Aamir jumped up and down in the mud puddles surrounding his family home, splishing and splashing with abandon. At age four, he is energetic and curious with a dash of mischievousness thrown in. His older sister, Lina, scolds him. “Aamir, you’re making a mess!” He just giggles and runs down the lane, pretending to run away from Lina.

Inside the family’s hut, Gabina, the children’s  mother, is huddled over her work while she tends the fire and watches the baby. Visibly pregnant, she lets out a small groan at the pain in her lower back as her fingers nimbly insert a wick into the firecrackers she assembles. Her earnings are the sole source of the family income. She knows it’s dangerous work. Gunpowder and empty firecracker shells are scattered around her, and she worries that the gunpowder is too close to the fire. But what is she to do? Her family needs what she earns, and she doesn’t know how to do anything else. Gabina never had the opportunity to go to school and has been assembling firecrackers since she was five years of age. She’s fast – and that’s important because she is paid by the piece. No firecrackers today? No pay. 

Gabina is discouraged. Supporting her family of three (soon to be four) feels like a losing battle. She worries about her husband, Naadir. He is so discouraged and angry. After developing severe health problems that left him unable to work, he turned to alcohol to mask his pain, both physical and mental. And the debt! Gabina took out loans to cover her husband’s treatment, and the unscrupulous lender left her drowning in debt with little ability to pay it back. 

Most of all, she worries about little Aamir. So full of life, so smart, and so joyful. Gabina’s heart’s desire is to see him – to see all of her children – go to school. Even though she is uneducated, she knows education is the way out of this difficult life. Her tears and frustration at her inability to provide this for her kids spill down her cheeks as she stretches her back to try and find a more comfortable position on the hard-packed dirt floor. 

A knock came at the door frame, and a small brown hand pushed aside the curtain that served as a door. Gabina wiped her eyes with her dupatta to hide her tears. It was Meena! Meena lives down the street with her family and her husband’s parents. Gabina knew Meena would lift her spirits and offers her a cup of chai that’s always on the fire. Meena is always cheerful, and Gabina always feels better after their visits.

As they sipped their tea in the humid afternoon, Meena says, “Gabina, I just heard there is an opening in a training course not far from our colony. You should go! I just earned my seamstress certificate, and when I graduated, they gave me a sewing machine! I can make blouses for you!” Gabina’s eyes widened. “Really? Me? I don’t know anything about sewing.” “That’s ok. I didn’t either. But now I do!” 

Gabina was excited for a moment, then her face fell. “What about the children? I can’t leave them all day while I take a course. And I can’t count on Naadir to help.” “Hmmm,” said Meena. “Wait!! I bet I could watch the kids while you are in the course. And I’m sure my mother-in-law would pitch in, too. They’ll be fine!” 

Gabina felt the weight lift from her shoulders. “Oh, thank you. How can I ever repay you?” “It’s nothing,” Meena shot back. “Really – it’s only for a few weeks. In this neighborhood we have to look out for each other. Especially us women!”

With that settled, Gabina enrolled in the DFN Vocational Training Center the next morning. After two weeks she was thriving. She was learning new skills, feeling confident, and for the first time in a long time, hopeful about her future. She was still able to assemble firecrackers in the afternoons and evenings to generate income. Things were looking up. 

At the end of the course, Gabina did so well that her teacher offered her a full-time job in DFN’s mini-factory ironing and putting the finishing touches on school uniforms for our DFN schools. Gabina headed home at the end of each day with her head held high. She was earning a dignified living at a fair wage in a safe and clean environment.

But still she worried. What about Aamir? He was almost the age Gabina was when she started work. What would become of him? What would become of his sister, the baby, and the little one on its way? She didn’t want them to suffer the same fate she had. 

When Aamir came inside that evening, exhausted from his adventures, Gabina affectionately patted his head, still damp from his play. “Oh, Mom, stop,” he cried. As she set about fixing dinner, Gabina recalled hearing her supervisor talking about her children’s  school at work that day. Right then Gabina made up her mind that she was going to find out about this school tomorrow. Maybe there was a place for Aamir and for his sister. What an answer to prayer that would be!

And that’s exactly what Gabina did. She mustered up her courage, asked her supervisor about the school, and discovered that there was a DFN school very close to the mini-factory that offered scholarships for children as young as three to attend school. 

Aamir! Gabina’s heart rejoiced. “Maybe there is hope,” she dared to think. And there was!

Today, just a few months later, Aamir proudly recites the English alphabet and sings nursery rhymes. He’s learning to count, he’s learning his colors, and he’s learning to read! He’ll be fluent in English in a year. And he’s safe. Off the streets, free from the fear that he will have to assemble firecrackers like Gabina did. And his older sister is learning, too. 

Gabina can’t wait for the day the baby turns three, so she can go to school alongside her sister and brother. And she no longer worries about the future of her unborn child. She knows there is a community, a team of people in her corner, supporting her and cheering her on. 

When you gift a scholarship to a young child like Aamir, you aren’t just securing his or her safety and future. You are helping transform a family like Gabina’s. Naadir has given up alcohol, his health is improving, and he has plans to return to work. 

You can help a young child get started on the right foot to a bright future. Your generosity will extend well beyond that one child. You’ll touch an entire family, even a whole street, and lift them from despair to hope. 

To learn more about how you can provide early childhood education to a child like Aamir and impact his entire family, please visit RUBY RISES.

Because every life matters.