It is difficult to compare India to any other countries where Children Incorporated works. Although a developing country economically, India is still far behind other countries when it comes to providing support for children living in poverty. During my time in India, I could see that the children at our projects, although well cared for, were coming from extremely poor living situations.
In comparison to other impoverished nations like Kenya and Ethiopia, where the children in our program face similar challenges, of the many noticeable differences that I saw, one that really stood out to me was a lack of access to mosquito nets - an important resource to keep children safe from preventable mosquito-borne illnesses – in India.
The need for protection
While in Kenya and Ethiopia last year, Luis Bourdet, our Director of International Programs, and I visited the homes of some of our sponsored children’s families – homes where there were mosquito nets covering beds to help prevent family members from acquiring diseases such as malaria and dengue. The nets were provided by our Mosquito Net Fund, which purchases hundreds of nets for children in Africa every year. Requested by our volunteer coordinators, the nets are an inexpensive way to help keep the children in our program healthy so that they can attend school every day.
While visiting the Dornakal Girls’ Hostel in India in August, I noticed that there weren’t any mosquito nets over the children’s bunk beds in any of the dorms. When we asked our coordinator if the children ever fell ill from mosquito-borne diseases, she replied that they did sometimes suffer from dengue. I realized then just how much our projects in India were struggling in comparison to our projects in Africa.
Unfortunately, with all the concerns our coordinator has with regard to providing for the children she serves, and making do with very little funding outside of the support she receives from Children Incorporated, she hadn’t thought to mention a need for mosquito nets.
Mosquito nets for everyone
Children Incorporated has been affiliated with the Dornakal Girls’ Hostel since 1982. 63 girls live in the home permanently, and 59 of them are in our program. Only a short walk from the bishop’s home, the hostel is located on the Dornakal Diocese Compound. The age range of the girls is wide – the youngest are in kindergarten, and the oldest are taking college-level courses, which I found to be wonderfully surprising.
At most homes, when teens finish high school or when they turn eighteen, they have to leave the home to make room for younger children, and they no longer receive support. Instead, at the Dornakal Girls’ Hostel, youth are encouraged to work hard to obtain their degrees before leaving, which gives them the advantage of being more prepared for the job market when they move out and are on their own for the first time in their lives.
I was happy to see the young women at the Dornakal Girls’ Hostel receive support through college; and it made me grateful to know our sponsors are a big part of that. I appreciated having had the opportunity to visit these dorms, and having had the chance to ask about mosquito nets, specifically.
We will now start sending support from our Mosquito Net Fund to this hostel, as well as to our other affiliated projects in India, as we have already been doing for our projects in Africa. It is crucial for all the girls to stay healthy, so that the older girls can graduate and make better lives for themselves, and the younger girls can be well enough to go to school - and move on to get a higher education themselves.