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Light of Hope

The thin, dirty girl sits dejectedly on the curb as pedestrians filter past her. Ten-year-old Farjana is tired and does not feel well, but she knows she must earn more money before she can go home for the day. “When I was very young, my father died,” Farjana says. “My mom was unable to manage our family by providing food and other needs for us. . . . The last 6 years I have been going to [a major intersection] for begging and earning money for my family.”

Farjana does not go to school and cannot read or write. She wants to go to school someday because “without education, there is no significance in life,” she said.

She is just one of Bangladesh’s estimated 700,000 beggars. Girls from low-income families like Farjana face many obstacles and dangers in their life—including potentially being trafficked and exploited, says worker Geri Hennerman. “They are seen as nobodies and only good for cleaning, cooking, sex, and child-bearing,” she says. “They are often beaten verbally and physically. They have little—if any—encouragement, love, correct discipline, or teaching. They do not have good female role models to follow. Many are given for marriage at extremely young ages. They are seen as objects instead of real people.”

But the Light of Hope Learning Center, which Geri started more than 6 years ago, helps prevent impoverished girls from having this dark future. The center is a day shelter that gives girls education, life skills, health care, and moral training. They are taught they are special and have great potential for living a transformed life. “They spend their days learning and growing in all areas—intellectually, morally, spiritually, physically, emotionally, and socially—instead of spending their days (and nights) out in their very dangerous and open areas, learning the ways of the world and getting into dangerous and trouble-type situations,” Geri says.

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