Transforming Young Lives in Odisha

Oasis Church Birmingham
Oasis Church Birmingham

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Over the past few years, Peter Whitfield has become increasingly involved with supporting a project to provide term-time hostels for children in Odisha, India — enabling them to access education that would otherwise be off-limits for them. In this blog article, he shares about the project, his story of support, and how you can get involved.

“And God is able to make all grace overflow to you so that because you have enough of everything in every way at all times, you will overflow in every good work.”
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2 Corinthians 9:8 NET

In 2020, I, Joy and my siblings returned to my country of birth to the mission compound in Balangir, Odisha, where my parents were missionaries. We met Mahendra, the warden of the Christian Endeavour Hostels (CEH), which provide a term-time home for some of the poorest children (9–18-year-olds) in the region, in order for them to access an education to help break the poverty trap into which they have been born.

Many people in Odisha are living in severe poverty, sustained only by day labouring or piece work. The condition of life is challenging for these communities, with little hope to break out of the poverty cycle for the next generation. There is minimal access to schooling in rural villages, and it can be limited to primary education, as families cannot support children through secondary education. However, CEH in Balangir and Diptipur provide children with safe, healthy and clean accommodation during term time, where they gain access to a full education. The children are supported and encouraged by the staff in their studies, while the hostels’ holistic approach supports their personal and spiritual development plus providing them time for fun!

Post-Covid, an international organisation ended their support of CEH after 42 years due to a change in their circumstances. Therefore, in 2022 Mahendra approached my family to ask whether we would raise funds to continue the operation of CEH. From this request ABOUND was born, to seek donations to support CEH operations. I now have the privilege of leading a team to partner with CEH to see God’s love in action in Odisha.

Having an education creates opportunities for the children. Those who go to school and complete their full education, including some to university level, have a better chance of securing high quality employment. Personal development helps to transition children from rural village life to the complexity of town or city living. Children learn how to understand and manage health risks in their lives, develop leadership skills through responsibilities in the hostels and personal discipline to reach their potential.

A better understanding of the world in which they live and a growing relationship with God equips the students to make meaningful decisions about their lives. The benefits go way beyond the individual child as typically hostel attendees go on to provide financially for their families or even support their siblings through education.

Does it work? Alumni of the hostel include district healthcare workers, government administrators and teachers. One ex-student has become the WHO Director for Healthcare Systems for the whole of the state of Chhattisgarh — a fantastic example of the potential afforded the children through a good education.

If you would like more information or wish to donate any one-off or regular amount please visit https://www.abound.org.uk.

With love in Christ,
Peter Whitfield

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Oasis Church Birmingham
Oasis Church Birmingham

Oasis is a community of people from Birmingham and the surrounding area who believe that Jesus changes everything