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PHOTO: A shepherd leads his sheep up a remote mountain valley in the Ladakh Himalayas

Non-Profit Spotlight: Deepalaya–working to alleviate rural and child poverty

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For thousands of children toiling away at the bottom of India’s working class, even a tin shanty is a luxury beyond their financial reach. They often reach, instead, for an empty lot that each evening transforms into a bedroom community where 30 rupees, roughly sixty cents, can buy you a cot and a blanket for the night.

In the winter months it’s not uncommon to double up – another person brings much needed warmth and half the cost. When dawn breaks, the cots are broken down, blankets turned in, the lot transforms into a parking lot, and the workers disappear into the hustle and bustle of city life, possessions toted from place to place in plastic shopping bags.

Some stay a night or two, while too many others cycle through over the decades, raising families in this iterant lifestyle that promises little more than a grinding cycle of more of the same – of poverty, of hunger, of struggle. It’s not limited to this unique situation – shanty towns, entrenched rural poverty, all serve as counterpoints to a country with a rapidly expanding middle class and social systems. As the Indian economy expands, there are those who do well and those who are increasingly left behind stuck in a seemingly endless cycle of poverty.

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The cycle can be broken argues Deepalaya, a thirty-two year old New Delhi based NGO. Deepalaya has built quite the successful track record when it comes to tackling the issues affecting the poor – especially those affecting children. Focusing on issues surrounding education access, gender equity, health, and on leveraging care and access to the differently abled and children housed in institutions such as orphanages, Deepalaya creates steps out of poverty.

Underpinning all of their work is the recognition that it’s hard to pull one up by the bootstraps when one lacks boots. Deepalaya’s slogan, "enabling self-reliance" is a nod to the fact that their work is about not just about helping young people out of poverty – a lottery ticket could do that – but rather about creating the positive health, educational, and social conditions necessary for children to carve out their own success on their own terms

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