31 October 2006

Advent calendar tells modern story of hope at Christmas

Methodist Relief and Development Fund (MRDF) has produced an Advent calendar with a global perspective.

The calendar tells the story of Sivamma, living in South India. She is a Dalit, or 'untouchable', a group outside the caste system that faces much discrimination in Indian society. She has joined a Self Help Group, set up by MRDF partners, which has helped her community to access free electricity, learn to read and write and to form small businesses. By working together with her neighbours, Sivamma has also successfully persuaded the local government to build a village primary school, providing opportunities to her daughter and other children, which were not available to their parents.

Amanda Norman, MRDF Supporter Relations Director said: 'Advent is a time of hope when we can remember Jesus' concern for justice for the poor. As Christmas approaches, the inspirational stories in this Advent calendar remind us of all the small miracles that MRDF's partners make possible, throughout the year.'

Sadly, unlike Sivamma, most of India's 160 million Dalits still struggle to make a living, comprising 90% of those living below the country's poverty line. They face discrimination, reduced opportunities for education and work, and even violence and abuse. This Christmas, MRDF is encouraging people to remember communities like Sivamma's, and provide support for them to gain confidence, new skills and the means to provide a better future for their children.

The Advent calendar is beautifully illustrated and has Bible quotations and colourful images behind each of the 24 windows. It provides a great opportunity for children and their families to learn about life in another country as they count down to Christmas, at the same time helping to fulfil Sivamma's dream that: 'Dalit children will not be born into sadness and poverty any more.' Through the work of MRDF partners, Dalit women are leading their communities into a brighter future this Christmas time.

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