Education Plus Sustainable Freedom For Over 130 Villagers

Context of the project challenge

For just an $18 loan, entire families in India can be enslaved for generations. When first given the loan, they are grateful to the moneylender who gave them  money for an emergency such as medicine for their sick children.  But then the money lenders charge exorbitant interest rates and the debt is impossible to pay off.

That means that villagers who can’t read, write or count are tricked into working endless hours for the money-lender. They can’t get get away and are beaten if they try. Thanks to that one loan, they are slaves.

Slavery is illegal, but these people don’t know it. Child slaves are forced to work along side their parents. There are no schools and it seems that there is no chance for a better future.

Schools4Freedom can change that

Back in 2013 RAGAS Member Carol Metzker championed the project’s holistic approach to tackling issues for children at risk. The project, developed  by Voices4Freedom, looks to educate child slaves and free an entire village from slavery.
Carol compiled an invitation to Rotarians around the world, through RACSNews, to raise some $36,000. Carol asked Rotarians “What if you could teach children to read, provide them with food, and free an enslaved village… all in one  project?” A project that includes

  •  Sustainable freedom for some 150 villagers.
  •  Permanent roof for school to keep intense sun and rain off children so they can study. The type of roof or  pavilion—or structure with thatching or latticework for walls—varies in different villages.
  • Two teachers.
  • Hot lunches for children.
  • Solar streetlight.
  • Educational supplies.
  • Vocational training and education on child and adult rights.
  • Documentation and video.

This was supported by a supporting budget and a timeline of events and prospective achievements over the project duration of three years.

By late 2015 the fundraising programme was complete. Thanks to donations from twelve individual Rotarians, thirteen Rotary clubs, one Rotaract club and additional donors, the groundwork was laid to do the heavy work of freeing a village.

As will be seen in Carol’s first Update (RACSNews 63) the hamlet chosen lies outside of Varanasi, in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India.Here are some of the S4F village childrenschool’s first intake

  • Of the 400 villagers, 132 are in debt bondage slavery working in slaveholders’ brick kilns, farm and construction projects. Others are at risk for enslavement because of abject poverty, illiteracy and lack of knowledge of human rights. That will change.
  • Currently only two or three villagers can write their own name.
  • 75 children will attend this School4Freedom (S4F). They will be their family’s first generation to go to school.

See how the project progresses by subscribing to RAGAS’s free Newsletter

 Would your Club like to free another village? Show the video and enjoy giving the gift of freedom

On 7th March 2017, CNN Freedom Project puts spotlight on the success of Schools4Freedom working in India. With the help of our frontline partner, MSEMVS and committed sponsors at home 1,719 people have been freed from slavery, 715 children are being educated, and 15 transitional schools have been built.  – watch the video 

Project updates 

The first update was extensively published in RACSNews 63 and via this link

The 2nd update from Carol Metzker is published in full here. and in RAGASnews 69. Highlights for Q2 2016 (April – June 2016) are …

  1. Six children brought out of child slavery at the slaveholder’s brick kiln – they’re now at the school
  2. 29 villagers received health/medical exams
  3. 34 children are now registered to get help with the Integrated Child Development System.

The update includes info on frontline workers’ progress, a report from a teacher and two case studies (one child, one adult in the village). Rotarians recognize that this quarter the project touched a three of the six focus areas:

  • basic education and literacy
  • disease treatment and prevention
  • maternal and child health care
The 3rd (very comprehensive) update from Carol is published in full here. It will also feature in the upcoming Newsletter. Highlights for Q3 2016 (June – Sept 2016) are …
  • The school is up and in session. Kids are learning alphabet in English and Hindi.
  • Some community members filed a grievance with government officials about their debt bondage slavery.
  • A women’s self-help group has been formed (that later leads to vocation training and income for self-sufficiency).
  • Slaveholder continues to push back.Frontline workers continue conversations among villagers, government, etc.

View Carol’s report for the period to June 2017. The report includes overall info about the school and village, report from one of the teachers, and case histories of a child and an adult who came out of debt bondage in the brick kiln.  Main update points include …

  • Women from the village chose agriculture as their income-generating skill. With guidance from the S4F team frontline workers, the women secured a $232 government loan and have leased land to begin their farming business.
  • In addition to the 38 children already freed in this village, 7 (1 male adult, female Adult, 3 boys and 2 girls )more community members were liberated from the slaveholder’s brick kiln.
  • S4F team and government health workers arranged immunization and treatment for measles for villagers.
  • 11 villagers opened bank accounts with the help of S4F workers.
  • a measles outbreak
  • The slaveholder has figured out what’s going on and is putting pressure on villagers and the S4F team. Because of the power and money of the slaveholder, law enforcement is ignoring villagers’ complaints.
    Yet still villagers and the S4F team persist!

Her very comprehensive report for Q/E September 2017 van be viewed here.

  • Villagers and a V4F Coordinator rescued a family of 6 from debt bondage slavery on an agriculture farm. A mother, father, and their 4 children were brought home. 2 of the children joined S4F.
  • Women are taking a strong role in the progress. 8 have learned to read and write their names—a skill that will enable them to open a bank account. 10 received training in tailoring. Some are now sharecropping. They’re looking at learning duck farming. Income makes families stronger and moves them faster toward self-sufficiency (away from the poverty that slaveholders used against them in the first place).
  • One woman learned that debt bondage slavery was illegal and how to call 100 (the police). Putting them together, when her slaveholder refused to pay her she threatened to call 100. She is now being paid. Read her powerful case history at the end of the report.
  • Villagers are taking advantage of government programs that can help as they become stronger, work toward self-sufficiency and continue the process of moving from slavery to freedom.
  • School kids have started to learn to use the computer.

    Key Challenge: The slaveholder is still threatening villagers and a teacher, and is influencing a local government official who is not helping villagers. Still, progress is being made.

Villagers and a V4F Coordinator rescued