Promise of Assurance to Children Everywhere- PACE
The subject of Maternal and Child Health also includes poverty, abuse of women and child trafficking. This is an article of how Rotary, working in a strategic partnership with an US non-profit organization – PACE Universal of which I am a member, is tackling these issues and achieving sustainable results by implementing programs in the six areas of focus.
There are currently 62 million girls that do not go to school and more than 1 billion women living in poverty.
As was emphasized at STEPS, child trafficking is the second largest industry in the world and the fastest growing.
PDG Deepa Willingham started PACE Universal (PACE), Promise of Assurance to Children Everywhere, in 2003. The goal was to establish the PACE Learning Center (PLC) in Piyali, a village 45 km from the city of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), which was steeped in abject poverty and was one of the hot beds for child trafficking. At PLC PACE was committed to changing lives through education. Deepa’s goal was to enroll 20 girls.
There are now 250 students and the waiting list grows daily. It is a magical and empowering place. An oasis of hope, learning and love. This is how it began.
Deepa heard of a 7 year old girl named Jaba living in Piyali. One day her mother told Jaba she would a day of fun in the city with her father. They bought her a little dress and sandals. She happily held her father’s hand excited about being with him. However, when they got to the railroad station they did not get on the train to the city. Instead, her father met a man, was handed an envelope, and told Jaba to go with him. As she looked after her father, he never turned around. She was sold for $40.
It is impossible to comprehend how a parent could sell a child. The roots of human trafficking lie deep in poverty, desperation and the devaluation of females. In rural uneducated, illiterate areas women are viewed as a burden.
PACE focuses exclusively on the neediest – those who without PLC would not be in school, or worse, shuffled to the city to work in the sex trade business, or be domestic laborers or sent across the border to be sold into prostitution.
PLC admits girls at age 4. Most arrive filthy, lice ridden, hungry and often abused. Everything is free, meals, uniforms, school supplies, personal hygiene care.
Educating girls is far and away the best way to change a village, but PLC’s outreach extends far beyond the school gates.
PLC provides educational and vocational training programs for the mothers so they are able to become literate, learn income generating skills, obtain micro-loans after graduation and improve the condition of their families.
The result of the Piyali Learning Center’s presence and programs for girls and their mothers has resulted in the elimination of abuse of females, child trafficking and improvement of their own health and those of their children thus validating the common belief “…you educate a woman, you benefit a community.”
PACE has been asked to establish learning centers in many areas of the world including Honduras, Ethiopia, Appalachia and Detroit .
Past Board Secretary/Current Advisory Board Member - PACE Universal
Past President - RC Westlake Village Sunrise