Breaking the Poverty Cycle – Restore India

13 May 2020

The definition of poverty takes on a whole new meaning in North India. It’s not simply about not being able to afford to eat out in nice restaurants or go on fancy holidays. It’s the absence of the basics like education, health, adequate nutrition, a roof over your head and sanitation.

As our family transitioned into life in India, we were confronted with the poverty which was all around us. We lived in a middle-class suburb in the city, but next door were vacant blocks of land where the poor lived in huts with thin bamboo frames and walls made of plastic bags. Young children carrying huge plastic bags wandered past our gate regularly, picking up cardboard, metal and plastic. These ‘rag-picker’ families collected rubbish for a living. They lived amongst the recyclables and earned one or two dollars a day. There was no school for these children.

We wrestled with how we could possibly help in a nation of over a billion people, 70% of whom live in poverty. A verse from the Bible spoke clearly to us: ‘[He will make] your righteousness shine like the dawn, your justice like the noonday’ (Psalm 37:6 CSB). When the lives of the poor are genuinely transformed, the difference is like the night and day. Our job would be to ‘bring the dawn’ to poor communities.

As we built trusting relationships with some Indian friends, we decided to form a charity trust to serve poor communities, and Restore India began to run goat giving programs, sewing training centres, literacy centres and medical programs. These met the very basic needs of those who do not have the basics in life. People who do not have an education have fewer choices in their life, people without medical care have the poor quality of life and those in abject poverty are not likely to escape the poverty cycle without help.

In the eleven years that Restore India has been working in rag-picker communities, rural villages and urban communities the types of programs have multiplied and we now run 91 programs in 38 communities.

Women are often the key to seeing transformation happen in their families. They know the value of education to their children and are willing to sacrifice for their families. Over the years, close to 1,700 women have completed the six-month sewing course. A few women like Neelam have gone on to become trainers. She graduated from the sewing program two years ago and now partners with another woman from her village to run a Restore India sewing school cum literacy centre in her village. Amongst the poor, transformation often happens over a generation, but it only takes help in one generation to break the poverty cycle.

– Mark, a Pioneers worker serving in India.

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