In the middle of a tiger preserve, eighty miles from medical facilities, in an area frequented by Maoist terrorists, live 525 orphans and children at risk. They have no electricity and live in mud and straw homes. Yet, Central India Christian Mission provides food and education for them in the best way their current resources allow.
"If we had not accepted these children," says Ajai Lall, founder of CICM, "most of them would have died because there was no one to take care of them. Before we got these children, they were living under trees and tin sheds. There was no school in the whole region."
Many of these children were left to fend for themselves when their parents traveled to large metro cities in an effort to make a living for their families. Some of their parents ended up as bonded laborers in the cities and have not returned to their children. Other children at the home were rescued from child slavery.
Pappu Sadhu, CICM area director laments, "Child bondage labor is a critical problem in my country. Through this children's home we have saved so many children from slavery."
Laws exist in India to ban the use of young workers. But, in the rural areas surrounding the children's home, many children are forced into labor by wealthy land owners looking to exploit them for higher profits. Throughout India, estimates of child laborers, ages 5-14, range as high 44 million. UNICEF statistics even go as high as 75 million. Many of these children were sold as bonded child laborers to cover some small (relatively speaking) debt their families incurred.
Sadhu added that there are still so many children waiting for an opening in the home, "Now, we are not able to take them. We need more space. We need more food. We need more teachers."
Significant progress has been made on relocating the Jakabhanda Children's Home. In the new location, the building foundation has been laid for both the boys' and girls' dorms and the foundation is being prepared for the kitchen and dining room area. The well has been drilled and a water pump has been placed in a nearby creek which is connected to the land. This current infrastructure (Phase 1) will be completed by the end of 2013 and will allow 200-250 children to be transferred in that time frame.