SMART has entered into a partnership with Free The Children — a new way to channel our passion and commitment to education through volunteerism and corporate sponsorship.
We kicked off this partnership at our Calgary headquarters in April where SMART’s CEO Neil Gaydon introduced Free The Children Co-Founder Craig Kielburger, who ignited our staff with his story of youth activism and how it evolved into Free The Children, We Day and Me to We.
We can’t wait to update you about our work with Free the Children as activities unfold. The first thing we want to do is introduce you to Verdara, the community we are supporting through Free The Children’s Adopt a Village program.
Adopting a Village
The community of Verdara is located in Rajsamand District, Rajasthan State in the northwest part of India. It is 30 minutes away from the main town of Kelwara and two hours away from Udaipur city. When we learned that Free The Children is working with the Verdara community to eliminate the barriers that prevent children from accessing education, we knew this was the right community for SMART to support.
Craig Kielburger’s visit to India and interactions with child workers underscore the need for alternative income projects that remove barriers to education and that are developed in full partnership with the community.
In rural communities like Verdara, children, especially girls, are expected to take responsibility for different household activities such as taking care of their younger siblings and collecting water when their parents are fully engaged in agricultural work.
Traditionally, families have prioritized education for their boy children over girl children. If girls are able to attend primary school, they are less likely than boys to continue on to secondary school. Fortunately, the primary school dropout rate is low in Verdara because of committed teachers who engage parents in the importance of education.
Building safer community schools
Students still face many barriers to accessing quality education in this community. Classrooms are dark, lack proper furnishings and deteriorate due to extensive water damage during the monsoon season. Teachers have found that small, poorly ventilated classrooms lead to many student illnesses throughout the school year. For this reason, students and teachers prefer to sit outside to carry on with their lessons.
Free The Children is working with the community to reconstruct school rooms to ensure a safe learning environment for children and motivate students to continue their education in the higher grades. SMART’s volunteer efforts will begin with the construction of a new school in Verdara.
To learn more about Verdara, we invite you to read Free The Children’s full report.
Check back soon for more blog posts as SMART progresses in our relationship with Free The Children and explores how best to support the Verdara community.
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