Monday, June 17, 2013

Making a difference in the slums of India

It never ceases to amaze me how and where people find charitable causes to support.  Some people donate time, others donate money, and some even donate blood!

Recently I attended a networking lunch and was inspired by a woman’s story about how she contributes her charitable dollars. A few years back, Cathy taught English in a slum in New Delhi for two years. She found this experience and the students she met inspiring. Most of these students paid for their own education while working seven days a week at low-paid night jobs like security guards and factory hands. But when they completed their education, they struggled to find work, since being slum-dwellers meant that employers just assumed that they were lazy and drunkards. Cathy was convinced that if they could get their first jobs, they’d be able to prove to employers that being poor didn’t make them worthless.

So Cathy arranged to get an accounting job for one of them, by paying his salary to his new employer for the first year. For about $800 she guaranteed him a job, giving him experience and training, and starting him on the path to a secure future. This was so successful that a year later he moved onto another job without her help and he is now earning a good income to support his family.

Cathy then repeated this with another former student who graduated as a qualified teacher but because of his slum background, couldn’t get work. So she paid his salary to a small school for a year.

Neither of these young men is aware that Cathy paid their salaries to their employers, although they know that she arranged their placements.

All of Cathy’s former students in the Delhi slum have access to Facebook on cheap mobile phones. She is able to chat with them a few times a week, to see how they are going, find out what they are learning, and to ensure that they are not being exploited by their bosses. She is delighted to see the progress they are making. 

Paying for a first job is such a great way to make a difference to someone’s life that she plans to continue doing it. Cathy has a pipeline of students to tap into as they complete their education and start to look for opportunities in the workforce.

Cathy knows that she can’t help every slum-dweller in India, but her small contribution can make a big difference to a small number.

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