I Want to Become a Doctor When I Grow Up

Preeti dreams of becoming a doctor. Photograph by Prashant Panjiar

“I enjoy being at the hostel. I have made new friends and am learning new things. I want to become a doctor when I grow up,” says Preeti.

PREETI’S parents are sugarcane cutters from Zaran village in Dang, Gujarat, and trapped in a cycle of poverty. For her and her three sisters, a good education was impossible and the risk of being trafficked and forced into child labor, very real.

Every year at the end of monsoon season, the family migrated to Bagumara, 120 kilometers from their home, where sugarcane was abundant. Cutting sugarcane is seasonal and hard work, with insufficient return. The money Preeti’s family made barely put food on the table and had to stretch for the entire year.

Preeti’s mother, Sita, wanted a different and better future for her four daughters. “I didn’t want them to have my kind of life. I couldn’t study as I had to support my family. I want my daughters to study.”

Fortunately, AIF’s Learning and Migration Program (LAMP) was the opportunity Sita was looking for. It offered a Seasonal Hostel for children with caretakers and facilities tomeet their needs while their parents migrated. Children in the program stayed in their villages and benefitted from a familiar and positive environment, without a break in their education.

It was difficult for Sita to leave her daughters at the Seasonal hostel. However, she knew Preeti and her sisters would be safe and taken care of, have access to quality education, resources and activities and be empowered with skills they needed to thrive.

Through LAMP, Preeti and other children like her have been able to boost learning outcomes dramatically. They have more confidence, a greater sense of awareness about their future education and career aspirations and are empowered to break traditional gender roles.

At the LAMP Seasonal hostel, Preeti explored her talent in sports and music and became a talented archer. “Preeti sings well and mingles with other children. Last year she cried and refused to stay back in the hostel, but this year she is adapting well,” says Mangalbhai, Preeti’s warden.

Through LAMP, the Seasonal Hostels and Learning Resource Centers (LRCs), several UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are covered. For example, covering children at risk of migration and promoting their good health and well-being (SDG 3); empowering communities to take ownership for their children’s quality education (SDG 4), and gender equality, especially girls (SDG 5) by promoting their increased participation through enrollment drives, trainings for School Management Committee members and creating volunteer groups in villages.

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