Advent calendar tells modern story of hope at Christmas

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

The calendar tells the story of Sivamma, living in South India. Sheis a Dalit, or 'untouchable', a group outside the caste system thatfaces much discrimination in Indian society. She has joined a SelfHelp Group, set up by MRDF partners, which has helped her communityto access free electricity, learn to read and write and to formsmall businesses. By working together with her neighbours, Sivammahas also successfully persuaded the local government to build avillage primary school, providing opportunities to her daughter andother children, which were not available to their parents.

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

Sadly, unlike Sivamma, most of India's 160 million Dalits stillstruggle to make a living, comprising 90% of those living below thecountry's poverty line. They face discrimination, reducedopportunities for education and work, and even violence and abuse.This Christmas, MRDF is encouraging people to remember communitieslike Sivamma's, and provide support for them to gain confidence,new skills and the means to provide a better future for theirchildren.

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