Alex recently spent some time with TREAD as a volunteer and has this to say about this project.
“Last week we had the privilege of meeting just a few of the children and young adults supported by TREAD through the Orphan Assistance programme. Though I have known of TREAD for many years and even visited 10 years ago, I didn’t know much about this project. I just knew TREAD looked after a few orphans, but didn’t really understand much of it.
Though it’s called “Orphan” assistance I think in English terms it would be more accurately described as “needy family” assistance as in reality there is a wide range of reasons for this support. Some youngsters only have elderly grandparents who can’t work to look after them, others are part of single parent families and a few have (or have parents with) disabilities. Adopting and helping children in need has always been a central part of TREAD. Sounder and Ranji (the founders of TREAD) had 5 children of their own, but always had others that they had adopted or were fostering living with them. Out of this the Orphan Assistance Programme formed and there are now 26 children and young adults being supported by TREAD.
So what actually happens? Essentially the children’s family sponsored by TREAD receive a small amount of money every three months for a long as they are in education. Each person supported has a link person within TREAD whom they can contact whenever they need and they will generally have a big catch up and some mentoring every few months. We are told these sessions can often be very long as they have formed close relationships with their mentors who look upon them as an extended part of their own family. Education is seen as the priority and the youngsters will be supported to go as far as they can in education and they will continue with support as long as necessary. Money from TREAD means they don’t have the pressure of giving up education to get a low-paid manual labouring job.
So far in our visit we have been lucky enough to see 2 young women and 4 men supported by the programme, ranging in ages from 7-26 all of whom have been supported be TREAD since about the age of 5. On meeting them the effect of the programme is immediately obvious. All are in education, one young woman is second in her class at college and is training for the entry exams to get into a good university, aiming to work as a good employee in a government job and fight the corruption she has seen from the inside. Another girl, aged just 7, dreams of becoming a police officer “to stop the thieves” and isn’t scared by the fact that the police force in India is almost entirely male. Two of the men we met are doing vocational training – to become an electrician and to work in an office at the local paper plant. Both see supporting their families as their priority and also spoke about how they wanted to support other orphans, as TREAD has with them. It was touching to see how much this project had impacted their lives – when we asked them, they jumped at the chance to share their stories and kept interrupting each other as they excitedly told us how they had been helped.
To finish I need to put across the thanks from those we spoke to. All of these young people on the Orphan Assistance programme wanted their sponsors in England and all supporters of Friends of TREAD to know how thankful they are – they are amazed that people who have never met them could be so generous and this has inspired them to do the same in India!”