The Indian city is bustling. Car horns sound consistently, as vehicles, motos, and walkers all work to get to their destinations. Tall buildings and shops line the roads, and cows and goats make their way through the busy streets. In the center is another community with a busyness of its own- a slum community within the larger city. Migrant families live in makeshift homes and spend their days as “rag-pickers” – collecting and dividing trash to earn wages for their family’s survival. This work, while offering higher wages than what they’d earn in rural areas, is a compromise of dignity and risks their health.
Among the extreme differences in this community is level of education offered to children. Most attend Telugu-language schools, where they won’t learn English – a detriment for finding a job as an adult in India. The children, many first-generation learners, do not have adults in their lives who can measure whether they’re learning adequately.
Near this community is Back2Back’s partner, Christ for All Feeding Center. Its directors, Goldie and Kennedy, provide nutritional and tutoring support to nearly 100 children, six days a week. “We began partnering with CFA many years ago,” shared Casey Foreman, Back2Back India Site Director. “CFA is a tremendous help in this community, but knowing what we know now about development and sustainability, we were eager for an opportunity to do more for the children than filling their bellies and offering tutoring services.”
Where does one begin?
Back2Back’s Strong Families Program was designed to help families move from surviving to thriving through classes and creative workshops addressing their spiritual, physical, educational, emotional, and social needs. We provide the care they need today, so together they can participate in the hope of a flourishing tomorrow. By creating sustainability within the home, children remain where they truly belong – with their moms and dads.
“We want to provide empowerment and dignity to the families we’re serving in the city,” shared Casey. “By helping both the children and the parents recognize their own talents and gifts, families are finding their voices, and are harnessing them for their own destinies. A large part of the reason people choose to live in this area as “rag-pickers” is because of the government handouts available, which reinforce dependency,” explained Casey. “Our hope is they become more than recipients of this and seek to change the lives of their children through their own hard work and talents.”
The India Strong Family Program operates out of a community center that Back2Back rents, and offers sponsorship for the children and families. It focuses on the educational care of the children and families, since many children are attending school for the first time in their family’s history. With the help of dedicated Back2Back staff and Christ for All, parents have advocates in the school and are better equipped to understand what their children should be receiving in the classroom.
Currently, 18 families, which include 45 children, living in this community receive parenting classes, after-school tutoring, medical care, and healthier food options. They participate in weekly prayer walks with Back2Back staff – receiving an opportunity for spiritual growth. There is evidence of the building impact of this program. Recently, four moms were asked by program coaches, Erick and Julie Mowery, what they were learning from the parenting classes. Each of the women gave a variation of the same answer – we have learned how to connect better with our children through play and spending more time together.
In the center of a city lies a slum community, where thousands of people call home, but for 18 families, generational cycles are being broken, and each family is earning a say in what their future holds.