Dabri Extension in New Delhi, India, is a crowded slum made up of makeshift housing where migrants from across India gather in search of a better life. Women commonly work as housemaids, while men take menial jobs earning an average of $50 per month. Children are forced to work, facing near-starvation diets.
Kareena, age 7, lives with her parents living under a tarpaulin shade near the garbage dump where her parents work as rag pickers. Kareena often looks after her brother during the day, as they wander together around the dump.
“I spend the whole day without food or might just have some tea,” Kareena says. “Only in the evenings my parents are able to arrange rice, but not always.”
Fortunately, when a community member named Mohini encouraged Kareena’s mother to enroll her in the local Literacy Center, things began to change. At the Literacy Center, Kareena receives Stop Hunger Now meals distributed by Reach Now International.
“Thanks to Stop Hunger Meals, I am able to eat one meal every day,” Kareena says. “I feel energetic and happy.”
“Most of the children in the community are not studying, but help their parents in their work. I used to feel very lonely and shy, but now I have made many new friends in the Literacy Center and like to eat with my friends. I want to become a teacher.”
Mohini said, “Parents are happy that their children are not only getting good food, but also education and a healthy environment for growth. I am hopeful that parents and the community will understand the importance of healthy nutritious food and education in a child’s growth.”
In addition to her personal development, Kareena has become a leader for other children within the Literacy Program.
Kanchan, a teacher and grassroots leader, said, “At first, Kareena was shy and an introvert and did not talk to other children in the Literacy Center. Now she is looking healthier than before. She has become more active, goes to Literacy Center for studies and plays well with others. One time recently, the small children were crying due to hunger. Kareena left her food, calmed them down and helped them to eat. She explained that she ‘knows what it is like to go hungry.’ Everyone who saw it was touched. Our greatest satisfaction is to see the smiles of the children.”
Kareena added, “I really wish that all the children from the community do not work and could come to the Literacy Center with me so that we can eat, study and play together.”