A Safe Journey

When a dangerous trip to a local Compassion child development centre resulted in a drop in attendance of children, local centre staff searched for a solution.

27 May, 2016

A Safe Journey

Excited chatter fills the air as the children arrive at their Compassion child development centre. As they begin to start program activities, their parents are busy working as daily labourers and farmers; focusing on the tasks at hand now they know their children have arrived at the centre safely.

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But less than a year ago, it was a very different story for these parents in East India. While farming supports the livelihood of many locals in this tribal community, it is often not enough to meet the needs of families. Each morning, parents travelled to town early and waited for contractors, who hired daily labourers on a first-come-first-served basis. The lack of stable employment meant many parents of Compassion assisted children were forced to make difficult decisions: walk their young children—most aged between three and eight years old—across the dangerous railroad crossing to the Compassion centre, or get to town early to ensure they get work for the day.

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“In order to drop off my daughter at the centre, I often missed out on my day’s wage,” says Taudu, a mother of a Compassion assisted child.

“We depend on daily labour, and if we don’t get work, it affects us in a big way.”

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Slowly, children’s attendance began to dip as they stayed home while their parents worked. Local centre staff noticed the drop in attendance and called a meeting with parents of Compassion assisted children. The staff explained the importance of program activities to help their children’s education and together they worked out a plan for children to travel to the child development centre safely. One of the fathers owned an auto-rickshaw—a three-wheeled motorised pick-up van—and offered to pick-up children and take them to the centre. Another father became inspired and bought one with the help of a loan. Together, the fathers acquired two more auto-rickshaws and negotiated a monthly fare with the other parents.

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Today, 71 children are picked up by the auto-rickshaws and can travel safely to the Compassion centre. Absenteeism has dropped from 20 per cent in 2014 to three per cent in 2015. Parents are able to go to work with their minds at ease and the children arrive at the centre with more energy now they no longer need to walk to get there. They also think the ride in the auto-rickshaws is a great adventure!

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“I am happy with the van arrangement, as it allows me to concentrate on my daily work,” says Taudu.

“Every morning, children eagerly wait for the van, because they enjoy the ride from their homes to the centre and back. Before now, my daughter, Swati, always used to cry. Now she enjoys mingling with the children her age who travel with her to the centre in the van.”

This content was correct at the time of publishing. Compassion closed its programs in India on 15 March 2017 and no longer works in that nation.

Words by Provashish Dutta and Amy Millar Photos by Provashish Dutta

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