just the beginning of generations of young women who will stand up, and say, “God made a way when there seem to be no way.”
When Karima was just 8 years-old, her father left. And she took it hard.
She had not lived a day without him by her side. This man had protected her, and worked to keep her in school. So when he abandoned her mother and two sisters, Karima’s world came crashing down. Nobody came to console her. Nobody was there to wipe away her tears.
And sadly things would only get worse.
Karima’s village is in Bangladesh, and while she was too young to know it, it’s a country where many young girls are married off as child brides. Bangladesh has the fourth highest rate of child marriage in the world, where 1 in every 5 girls is married before they turn 15.
Mired in poverty after her husband left, Karima’s mother managed to survive in a small dilapidated shack, no bigger than your average kitchen. She fiercely protected Karima, and fought to keep her in school, knowing that an education was the only thing that would help her escape this life.
So she did what any mother would—she worked to find a way.
But with no money, and never having worked before, it was close to impossible. She finally found a day laboring job but the wage was small, barely enough to pay for food. There were days when the family would go without just so Karima could stay in school. It was an overwhelming sacrifice and money was quickly running out.
In Bangladesh, stories like this are far too common. In this article, a 15-year-old child bride sadly reflects on her situation saying, “We were very poor. Sometimes we would eat every two or three days,” she says. “Even though they [parents] really wanted all three of their daughter to study, it wasn’t possible –so they got me married.” Her older sisters married at 11 and 12.
So for Karima’s mother, it was no surprise when a friend suggested her daughter be married off as a child bride. This is the shocking reality for girls like Karima. They have no say, no choice. Their only hope of avoiding this terrifying prospect is to stay in school.
At World Concern, we consider every child precious. And for that reason we’re focusing our efforts on preventing girls like Karima from becoming child brides, by doing all we can to keep them in school.
We do this by providing scholarships for girls like Karima. The scholarship gives them an education and keeps them from being married off too young.
Have you seen the 2017 Global Gift Guide yet? One of the more popular items are goats, and for good reason. Read about a young girl in Haiti named Fania to find out why the gift of a goat means she’ll get to stay in school.
In the rural community of Mersan in southern Haiti there is a primary school called Ecole Mixte Bon Berger. Since 2012 World Concern has partnered with this school by providing goats and husbandry training to students. With a goat, students are able to earn an income by selling the goat’s offspring and using the money to pay for school tuition and other supplies.
One of these students in Mersan is named Fania Bien-Aime, a shy 14-year-old girl who has a smile that is hard to forget. She lives a 15 minute walk from the school with her parents and six siblings. “I always walk to school. In the beginning it was difficult but now it is easy.”
“I know how to take care of the goat because I learned some things in the training,” she said. “When it’s raining I have to shelter the goat but usually during the day it sits in the shade because the sun is too hot.”
Now her goat is in heat and Fania expects it to become pregnant shortly. When working with communities, the ‘long view’ must be taken into consideration. There may be solutions that would provide temporary assistance to Fania, however this lacks sustainability and requires a handout to be given repeatedly. World Concern is interested instead in long term solutions.
A goat is a treasured asset in rural Haiti because it represents a steady income. “Each year a goat can give between six and nine kids, and she may produce kids for up to 10 years,” explains Pierre Duclona, World Concern’s regional coordinator for southern Haiti.
While a goat and relevant training may not produce immediate results, it will provide students like Fania with a way to earn an income for years to come and give her new skills which she can carry into adulthood.
Fania will soon begin the 6th grade and is looking forward to returning to class after the summer break.
“The sciences and mathematics are the ones I like. I like to study,” she shared. “Education is important so I can help my parents and also for myself to feel good and help in society.”
“I would like to be a tailor but I can’t sew right now. For now this is the profession that is in my head,” explained Fania. “You can get money from this skill because when school begins, parents need to send their children’s uniforms to get sewed.”
With a goat and specific training, Fania is well-positioned to earn an income and therefore continue with her education which will give her opportunities to provide for herself and her family. It is because of your generosity and partnership that we’re able to help keep girls like Fania in school! Give the gift of a goat today.
“I want to be the first girl from this village to go to high school.”
As 12-year-old Jackline spoke these words, she glanced up nervously to see if anyone listening to her believed it was possible.
Jackline is a soft-spoken girl from rural Kenya. And she knows that in this part of the world if she doesn’t go to high school, she’ll likely be married off soon—to a man not of her choosing—just like her four sisters were.
But Jackline has a dream of a different kind of life. She dreams of the kind of life you or I would want for our children.
“My father is a sheep trader. He sells animals for money,” explained Jackline. In order for her to attend high school, her father would have to sacrifice too much of his flock, and risk losing the family’s livelihood completely if there was a drought.
“I’m the first girl in my family to go to primary school,” shared Jackline shyly.
In her village, girls Jackline’s age and younger who are not able to attend primary school are living a bleak and sometimes brutal reality.
“They are caring for sheep. They don’t get to play, and they don’t go to school,” she explained. “Sometimes they are beaten by their parents if they make a mistake.”
In her Maasai culture, polygamy is still practiced, which means each of her sisters probably became co-wives of older men who have established flocks of sheep and income to support another young wife. Like most girls in this culture, her sisters will probably have several children by the time they reach 20 years old.
It gets worse… many young girls are subjected to female circumcision—a horrific practice that leaves them permanently marred. “If I were not in school, the process would have started to marry me off,” explained a sweet 10-year-old girl in Jackline’s village. “First, I would be circumcised, then married.”
A high school education for a girl can mean escaping child marriage, extreme poverty, and even abuse.
But something has happened in a nearby village… something Jackline can hardly imagine. One of the girls who received a high school scholarship from World Concern has been accepted to a Kenyan university. Not only was she among the few girls in this region to attend high school, now she’s headed to college.
“I just want to go to the farthest possible level and complete school,” said Jackline. And if she gets this chance, she wants to make sure other girls have the same opportunity. “I want to become a teacher when I finish school so I can teach in this school.”
I know that when girls are educated, amazing things can happen. I’ve seen it, and it’s life-changing. When you donate to the School4Girls campaign, $50 can provide an entire year of education for a girl like Jackline.
Turn her dream into reality by helping a girl like Jackline be the first in her village to attend high school. You’ll change her future and the future of her entire community.
From the time Asad first learned to communicate, he dreamed of being a teacher so he could help other hearing impaired children speak, just like he had.
When Asad was born, his parents were hopeful their son would become a doctor someday. They were concerned when, at two years old, he still couldn’t speak and didn’t respond to sound.
The village doctor assured the family that he was normal. But an ear, nose, and throat doctor recommended a hearing test. The family traveled to Dhaka for the test in 1990, and young Asad was diagnosed as severely deaf. He was referred to a special school in Dhaka, but his family couldn’t afford it.
When they heard that World Concern was opening a Hear School for deaf children in Barisal, Asad’s parents took him there. Assessments showed profound hearing loss. The staff recommended hearing aids and orientation classes for his parents. The teachers were confident Asad could learn to communicate with treatment and special education.
When he started at the Hear School, Asad could only say simple words, like “mom,” and communicate through gestures. But with compassionate training, Asad started speaking in complete sentences. Soon, he was also able to read English and solve math problems easily.
Asad eventually integrated into a mainstream primary school. He passed all ten classes with good grades, and in 2008 he was admitted to college.
Asad kept in contact with the Hear School even after graduating, talking with and encouraging parents and students with his story. He had become skilled in computers, and writing in both Bangla and English.
When one of the teachers at the Hear School resigned, Asad was hired, fulfilling his dream of becoming a teacher for deaf students.
Now, he’s able to share his success and encourage children who are struggling to communicate, just like he was.
You can open up a world of sound to hearing impaired children in Bangladesh. Donate here.
Although we’ve been taught that there is no “silver bullet” to combating poverty, education may be an exception. The impact education can have in the lives of children—especially girls—is overwhelming.
– One extra year of school boosts a girl’s future wages by 10-20 percent.
– A girl who completes basic education is three times less likely to contract HIV.
– Education drastically reduces child marriage. On average, a girl with 7 years of education will marry 4 years later and have 2.2 fewer children.
If statistics are not convincing, listen to girls themselves. I’ve found that in Haiti girls yearn to attend school and know full well the value of an education.
“School is important because you need to learn things so you can have an occupation,” said 12-year-old Rocheka who lives in the small coastal village of Crabier in southern Haiti.
So what’s with the goats we talk so much about? And what do goats have to with education? Well I’m glad you asked.
In partnership with schools and churches, World Concern gives a female goat to a young girl who also receives basic goat husbandry training so she knows how to take care of her goat. Once the goat has babies (called kids; funny but totally legit), the first kid is given back to the program so another child can benefit. Then all other kids that the female goat gives birth to can be sold by the girl to pay for school fees and other related costs such as books, materials and uniforms.
This way the girl is given a skill (goat-raising) and she is able to contribute towards her education, reducing dependency and making her an active participant instead of a passive receiver.
There are three primary advantages to the ‘goat model’:
1. Life lessons. When a goat is initially given to a girl, she also receives basic goat husbandry training. The training focuses on how to feed the goat and keep it healthy. A goat is an asset in rural Haiti and represents an important source of income that girls can use to pay for school fees and other necessities. It’s important from the beginning to give girls the skills they need to take care of the goat. The goat husbandry knowledge they gain during the training is something they can use for years to come, even after they finish school. Since a goat requires consistent attention, girls learn important life lessons such as responsibility, discipline and ownership. Aside from the initial training, World Concern staff returns each month to teach girls and other students about additional tips and techniques for raising their goat.
2. “Multiplying effect.” When a goat is given, its impact goes beyond the girl who initially received the goat. The first kid that goat produces is returned to the program so it can be given to another child. This is one reason that our goat program in Haiti has existed since 1998 and continues to this day. The gift of a goat has a significant impact in the life of a girl but it also is a gift that multiplies over time, impacting other children as well.
3. The gift that (literally) keeps giving. “Each year a goat will give between six and nine kids, and she typically can produce kids for up to 10 years,” explains Pierre, World Concern’s regional coordinator for southern Haiti. The kids that a goat produces represent income for a young girl so she can attend school and most importantly stay in school. All goats, minus the first, are hers to sell. Enabling a girl to earn an income and pay for school lightens the financial burden on her family and allows the family’s precious resources to be spent on other critical needs.
World Concern provides vaccinations to goats in the program as well as on-going veterinary care. This ensures that the investment of a goat will truly benefit a girl long term.
Rocheka is one of many girls in Haiti who are able to stay in school thanks to the gift of a goat. Rocheka is a soft spoken yet determined and bright girl who has big dreams.
“After I finish secondary school, I would like to be a nurse so I can take care of children because many children suffer from disease,” she shared.
Youslie is a 7-year-old girl who lives in the village of Guilgeau and is currently in the second grade.
“In school I like to read stories,” she said.
Youslie recently received her goat and is enjoying taking care of it.
“I feed the goat twice a day things like corn and corn husk,” said Youslie. “Once the goat has babies I will drink the milk.”
In Haitian Creole, the language spoken by all Haitians, the word baton is significant. Translated directly it means ‘stick’ or ‘baton’ however it has a deeper meaning. A baton can also be a skill or ability that a person possesses which will help them succeed in life. This meaning is often used in reference to education.
Following earning a certificate from a trade school or graduating from high school, someone may say, “Now I have a baton I can use to fight in life.” With a baton, a person is given a tool which will help them in their pursuit of a more healthy and productive life.
In Haiti, girls face many challenges which leave them vulnerable—generational poverty, limited financial resources and lack of opportunity. At World Concern, we want to give girls a baton that will help carry them through some of these challenges. Education is one baton that has a long-term impact on the life of a young girl.
Girls like Rocheka and Youslie are the future of Haiti. Helping them stay in school is an investment in their life but also has an impact on their family, community and country.
The following is an excerpt of a letter we received from a 20-year-old woman. She enclosed a fifty dollar bill to help educate a young girl in a poor country. It touched our hearts to hear how she was able to put herself in Jovia’s shoes, and to see how God uses people to help transform the lives of those in need.
Dear David Eller,
I received your letter about this 14-year-old girl named Jovia. I was touched by your letter and I was shocked to see that these girls are getting married at such a young age. I cannot imagine being married at my age, which is 20, let alone 14! My heart goes out to these young girls.
I received my paycheck at work and discovered I had less hours this week. I wanted to give to Jovia and her cause, but was struggling with how I was going to make it work. I was really praying about it and I didn’t know what to do, so I set the letter aside.
One morning, I was reading my Bible and this portion of scripture caught my eye:
“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.” (1 John 3:17-18)
I read those verses and paused. Memories of my high school years filled my mind. There were so many fun, exciting, embarrassing, sad, and interesting situations that I had growing up. I have some of the most lasting friendships from high school.
I know Jovia would love to continue having those experiences and friendships in her teen life. Those are what start to mold us into who we are today. So to get married right off the bat so young would be missing out on a part of your life that has not been fulfilled.
I glanced around my room and saw all the beautiful luxuries I had compared to Jovia. I have a comfortable bed with a pretty bed spread, sturdy furniture, many nice clothes, purple painted walls, and carpeting. I know I am blessed, and to read about this girl who doesn’t have anything close to that, and her only hope is for her dream of attending school this year to come true.
The Lord is always faithful and guides us with his eye. He moves in wondrous ways…
Malala Yousafzai’s tragic experience of being shot for her advocacy of girls’ rights has brought much attention to the importance of and need for girls’ education worldwide. As Malala celebrates her 16th birthday with a visit to the UN, all eyes are on the world’s response.
Will we simply talk about the importance of educating girls? Or will we do something?
When I think of the incredible challenges faced by girls in developing countries to pursue an education, I think of girls like Christine.
Unlike most girls her age, Christine is one of the few in her rural Kenyan community to complete her education. Throughout secondary school, she was the only girl in her class. “It was difficult,” she said.
In this part of the world, most girls her age are either married off young—some as young as 10-years-old—or cannot afford to pay school fees. When finances are tight, parents tend to pay for their sons to go to school, rather than daughters. World Concern provides scholarships for girls like Christine to finish school.
Because she did not marry young, Christine and her family were ridiculed by others for their decision to pursue education. She found it hard to relate to her friends. But this never weakened her determination.
Christine is waiting for the results from her secondary exams so she can apply to university. “I want to become a dentist so that I can come back to the village and help others. One day I want to start a school to educate more girls.”
Christine is now a role model for girls in her community.
“The few girls in the area who are not married off are working hard so they can reach the level I’ve reached,” she said. Twirling her braids for a moment, she paused, then said, “I tell them to work hard because life is so hard.”
“In Maasai land, girls are very vulnerable,” explains Jennifer Warabi, the head teacher at a nearby primary school that provides scholarships for at-risk girls. “Parents send boys to school over girls. We have rescued many girls who were married at a young age, and brought them to school so they can continue their education.”
Ms. Warabi has taken a special interest in one of her teen students named Agnes, who was already married and pregnant when she came to the school. She gave birth while living at the school, but has been able to continue her studies. “She’s performing well,” said Ms. Warabi.
The situation in places like Haiti is critical too. Crushing poverty keeps many girls from attending school, and even fewer from completing their education.
It is especially important to support girls in their pursuit of education. According to UNICEF, only 52% of girls in Haiti participate in primary school and the number drops to 21% in secondary. The need is obvious, and the solution is simple. Not only does an education provide increased social and economic opportunities for a girl but it helps break the cycle of poverty in her family and community.
Manoucha is 19 years old but still has a couple of years left of high school. “I like to go to school but I have lost some years because I was sick,” explained Manoucha.
Although she has experienced challenges, Manoucha is committed to finishing high school. “It’s the best way to help your family,” she said. She also has a dream of being able to help others one day. “When I become older I want to be a nurse because if someone is to get sick I will be able to give them aid.”
World Concern is helping Manoucha finish her education. In Haiti, we do this by providing young people like her a way to earn income and pay school fees. Manoucha received a goat and training on how to care for her goat.
Her goat’s first baby was returned to the program so it can be given to another child. This way, the program can sustain itself and kids are able to learn a skill and are given ownership.
“Once there are more baby goats I will sell them to purchase things I need,” she said. “It will help me pay for school fees.”
You can help a girl like Christine or Manoucha finish her education, pursue her dreams and change the future of her entire community. As we stand in awe of Malala’s courage today, let’s help her celebrate this milestone birthday by taking action.