3 Hello everyone, and thank you for hearing about my summer work in India. My name is Priya Agarwal-Harding, and I am a senior at Glenelg Country School. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to come here today, and talk to you about my recent work on child trafficking in India. I would like to take this time in telling you about a children’s home in Delhi where I worked in the summer of 2006. Victims of neglect, abuse, and trafficking, children are given shelter by PRAYAS – a charitable institution. First – some harsh realities on child neglect and abuse in India - Every night in India, 150 million children go to bed hungry. 100 million are forced to work instead of going to school. 12 million are bought or trafficked for profit every year. TWELVE MILLION children. Bought or sold like a commodity. When I first came across that statistic on the PRAYAS website, I was shocked, and horrified. I didn’t even know much about child trafficking. That’s what prompted me to spend some time with them this past summer to learn more about this issue and its magnitude.
4 Let me take a moment to tell you the story of Ritu. She ran away from her poor parents at the age of 12 to find a better life – only to become a victim of greed, exploitation, and sexual abuse. When she told me her story, the reality of the miserable lives these children lead came home to me, and I tried to uncover the stories of several other children at the PRAYAS shelter for girls. The encouraging thing about the children in the shelter is that they have all been rescued, and are being given hope for a better life. Luckily for Ritu, four years after she initially ran away, another citizen – a well-wisher- contacted PRAYAS to come to her rescue. I spent 3 weeks with Ritu, and others like her at the PRAYAS children’s center in Delhi. She is now 16. She seems reasonably happy….she is going to school…..and learning vocational skills…..Most importantly – SHE HAS HOPE.
5 PRAYAS rebuilds hope for 50 thousand exploited children like Ritu every day, and were commended for their work by the First Lady, Laura Bush, on a recent visit. Their main work revolves around rescuing children from becoming victims of trafficking.
6 Through shelters like these, they provide a safe place for vulnerable children to stay overnight, and over longer periods of time.
7 Each child has his or her own sleeping space that is clean, and safe.
8 Through the help of volunteers like me, and others, the children receive exposure to learning, arts and creativity projects.
9 Children spend time individually and in groups learning new things, engaging their minds in ways they did not do before, playing and having fun, while learning.
10 Many of the children’s creations and their products from the vocational skills classes are sold for profit in the open market to provide income for the children.
11 PRAYAS’s goal is to help make each child self-reliant, with a vocation and a way to survive safely and productively.
12 During her visit to the PRAYAS center, the First Lady Laura Bush was especially keen on the education programs that PRAYAS offers exploited children. These are second chance programs, and through them each child can rebuild their future.
13 During my stay in India, I went on a field visit with the PRAYAS workers one day to the New Delhi Railway Station. Through kiosks like these, they provide a way for children to find safety if they feel threatened or scared.
14 Once at the drop-in shelter, the children are given food, a sense of safety, and stimulation for learning and productive work. They are transferred to the shelter homes, and rehabilitated through counseling, education, and vocational skills over a period of several months, even years. Every effort is made to locate the families of each child and to reconnect the children with their homes. But sometimes, the homes are themselves places of insecurity and threat, and that is why PRAYAS’ effort is to try and give the children alternatives for their futures.
15 We can use our hands to strike at others, or wipe their tears away. Gandhi Gandhiji’s words are an inspiration to us all…
16 PRAYAS’ work is really hard, and it takes a lot of time. And as worthy as this work is, it is a mere drop in the ocean, and needs a lot of support. Through a fundraiser I held at my school this year, where a group of us organized a fashion show to raise awareness and funds for charities, including PRAYAS’ fight against child trafficking, and towards the rehabilitation of abused children, we were able to raise just over $1000.00 for them.
17 Additionally, I raised $300.00 through a presentation at the International Youth Foundation, where I worked as an intern
18 This year, I was awarded $1000.00 by the Fund for the Future of Our Children to further my work in being an advocate for addressing the issue of child trafficking. At the annual Fund for the Future of our Children awards ceremony at Georgetown University on October 28, 2007, in addition to this grant, I have also been promised a match of $1000.00 for a $1000.00 that I could raise between now and the ceremony fro PRAYAS’ work on child trafficking.
19 YOUR SUPPORT CAN HELP PLEASE JOIN MY EFFORT in FIGHTING AGAINST CHILD EXPLOITATION PLEASE HELP TRAFFICKED CHILDREN FACE THE FUTURE
20 Your contributions can help get me to my goal of raising an additional $1,000. With your money, I can work with PRAYAS to promote projects for trafficked and abused children, so that they may become self-reliant. You can give cash or write a check to Glenelg Country School (for PRAYAS).
21 I would be happy to discuss ways in which your contributions might support PRAYAS’s work. Your ideas and support are greatly appreciated.
22 Solutions are not to be found by appealing to (our) narrow, parochial interests but by looking into our common humanity…through a new spirituality of compassion for all. Priya Agarwal-Harding Future of Our Children Peace Essay 2007
23 For more information Email firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org Website www.prayaschildren.org Phone 00-91-11-29959733 Rajib Haldar, Executive Director, PRAYAS 410-531-1801 Priya Agarwal-Harding Thank you!