Nihal was 8 when Santavir enrolled him in a GFA-supported Bridge of Hope centre, and the young boy carried over the wounds he had acquired from the hostility he faced at school for being “untouchable.” He found a corner to sit in and kept to himself, believing the rest of the children wanted nothing to do with him.
“I was so scared to go to the other students and sit along with them or eat with them,” Nihal says. “I used to [think],If I go and sit along with them [during] eating time, they may say some words to me.”
At Nihal’s Bridge of Hope centre, his teachers took measures to tear down the walls of discrimination. Aarit, the Bridge of Hope center’s coordinator at the time, remembers the challenges they faced.
“In the beginning, we faced issues … because some of the children who come from higher [class], they don’t want to mingle with the children who come from [the lower class] community,” Aarit says. “But over a period of time, we created a new thinking in the minds of the children. We even talked to their parents … and we have tried to teach them that the children, irrespective of their [social standing], colour and faith, are the same in our project centre.”
As Aarit and the Bridge of Hope teachers continually taught about the importance of treating people equally and with love and respect, they noticed that the children who once complained that they did not want to sit near Nihal were now developing friendships with him.
And they saw Nihal changing, too. He started coming to the centre bathed and smelling clean. His fear and insecurities began to vanish, and he no longer sat alone in a corner. He came to know that at the centre, he was truly accepted and loved.
“Here I feel so happy,” Nihal says. “Everybody treats me equally. … Now I have many friends to study with me, and I have many friends to play with.”
No longer stunted by discrimination, Nihal also found himself able to concentrate on his studies and began excelling in his classes—especially with the help and support from his Bridge of Hope teachers.
“I was so weak in my studies,” he says, “but because I am coming to Bridge of Hope, today I am able to study very well. And not only in my studies; I got so much moral support from Bridge of Hope staff.”
Now 12 years old, Nihal continues to help his father feed the pigs, but he’s not fearful of what people may say or think about him. Instead, he lives in the peace of knowing he’s loved and accepted. Through Bridge of Hope, walls of discrimination are being torn down for good, and Nihal’s future will be better than the generations before him.
“By changing a child, we are changing his or her family,” Aarit says. “By changing a family, we are changing our society and community. This impact will last long. In a way, we are trying to build our community, our nation through Bridge of Hope.”
Vimal grew up in an agrarian village where most of the locals were farmers, relying on small ponds to irrigate their fields and sustain their livestock. Women relied on the single water well in the village, almost a mile away, for their daily cooking, bathing and cleaning needs.
Aashna squatted on a dirt floor beside brightly clothed women all waiting to see a doctor. Each had different needs, different concerns. For Aashna, this was her only opportunity to help her baby boy.
Pastor Shorya knew the Holy Spirit had been speaking to him about going to visit a certain village—a village where he’d been told not to come back. The GFA-supported pastor lived nearby and had gone there several times, offering a message of hope to any who wanted to hear.