What are you having for lunch today?
Imagine trying to overcome poverty on an empty stomach.
44 million children in India are living in poverty right now. Most don't eat nutritious meals even if they get to eat. Many have no guarantee of lunch every day. For the ones who are able to go to school, trying to stay focused on an empty, malnourished stomach is impossible.
This Valentine's Day, you can be part of the solution! Love = Lunch!
Check out this 1 minute video. All the footage was taken in Kakdwip, West Bengal last month. These are actual children in our Career Pathways Program. Precious lives who are working hard to overcome the poverty they were born into. You can help give one of them a chance!
Each child has a different story to tell. Each one has a different dream for their future. Help one achieve their dreams by making sure they can focus in school with a full belly.
Give 1 year of lunches for 1 child for $50 in honor of your Valentine. They'll love this meaningful gift that keeps giving for a whole year.
We'll personalize this e-card and send it to you within 24 hours or less. You can email it to your loved one on Valentine's Day.
This Valentine's Day, let's join together to provide 50 children with lunch for 1 year.
Would you help us spread, "Love = Lunch"? Link this blog post or the youtube video to your own post on social media.
Thank you so much! Happy Valentine's Day!
I love the month of November because it always brings into focus all the things we have to be thankful for. And there are so many!
Recently we posted 7 Days of Thanks on social media. We're featuring it again here on the blog to make sure that all of our wonderful partners like you, have a chance to see it.
You are the number 1 thing we are thankful for. And we can't say it enough!
We're thankful for our amazing monthly sponsors who are investing in the lives of 29 girls. These 29 precious lives are being lifted out of poverty because of the generosity of their sponsors.
We're thankful that because of the generosity of so many of you, eight teenage girls in the Kolkata slums are learning to sew. Eight girls who couldn't finish their education because of poverty, now have a way out.
We're thankful that ten of you stepped in to provide blood transfusions for a child with a life threatening blood condition for a whole year. Generous hearts from across the globe rallying to help a child in need - it's a beautiful thing!
We're thankful that while we have the privilege of enjoying a feast together with friends and family on Thanksgiving, these deserving children have good, nutritious food to fill their bellies each and every day. Because of you!
We're thankful that children with special needs in India get physical therapy and special education services because of your generosity along with our amazing partners at the Indian Society for the Rehabilitation of Children!
We're thankful for our wonderful ISRC Fundraising Team. Amazing hearts! This group of women is dedicated to helping provide for the needs of the children living at Indian Society for the Rehabilitation of Children in Kolkata.
We're thankful that because of YOUR impact, the children we serve get time to just be a kid. While getting an education, nutritious meals, and being prepared for the future, fun is included!
October 19th was one of the biggest celebrations in India. It's called Diwali, and it's the Festival of Lights.
Diwali, also called Deepavali, means "a row of lamps" in Sanskrit. It's a five day festival, with the third day being the actual day of Diwali.
Traditionally on Diwali, people participate in filling little clay lamps with oil and wick and lighting them in rows all over the house. The light that is represented during Diwali is a metaphor for knowledge.
According to DiwaliFestival.Org, the central theme of all the legends surrounding the origins of Diwali point to the classic truth of the victory of good over evil.
On October 20th, the Doshi Family in Texas chose to celebrate Diwali with a special purpose. Having heard about the special needs orphans at ISRC in Kolkata, they raised funds at their Diwali event to provide them with nutritious meals.
They along with their guests generously donated $1,000 which funded one year of meals for 2 children, and an additional 7 months of meals for a 3rd child.
Diwali inspired the Doshi Family, and they inspire us!
Empowering Girls In India
"Courage, sacrifice, determination, commitment, toughness, heart, talent, guts. That's what little girls are made of." -Bethany Hamilton
Today, October 11, is designated by the United Nations as the International Day of the Girl (IDG). The point is to give the world an entire day to focus on the plight of girls everywhere and ways of empowering them. When you consider the sheer magnitude of this issue you could argue that assigning an entire month would be more appropriate!
According to the United Nations campaign, 1 in 4 girls in the world get married as a child.
India has the largest population of children in the world so it might not surprise you that...
"India has the largest number of child brides in the world, one third of the global total." According to UNICEF.
In a 2017 publication titled, "Ending Child Marriage In India", UNICEF found that "nationally, the low value attached to daughters plays a significant role and the poorest women are more than twice as likely to have married as children than richer women."
"Furthermore, women with no education are six times more likely to get married than those with ten years education or more, and married women in rural areas twice as likely to be child brides as urban women."
Economically disadvantaged girls living in rural areas in India are at the highest risk for child marriage. Girls like these pictured here, who are in our Career Pathways Program in a rural village in West Bengal.
Empowering them is what International Day of the Girl is all about. When you partner with us, you are literally lifting them up from halfway around the world.
When the girls in the Career Pathways Program complete their education at the highest possible level, they'll be empowered to choose a career path. Once they complete the training or degree program associated with that career, the next step is to get a well paying job.
When you join with us in support of the girls in the Career Pathways Program, you are helping change the overall mindset in the disadvantaged rural communities.
Girls who emerge from poverty with a career will have the power to lift themselves and their families up. The community will take notice and slowly, the value of girls will be realized.
You make this possible.
#girlpower is on the rise!
Take a closer look at how you can empower girls in India through the Career Pathways Program!
Curry for a Child
There's a lot of need in our world today and most of us feel helpless. But what if you could change the life of 1 child just by eating a delicious Indian curry dish?
You can on September 30th! No big event, just you and your closest people enjoying a pot of curry.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
Grab some friends and form a team. It can be small or large, you decide.
Set a goal - raise $360 to feed an orphan with special needs for an entire year! If you have 10 team members, each person raises just $36!
Click the button below to join our online crowdfunding page. We've already set up your template for you!
ON SEPTEMBER 30
Eat curry together on 9/30/17. Eat out or make it at home. Recipes below.
Share your plans on social media so others will be inspired to join the Curry for a Child campaign so we can feed more children!
During your dinner, post on social media, and/or use facebook live.
When posting, use the hashtag #curryforachild
Learn more about the children you are feeding!
Want more details? Visit the Curry for a Child page!
The girls in the sewing program have logged 4 months of training!
Attendance has been great and all the girls have expressed how much they enjoy coming to class each day. They are learning so much and their confidence is growing!
Check out these recent pictures taken of them during class.
We anticipate that the program will be complete in 6 to 8 more months, but it will depend on the skill level of the students. When each girl completes the program, she'll leave with a certificate and a sewing machine and she'll be able to start her business right away!
So far, we have funding for 5 of the 8 sewing machines needed to give the girls on completion. One sewing machine is just $85 and we need 3 more. If you want to help a child in a tangible way, this is it! Click here to donate a sewing machine.
Just as Summer is in full swing here, monsoon rains are beginning in West Bengal. The children's home in Kakdwip does not have glass in the windows. You can imagine how wet it gets inside the building during monsoon season.
Recently, a 6th grade teacher in New York contacted us. Her class was just beginning a unit on India and as she was showing a powerpoint she'd created, the students started saying they wanted to raise money for needy children in India.
Their teacher was amazed at their big hearts. And we are, too! After discussing options, they decided to do a class fundraiser with a goal to raise $571.21 to provide the glass for the windows in Kakdwip. We just received news that their fundraiser was a success and they reached the goal.
Their big hearts reached all the way to India to help those less fortunate than themselves. Kindness wins!
Thank you to Mrs. Malysza's 6th grade class at Enterprise Charter School. You are an inspiration to the world!
Thinking about becoming a sponsor?
Your top questions are answered here.
1. How much does it cost to sponsor a child and what does it cover?
It costs $35 each month ($420 per year) to sponsor a child in the Career Pathways program. Your donation provides the following for the child you are matched with:
- All basic education fees
- Nutritious meals
- Vocational training:
- basic computer skills
- tailoring training
- English tutoring
There are some non-basic secondary education fees, career skills/college degree program costs, and housing costs that are not covered by your sponsorship. These costs are covered for the entire career pathways program through Illuminate India fundraisers, or by private donations.
2. Can I communicate with my sponsor child?
Yes! Twice a year, you'll have the opportunity to exchange letters with your sponsor child. Once by email, and once through physical letters transported by Illuminate India staff. You'll receive notice well in advance of both opportunities for communication.
3. Can I visit the child I'm sponsoring?
Yes. You are welcome to visit your sponsor child. We do ask that you contact us at least 1 month prior to your visit so we can arrange a staff person to accompany you.
4. Can I send gifts to my sponsor child?
We advise against sending gifts at this time. The postal system in India is unreliable and packages don’t always arrive at the intended destination. Also, your sponsor child shares a home with other children and not all of them have sponsors yet, leaving potential for hurt feelings.
5. How much of my donation helps the child?
100% of your donation goes to provide meals, education, and vocational education for your sponsor child.
6. What happens when my sponsor child leaves the children's home?
You will have the opportunity to continue investing in your sponsor child's future during their participation in a college degree program or career skills training program. Since each child's career track will be unique to them, we will keep you updated on the details specific to your sponsor child. This process doesn't begin until the child has either passed or failed the 12th grade exit examination.
7. Who are the children available for sponsorship right now? (Edited from the original post)
This question has an ever-changing answer! Email Kristi@illuminateindia.org for current info on the children who need a sponsor.
"Isn't school in India supposed to be free?"
The children in the Career Pathways Program attend a private school. Their tuition and school fees are part of what the Career Pathway Program funds. One of the questions we often get is, "Why do you send them to private school, when public school in India is free?". Perfectly logical question, so read on for the equally logical explanation. :-)
India passed a law in 2009 called the Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act (RTE) which mandates that all public education be free including fees for books, lunch, and exams. But...this law only mandates free public education up to class 8 (age 14). That leaves children in class 9 through 12 exempt from free public education. Many of the children in the Career Pathways program are in classes 9 and 10. In order to apply for acceptance into a college degree program, students must complete class 12.
Another factor in the decision to send children to private school has to do with location. Out in the more remote village areas, the local public school may be several miles away or more. This happens to be the case for the children in Kakdwip who are in the Career Pathways program. Girls are particularly vulnerable in India, so it wouldn't be safe for them to walk long distances to and from school each day. In Kakdwip, there is an excellent private school with reasonable fees directly next door to the children's home.
Even if there was a public school within easy distance, the quality of free public education in India is poor. A popular on-line news site, Indian Express, stated in an article published last year, that "70% of the country’s school students still depend on inadequate government schools – where teacher quality is abysmal, attendance is poor, infrastructure non-existent, and corruption rampant." The non-governmental organization, Pratham, conducts a study in rural areas published as, "The Annual Status of Education Report". The report states that after three years, 60% of students still cannot read, except for their first name maybe, compared with 54% four years ago. Nearly 20% of students surveyed from Class 2 didn’t recognize the numbers between one and nine, and only 25% of students in Class 3 could do subtraction.
The goal of the Career Pathways Program is for each child to receive a quality education that will give them the opportunity to break the cycle of poverty in their lives. The private schools they attend are giving them just that. Many of the children have dreams of becoming teachers, nurses, doctors, and engineers. With a quality education, the chance of passing the high school exit exam and moving on to a college degree program is much greater.
We believe every child deserves to have the opportunity to achieve his or her dreams. What do you think?
Sponsor a child in the Career Pathways Program! $35 per month provides education, nutritious meals, vocational education, and will eventually help send them to a career skills training or college degree program.
Click the box below to learn more about the children who need a sponsor.
Meet Chandni, one of 8 girls in our Sewing Training Program.
Chandni is just 13 years old and has the weight of the world on her shoulders. Growing up in the slums, she has completed only a few years of formal education. It's estimated that only 8% of people in India successfully complete high school due to poverty. Chandni hasn't been able to stay in school consistently because she has to work to help her family make ends meet.
Sharing a home in a Kolkata slum with her mother and younger sister, Chandni cuts out pieces of rubber that eventually become the strap on a flip flop. She and her sister work as many hours a day as they can, cutting the pieces out. The most they can make each day is 50 rupees...less than $1.
Chandni's father passed away, and her mother works 6 days a week in a shoe factory from morning until late in the evening. Her mother makes just $30 per month in the factory, and her long work hours leave Chandni and her sister alone and vulnerable most of the time.
Chandni hopes for a way out of the slum and the ability to help provide a better life for her family. At 13, she has more motivation and drive than most adults. By sewing and selling just one garment, she'll make 4 times the amount she makes cutting out flip flop straps in a day.
Recently, we were invited to visit Chandni in her home and interview her on video. We're so inspired by Chandni's strength! Check out the video!
Read more below about the Sewing Training that Chandni is part of. It's in partnership with Tabitha's Heart in Kolkata and is part of our Career Pathways Program. We can't wait to see the results of this program!
"Is Illuminate India involved in adoption in India?"
Sometimes people assume (because of our personal stories) that Illuminate India must be involved in adoption somehow.
But the short answer to this question is no. No funds raised go to support any adoption related activity.
The majority of the children who are served by Illuminate India, are not available for adoption and will never be adopted. Supporting these children where they are, and helping to break the cycle of poverty for the entire family when possible, is our priority.
Though we aren't involved with adoptions, it is because of adoption that Brie and I met and eventually founded Illuminate India.
Brie was adopted from India as a baby. Both she and I, and a couple of board members have also adopted our children from India. We believe that ETHICAL adoptions are the best option for children who were truly relinquished or abandoned by their first families. As an organization, and as individuals, we reject any form of human trafficking and are committed to the prevention of it. When it came to our own adoptions, we all worked with an agency that had and continues to have a flawless track record when it comes to ethical adoptions.
Out of Illuminate India's four partner organizations in India, only one is licensed for adoption - the Indian Society for the Rehabilitation of Children (ISRC) in Kolkata. ISRC is a wonderful children's home in excellent standing with the government of India. They have a long history of following the guidelines imposed by the government and continually go above and beyond for the best interests of the children who come into their care. Besides their public reputation, I've known the director and staff at ISRC for over 10 years. They are all wonderful, honest people who truly love the children they serve.
Currently, the majority of the children at ISRC who do get adopted stay in Kolkata with local families. The avenue of reunification with their first family is explored thoroughly before an adoption process ever begins. We believe that each child deserves to live out the rest of their lives in a loving family. There are some legitimate circumstances that prevent first families from taking care of their child. In these cases, an ethical adoption may be justified and in the best interests of the child. We also believe that the highest importance should be placed on keeping children with their first families whenever possible. We're supporting this belief through our Career Pathways Project. More to come on this.
There is a core group of special needs children at ISRC who have been there for many years and have not been adopted, even though they are legally free for adoption. Sadly, due to their significant disabilities, most of them will remain at ISRC indefinitely. It's for these children that Illuminate India was founded. The Special Needs project supports this core group of children so that they can achieve their fullest potential and highest level of independence.
How does the Career Pathways Project keep children with their first families? By giving children an education and a career path, they are given the tools to eventually be able to support their own family and raise themselves out of poverty. We'll see ripple effects at first, but eventually as we continue and join in this work with many others out there, the big waves will come.
201 Children Were Impacted In 2016!
Most of us can agree that 2016 wasn't all cupcakes and unicorns. It was a challenging year in so many ways.
But for the children we serve at Illuminate India, 2016 was a huge success. It was a year of growth, and we were blown away by the generosity of so many.
We saw our amazing donors rally around vulnerable children, providing them with nutritious meals, education, therapy, and vocational opportunities that will help them break out of the cycle of poverty.
176 in the Career Pathways program + 25 in the Special Needs Orphan program = a total of 201 children with brighter futures!
Take a closer look at exactly what was accomplished by the generosity of our donors.
If you donated in 2016, THANK YOU! We just can't say it enough. Take a look at your impact!
Read what's going on with our projects in 2017!
Jai was born in a remote village in India, in the middle of the jungle.
His village is lush and green, bursting with coconuts. An only child, Jai lived with his mother and father in a very modest home. His family was poor, but able to make ends meet.
sadly, life for Jai was full of fear and pain.
Jai’s father was an alcoholic. When he drank too much he would get extremely violent. Day after day, Jai lived in fear of the next beating. Day after day, his Dad would get angry and beat both him and his mother. Though the villagers showed concern, they didn’t intervene.
Then one day, life got much worse for Jai. When he was 4 years old, his mother died suddenly. Jai’s only source of love and protection was gone. Immediately, his father became more violent and the beatings got worse. The villagers feared that Jai would be beaten to death.
But instead of waiting for tragedy to strike again, the villagers did something amazing.
They formed a plan to save Jai! Banding together, they convinced his father to sign away parental rights. They demanded he stay far away from his son and threatened to make him leave the village if he ever hurt Jai again.
Jai’s amazing village of heroes brought him to a children’s home where he is now thriving and in our Career Pathways program. 6 years have passed and Jai is 10 years old.
No longer fearing a beating, Jai has relaxed into his new life. He goes to school, drinks clean water, eats nutritious meals, and enjoys playing cricket with his friends. As he grows, he will continue his education and have the chance to learn computer skills, English, and pursue a career of his choosing.
A life that was almost lost, is now bursting with hope and possibility.
It took a village in India to give Jai a second chance. Now a new “village” of generous donors are helping him achieve his bright future. We are so thankful for both villages. They are real life heroes.
It’s easy to lose hope in humanity these days, but Jai’s story reminds us that there are still heroes out there changing the world!
Read more about the Career Pathways Program!
Whenever I go visit our projects in India, I find a way to have some Bengali Fish Curry.
The flavors in this dish are over-the-top amazing and I can never get enough! That's probably why I tend to gain a few pounds on every trip. :-)
The flavors of India are the inspiration behind our signature fundraising event: Curry for a Cause!
Curry for a Cause can be done on a large or small scale. On a large scale, it's a fun cultural event that features authentic Indian food, henna artists, Bollywood inspired dance performances, and a live or silent auction. On a small scale it still features the amazing flavors of India, but in a more homey, intimate environment.
There is a purpose to Curry for a Cause that goes way beyond food and fun. Funds raised at these events help vulnerable children in India who are stuck in the cycle of poverty. Each Curry for a Cause host (or team of hosts) chooses which one of our projects they want the proceeds to go toward: Special Needs Orphans, or Career Pathways.
So far in 2017, Curry for a Cause is coming to Meridian, Idaho on April 15, Brisbane, Australia on May 4th, and one in Oregon is also in the works.
It would be AMAZING to have 10 Curry for a Cause events happening this year.
7 more to go! If you love Indian food, and have a heart for helping vulnerable children living in poverty, YOU are the partner we are looking for. You don't have to be "the hostess with the mostest" to put on this event. Trust me, I don't have mad hostess skills. But what I do have, is friends with mad hostess skills! So grab some friends, put your heads together and voila!
Remember that Bengali Fish Curry I was talking about? There's a recipe for it on the Indian Simmer blog. Click the photo to get the recipe and be inspired to host your own Curry for a Cause this year!
Are you ready to take the leap? Click on the Curry for a Cause page below and get tips for hosting a successful event. You can fill out the contact form from there or e-mail me directly: firstname.lastname@example.org
*Puja is a 14 year old girl with big dreams and a bright future ahead of her.
But it wasn't always this way...
Born to a family living below the poverty line, her mother died when she was very young. Most girls in Puja's village would attend primary school, but not be able to continue on at the secondary level. They'd be married off in their teen years, and would spend their days caring for their young children and working any job they could to help make ends meet for their family.
Born into the cycle of poverty, most girls in Puja's situation would continue in that cycle, and so would their children.
But for Puja, a tragic situation was the very thing that changed her course and set her on a new path.
After her mother died, Puja's father eventually remarried. When her stepmother gave birth to a son, Puja became a target. Her stepmother began physically assaulting her and tried to force her out of the house.
Puja’s father sought help from the village police. Fortunately, they knew of a safe place where Puja could take refuge.
Today, Puja is no longer living in poverty. She's no longer abused and unwelcome. Puja is on a new path!
She is now enrolled in the Career Pathways program and attends 9th grade at the nearby school. She is learning vocational skills like computers and tailoring. Every day she eats nutritious meals. When the time comes for Puja to transition out of her current home, she will have the support she needs to pursue a career.
Puja's dream is to be a fashion designer.
Her future is bright!
Read more about the Career Pathways Program that is helping Puja achieve her dreams!
*To protect her identity, "Puja" is the fake name given to represent the real girl behind this true story.
Do you worry about where your next meal will come from?
Most of us in the United States may worry about whether or not we have the ingredients on hand to make a meal, but we rarely worry that we won't get to eat.
That's not the case for many children living in poverty in India:
- 42% of children under the age of 5 are underweight.
- 58% of children under 5 were stunted.
Starvation and malnutrition keep children trapped in the cycle of poverty.
Good food is fuel for the brain!
These children deserve every opportunity to grow strong and achieve their dreams.
learn more about our projects
Who Started Illuminate India and Why?
Here's a brief history. Read more on the About section of the website.
We're Brie and Kristi, friends who founded Illuminate India in 2011.
Adoption brought us together, as we were both in process to adopt our children from India through the same adoption agency. We ended up traveling to Kolkata with our husbands at the exact same time to bring our children home.
During that trip, we became aware of a financial crisis that the children's home in Kolkata (where our children had lived) was facing. Both of us felt strongly that we couldn't ignore this information or the faces of the children who remained in that home. It was amazing to both of us how strong the pull was to get involved. A few months after our return to the U.S., we founded Illuminate India.
We want Illuminate India to be a place where compassionate people can make a difference together.
As Mother Teresa said, "We can all do small things with great love, and together we can do something wonderful".
Learn more about how we can partner together!
Everyone deserves a bright future.
Whether you are rich or poor, old or young, girl or boy, whether you have special needs or are completely able bodied...you deserve a bright future.
There are currently 44 million children in India who don't have a bright future.
44 million children in India will live out their lives in poverty.
Unless...we partner together to break them free.
Are you in?
She recovered from near death...
Just over 2 years ago, a sweet girl who we'll call "P", was found on the side of the road in Kolkata. She had been abandoned, was emaciated beyond imagination, near death, and couldn't speak or walk on her own.
That's when our amazing donors intervened.
Because of their generous support, a safe place was available for P to recover. It took doctors, nurses, nutritious foods, physical and speech therapy, special education, and the love and skill of trained caregivers to slowly bring her back to life.
P has now blossomed into her true self.
No longer starving and emaciated, immobile, or silent, she speaks to everyone and runs and plays like other little girls her age.
The icing on the cake is that P will soon have the love of a family.