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Providence Woman Leads Local Movement to Eradicate Child Slavery in India

The Wonder’s of India: Celebrating for Freedom. A family celebration of Indian Culture on November 7, 2009 aims to help International Cause.

Where: Jewish Community Center, 500 Elmgrove Avenue (on the East Side), Providence, RI 02906
When: Saturday, November 7, 2009
Time: Noon to 8 p.m
Admission: $2 per person, children under the age of five will be admitted for free.
All proceeds from the event will benefit Bachpan Bachao Andolan.

Dancing-at-Bal-Ashram-webShanthi Muthu considers ending child slavery in one of the world’s most populous countries as the most important cause of her life. For Muthu, it goes beyond seeing the movie “Slumdog Millionaire.” It means actively doing something about the plight of children who have fallen victim to slavery.

Muthu, a yoga teacher and dance instructor from Providence, has committed herself to helping Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), an organization in India dedicated to the rescue and rehabilitation of children who have fallen victim to child labor, bonded labor, trafficking, and exploitation.

On Saturday, November 7, Muthu, along with friends Susan Barnaby of Pawtucket, Ali LeBrun of Warwick, and her daughter, Pavitra Muthu, intends to raise awareness and funding for the cause at an all-day event that will feature a celebration of South Asian culture, children’s yoga, dance, cuisine, a silent auction, and much more.

Her endeavor emanated after a conversation with her daughter, who at the time was complaining about her own financial woes. The discussion compelled Muthu to research the subject on the Internet. What she discovered shocked her to the core.Bal-Ashram-web

“I simply told her that there are children in India that are far less fortunate, children who have no food, clothes, or even basic freedoms like we have,” Muthu said.  “Until I researched the topic, I never knew how bad the situation was out there. That’s when I discovered BBA and the work they do to change lives forever.”

At first, Muthu collected loose change and recyclables throughout the City of Providence and hosted dinners and henna parties to raise enough money for the cause. Since September of 2007, she has raised approximately $5,483 for BBA.

However, the money that Muthu has raised so far is just a drop in the bucket compared to the money needed to help the thousands of children who are still suffering from slavery in India. According to BBA, the cost of freeing, rehabilitating, and supporting just one former child slave is $302 for six months, which includes basic health care, food, toiletries, tuition, clothing, and vocational training. While the price tag may not seem exorbitant to those in the western world, the costs are considered steep in India.

“These children live in a very dangerous and frustrating world, a world filled with isolation, despair, abuse, and anguish,” Muthu said. “After assisting in other causes, this is really where I felt that I should devote all of my attention. Even if I can help two or three people get out of slavery, it’s well worth it.”

Since 1980, BBA has rescued over 76,000 children and bonded laborers in India. The group also operates an ashram to educate and rehabilitate emancipated child slaves as they begin to reclaim their freedom. In addition to immediate assistance, BBA also runs a prevention program to warn Indian families about the dangers of child abduction and child slavery. For more information on Bachpan Bachao Andolan, please visit their website at http://www.bba.org.in. For more information on Muthu, please visit her home page at http://manisha-wisdomofindia.webs.com.

Photo Credit: Shanthi Muthu with rescued children at Bal Ashram on Sep 2, 2009 in India.

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