18 Million Street Children

Imagine that you are discarded, abandoned and abused.  You are forced to beg or turn to drugs.  Imagine being separated from your family.  And if you are a girl, imagine being abandoned by your parents.

These are the sad realities for millions of children in Asia.  They live in the streets where they are vulnerable or fall prey to kidnappers who sell them into bonded labor and the sex trade.  Those who manage to avoid the kidnappers fall into gangs, drugs and alcoholism.  Distrust and pain are their constant companions.  Everyday is a struggle to survive.

I encourage you to watch this video which will help you to better understand the plight of these children and what is being done by Gospel for Asia to change their circumstances and bring them hope.

You can offer these children a safe haven by supporting Gospel for Asia who has a home for runaway and abandoned children.  You can partner with the ministry so it can continue to develop programs to help these children.  You can change their lives forever.  Through your generosity and compassion, you can show them that there is a God who loves them and has not abandoned them.

When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up – Psalm 27:10

Source:  Gospel for Asia

Daya’s Timeline

When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up – Psalm 27:10

Daya was like an orphan even though her parents were not dead.  They abandoned her and if it weren’t for her grandmother, she would have been completely alone.  Family life was terrible for her.  Her father beat her mother and then abandoned them both.  Her mother deserted her. Neither parent showed her any love.  There is nothing worse than a child not receiving parental love.

Things didn’t improve for Daya.   With no income, she and her grandmother were forced to beg at bus stops, train stations and shops.  It’s heartbreaking to see an elderly woman, with her grandchild in her arms, begging for something to eat.  The cook for a Gospel for Asia Bridge of Hope centre had to be cautious.  He knew that there were beggars who carried small children in order to get larger handouts and they pocketed most of the money for themselves.  He couldn’t tell if this beggar was on the level.  He asked her a question and demanded an answer.  Her response was to break down in tears and pour her heart out.

He learned that the woman was the child’s grandmother and that Daya had once been a happy child until strife tore her family apart.  Realizing that this woman was telling the truth and moved with compassion, the cook invited her to enroll Daya in the Bridge of Hope centre where he would cook the young girl meals.

Daya joined the Bridge of Hope centre lodged between a railway station and a slum. Unfortunately, she stood out from the rest of the children.  She was the poorest of the poor and living in the slums for much of her life, she didn’t know much about hygiene.  She went to class each day in the same dirty clothes.  She rarely had a bath and when she did, she didn’t use soap.

It was not long before some of the parents began to complain about Daya and they pressured the Bridge of Hope staff to drop her from the program.  They didn’t want this dirty child to be around their children.  They threatened to remove their children from the centre if she didn’t leave.

Daya’s future was in jeopardy.  If she was dropped from the program, she would return to the streets as one of the 300,000 child beggars in India.  Somewhere down the road, she would be among the 20 to 30 million boys and girls who are exploited as child laborers.  If it weren’t for her grandmother’s protection, Daya was at risk of becoming one of the 1.2 million Indian children abused as prostitutes.  And worse yet for Daya if her grandmother were to die.  She would be lost and her future would be hopeless.  She wouldn’ stand a chance in a society where evil men preyed on the innocent…

Behold, God is my helper; The Lord is with those who uphold my life – Psalm 54:4

The Bridge of Hope staff remained committed to helping Daya because they knew that God had brought her to them.  They decided to keep her in the program and undertook her hygiene problem.  They scrubbed the 8 year old and gave her new clothes.  By the time they were finished with Daya, you could hardly recognize her.  They continued to teach her and her classmates proper hygiene and other practical life skills.  These wonderful people of God didn’t cave into the demands of those parents who wanted them to expel Daya from the centre.  They followed the example of the apostles Peter and John in Acts 5:29 who, when the council demanded to know why they were continuing to preach in Jesus’ name after being commanded not to, replied,  “We ought to obey God rather than men.”  They had to do whatever was necessary to protect the welfare of this child whom God had rescued from a life on the streets.

I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly – John 10:10

Over six years have passed since Daya joined the Bridge of Hope centre.  Instead of dirty rags, she is wearing beautiful dresses given as her uniforms.  She had gone from being a beggar to being blessed.  She had gone from the streets to a sanctuary where she receives an education.  She is not in bonded labor or in a brothel.  She is enjoying liberty in Jesus.  She can realize her dream to be a teacher.  Daya, now 15 years old, has a relationship with a Father who loves her and a Savior who has given her hope and set her free from the social evils which plague young girls like her in South Asia.

Daya’s grandmother has witnessed first hand the love of God as shown through the kindness of the Bridge of Hope staff.  And she too is experiencing that love.

God is using Bridge of Hope to change communities.  More than 60,000 children are finding hope in Jesus through the centres but there are millions of children like Daya out there who are still living in despair.  You can reach out to them by sponsoring a child.  Find out what every Bridge of Hope child receives.

My heart goes out to these children who are robbed of their childhood.  They are unloved, abandoned, exploited and abused.  I was touched by the story of Lakshmi, a nine year old who works in a factory rolling cigarettes.  She is an example of selfless love.  She doesn’t care about playing or going to school–all she wants is to bring her sister home from the bonded labor man.

My sister is ten years old. Every morning at seven she goes to the bonded labor man, and every night at nine she comes home. He treats her badly; he hits her if he thinks she is working slowly or if she talks to the other children, he yells at her, he comes looking for her if she is sick and cannot go to work. I feel this is very difficult for her.  

It would cost 600 rupees to buy her sister’s freedom but for Lakshmi, there is hopeless.  “We don’t have 600 rupees,” she says, “…we will never have 600 rupees.”  600 rupees is only $14.00 US.  This is just one story among over 10 million stories of children who are bonded laborers in India.  Help Bridge of Hope to bring hope to these children.  Pray that God will rescue more of them from the clutches of evil people.   Pray that they will discover that there is a loving God who sees their plight and will intervene.  Pray that they will come to know Jesus.

Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us, Just as we hope in You – Psalm 33:22

Source:  Gospel for Asia

Veil of Tears Movie Trailer

I learned about the following video from Gospel of Asia, a ministry committed to sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ with lost men, women and children throughout South Asia who have still not heard His precious name.  If you are interested in learning more about the ministry and their work, visit their website at http://www.gfa.ca/

Tell you family, friends, co-workers and neighbors about this movie which comes out in theatres on March 28.  Find out how you can get involved with Veil of Tears before and after its release by visiting http://veiloftearsmovie.com/

Saving Face

I was thrilled last night when I saw the documentary, Saving Face win the Oscar.  It was a proud moment for Canadian Pakistani filmmaker, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy as she made history as Pakistan’s first Oscar winner.  Chinoy hopes that this Oscar win will ignite a flourishing film industry in Pakistan.

Saving Face is a documentatry about acid attacks. The film follows London-based Pakistani plastic surgeon, Dr. Mohammad Jawad, as he journeys to Pakistan to perform reconstructive surgery on survivors of acid violence. Saving Face also broaches the subject of the under-reporting of acid violence due to cultural and structural inequalities towards women.  The film also features two women attacked by acid and their struggle for justice and healing. The Acid Survivors Foundation of Pakistan, which is featured in the film, had documented over 100 acid attacks a year in Pakistan but estimates far more due to lack of reporting.

Obaid-Chinoy has also stated that the film is “a positive story about Pakistan on two accounts: firstly, it portrays how a Pakistani-British doctor comes to treat them and it also discusses, in great depth, the parliament’s decision to pass a bill on acid violence”. Obaid-Chinoy has also said that the film assisted in the trial and conviction of one of the perpretrators of acid violence on a female victim.

“I am so grateful for the Academy’s recognition of this film and the issues highlighted here. No-one who sees these women could fail to be moved. Each beautiful in their own way, their lives have been destroyed, their faces and bodies disfigured, often by members of their own families,” Jawad said following the film’s success at the 84th Academy Awards.  “They are the real heroes here. They have been ostracised from society following the terrible attacks that have been inflicted upon them. I merely try to restore God’s creation, which has been destroyed by such evil acts of human beings, in the best way I know how. I hope that awareness of the cause will help to eradicate this beast of a man-made disease from society,” Jawad said.

Sharmeen Obaid was born in Karachi attended the Karachi Grammar School. She graduated from Smith College with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Government and fromStanford Uni with master’s degrees in International Policy Studies and in Communication.Obaid-Chinoy is an Emmy award winning producer and journalist.  She won an Emmy for her documentary, Pakistan: Children of the Taliban in 2010. She is also the first non-American to win the Livingston Award for Young Journalists.

Her career in documentary began when she examined the plight of Afghani refugee children in Pakistan for one of her articles. Their situation was so dire, and their stories so compelling, that Sharmeen decided to return to Pakistan and create a film about them. She petitioned Smith College and New York Times Television production division for the grants that would allow her to accomplish her goals. Intrigued by her story, both organizations gave her the funds as well as production equipment and training. She is currently a faculty member at media sciences department in SZABIST (Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and technology, Karachi). Obaid-Chinoy is also on the board member of The Citizens Archive of Pakistan (CAP).

Known for documentaries dealing with life in the Muslim world, Obaid became the first non-American to win the Livingston Award. Her films have aired on such networks as Channel 4,CNN, PBS, and Al-Jazeera.  She began her career with New York Times Television in 2002 where she produced Terror’s Children, a film about Afghan refugee children, which won her the Overseas Press Club Award, the American Women and Radio and Television Award, and the South Asian Journalist Association Award.  Since then, she has produced and reported on more than twelve films around the world.

Obaid produced and reported on four multi-award winning documentary films for New York Times Television. In 2003, Reinventing the Taliban was awarded the Special Jury Award at the BANFF TV festival in Canada, the CINE Golden Eagle Award, the American Women in Radio and Television award, and the Livingston Award. In 2005, her film Women of the Holy Kingdom, which provided an inside look at the women’s movement in Saudi Arabia, won the South Asian Journalist Association Award.

In 2005, Obaid began working with Channel 4 in the United Kingdom reporting on four films for their Unreported World series. Pakistan’s Double Game looked at sectarian violence in Pakistan, City of Guilt explored the Catholic Church’s pro-life movement in the Philippines, The New Apartheid looked into growing xenophobia in South Africa, and Birth of a Nationdelved into the politics of East Timor. In 2007, Obaid was named “journalist of the year” by the One World Media awards for her work in the series.

In 2007, Obaid travelled to Afghanistan and reported for Channel 4 and CNN. Her film, Afghanistan Unveiled/Lifting the Veil, focuses on stalled reconstruction and the repression of women in the country.

Acid throwing (acid attack or vitriolage) is a form of violent assault. It is defined as the act of throwing acid onto the body of a person “with the intention of injuring or disfiguring him or her out of jealousy or revenge”. Perpetrators of these attacks throw acid at their victims, usually at their faces, burning them, and damaging skin tissue, often exposing and sometimes dissolving the bones. The long term consequences of these attacks include blindness and permanent scarring of the face and body.  These attacks are most common in Cambodia, Afghanistan, India, Bangladesh,Pakistan and other nearby countries. According to Taru Bahl and M.H. Syed, 80% of victims of these acid attacks are female and almost 70% are under 18 years of age.

According to New York Times reporter Nicholas D. Kristof, acid attacks are at an all time high in Pakistan and increasing every year. The Pakistani attacks he describes are typically the work of husbands against their wives who have “dishonored them”.

Obaid-Chinoy’s win has been the cause for celebration in her home country.  Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani announced that Obaid-Chinoy would be receiving a civil award for her achievements on Monday, according to the Associated Press. She is the first Pakistani to win an Oscar.

She dedicated her Oscar to “all the women in Pakistan working for change.  Don’t give up on your dreams. This is for you.”

Saving Face airs March 8 on HBO Canada.

Notes to Women congratulates this remarkable woman whose passion for sharing stories of women and children and their plight has earned her the recognition she deserves.  Sharmeen, you made your country and women around the world very proud.

Sources:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saving_Face_(documentary); http://ca.news.yahoo.com/canadian-pakistani-filmmaker-nabs-oscar-documentary-short-acid-160219303.htmlhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharmeen_Obaid-Chinoyhttp://sharmeenobaidfilms.com/http://www.dawn.com/2012/02/27/the-victims-are-the-real-heroes.htmlhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acid_throwinghttp://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/pakistan/120227/saving-face-oscar-winner-sharmeen-obaid-chinoy-ce