There aren’t many meetings that will change the world, but for a few young lives in a tribal village in West Bengal, this is one of them…
On a dusty patch of ground outside the village leader’s home, the community gather to consider which children are most in need of support for schooling this year. They’ve prepared a survey of the needs of children in their village, and together they’ll decide which children will be attending the Study Centre. Nelson Mandela wrote that education was one of the most powerful weapons you can use to change the world. He had decisions like this one in mind.
Today, the community has decided that Sumi’s three daughters will be among those receiving the extra support the Study Centre offers. Seated in the first row of the meeting, she breathes a sigh of relief. Education might be free, but with another baby at home and no husband to provide income, school books and uniforms are proving very expensive. Not to mention the fact that Sumi, with limited education herself, is struggling to provide her girls with the support they need.
Access to education is the start of a whole new world for many children in India, Sri Lanka and Tonga, where the Uniting Church’s agency for international partnerships, UnitingWorld, is supporting churches as they focus on this important task. Run by the Church of North India’s Diocese of Durgapur since 2008, the Study Centre provides tuition in key areas like maths and Bengali, extra help with homework and a nutritious meal for students, who also participate in cultural and sporting activities. And it’s not only the children who are involved in learning. As a result of community development schemes run by the Diocese, the whole village is engaged in health and livelihood opportunities that increase their savings and have learned about government services and social schemes, as well as how to access them.
For Sumi, one of the biggest changes is that women are now taking part in the life of the community.
“Once we just stayed at home and were not listened to,” says Sumi. “Now we matter. We can raise issues in the village meetings and even play a role in leading the community. This is the future I want for my daughters, and I know education can make this happen.”
Education can change the world. In the hands of Sumi, her daughters and countless others like them, we’re watching it happen.
To make a donation please contact UnitingWorld on 1800 998 122 or read more at www.unitingworld.org.au/education.
Top image: Education support programs run by the Church of North India, Diocese of Durgapur, are changing lives.