Community & Current Events

Grassroots group: India Village Poverty Relief Fund

Photography by Crystle Mazurek Author: Canadian Living Credits: Photography by Crystle Mazurek

Community & Current Events

Grassroots group: India Village Poverty Relief Fund

Challenge: Crystle Mazurek grew up in India, but had not been back in 25 years. "When I visited in 2001, the village I grew up in was in a serious state of impoverishment. A local leader remembered me and said, 'You've been away too long. Don't stay away—help us.' It touched my heart," says the Brockville, ON, high school teacher.

The response:
Back home in Canada, Mazurek thought of ways to help. Disenchanted with the bureaucracy and administrative apparatus of big charities, Mazurek created the India Village Poverty Relief Fund (IVPRF), which delivers funds directly to her contacts in the Indian state of Punjab.
 
On a five-figure annual budget, IVPRF delivers aid in three ways.

• Scholarships for needy schoolchildren so they can enter professions. Last year, IVPRF supported 501 students from JK to Grade 12, plus 11 college students. Two-thirds were female, in a culture in which child brides are common and less than half of all adolescent girls attend secondary school.

• Mobile training centres to teach uneducated women to become seamstresses. At the end of a six-month training program, each participant gets a sewing machine to keep. Last year, 238 young women were enrolled.

• In a new initiative launched in 2013, six impoverished girls aged 14 to 16—each at high-risk of early marriage—were given a baby buffalo. Their families agreed not to marry the girls off until the buffalos reach five years of age, at which time they will be worth $1,000 each, a huge sum in a country where the per capita gross national income is just US$1,410 (by comparison, Canada's is US$45,560). The deal buys the girls a few more crucial years of childhood.

Twelve years later, IVPRF is still essentially a one-woman charity. Last year it pulled in $32,500 in donations, 92 percent of which went directly to projects.

Help girls and young women in India work towards a brighter future. Visit IndiaVillageFund.org.

To learn more about International Women's Day, check out our State of the Sisterhood project
                                               
This story was originally titled "Building a Brighter Future For Girls in India" in the March 2014 issue.
           
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Grassroots group: India Village Poverty Relief Fund

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