“Meeting with a group of bright, curious teenage girls about the pressures on them to drop out of school was the most impactful moment for me,” said Global Programs and Partnerships Director Jess Watson after her nine-day trip to India with volunteer Mike McCombs in March 2017. “The girls are facing pressures from poverty and gender discrimination on a daily basis, but they desperately want to get an education.”
Watson and McCombs were visiting Wings of Hope field partner Nari O Sishu Kalyan Samitee (NSKS) in Balasore on the southern coast of India. They were evaluating Project Keep Girls In School, a new joint effort between NSKS and Wings of Hope which focuses on supporting groups of women to sell women’s health products in local schools and in their communities. The combined goal of the project is poverty alleviation, improving women’s health, and combating the drop-out rate among teen girls. After intensive meetings with NSKS staff and the community members involved, the project was recommended for approval.
The Wings of Hope team also met some of the women benefiting from the work center we constructed there in 2014. It now serves as an incense production facility and provides a supplemental income of $50/mo. for 70 women. “Fifty dollars might not seem like much to us, but to a woman in this part of India, it is the difference between living in poverty and providing for her children,” McCombs said. Women sit in rows on the floor in the spacious room and package incense in boxes to be sold all over the country. Demand is high, and they already have big plans for expansion. The women talked about being able to pay for medicine, food for their family, and school fees for their girl children, who often had to drop out before their mothers had an income. At Wings of Hope, we believe that the best way to help a child is by empowering her mother — and this field trip really brought that home!