“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
– Margaret Mead
Margaret Mead’s words eloquently describe SAF International, a Canadian NGO out of Vancouver BC that supports poverty alleviation in India. Founded in 2014, SAF stemmed from a small group of friends collecting money to create a tuition free centre for children in their hometown in India. This small initiative developed into the Bloom Literacy Program, a hallmark of of the NGO, which currently supports over 500 children. The program enrolls children from poor households into low cost private schools until they complete grade 12. An individual can sponsor to cover a child’s school fees for only $35 per month. By providing marginalized children with access to quality education the Bloom Literacy Program, gives children a chance at success in India’s fast-growing economy.
The Bloom Literacy programs’ efficient model also frees resources to provide other basic human necessities we take for granted. This includes a washroom for homes with no toilet, filters for clean water and a monthly food stipend for abandoned seniors.
The SAF team is also working to address among the most pressing socio-economic problem in India: farmer suicides. Due to environmental degradation and a poorly managed agriculture sector many small Indian farmers are falling into debt traps. To escape their problems an alarming number of high debt farmers are committing suicide. SAF International hopes to partner with grassroots organizations to support vulnerable widows and hopefully reach high debt farmers to prevent suicides.
The SAF team also places a special focus on ensuring young girls and women receive necessary support. After only a few years in operation SAF International has quickly learned the burden females in poverty bare. Many families in extreme poverty marry off their daughters at a young age so they have one less mouth to feed. This coupled with a lack of education makes the women remain dependent on men. The farmer suicide crisis has led to many poor single mothers managing high debt, the family farm and a household by themselves. Most concerning is that young girls and women in poverty are the most vulnerable to sexual crimes.
The level of support from Canadians has been humbling. Even small volunteer run organizations have learnt themselves to help SAF raise awareness and funds. The hope is if support continues to grow SAF can develop new programs to better support development and social mobility.
The SAF team and its supporters are driven by a sense of obligation to help. An obligation to help their brothers and sisters who have been neglected by the institutions that are supposed to serve them. Working for development and social change is a difficult struggle but the team is constantly being energized by the signs and stories of success.
Short videos and stories posted online show how grateful and moved people are from the support coming from Canada. In the end, SAF International may be an example of Canada’s best export, our help.
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