One of thousands of women taught to read and write tells how GFA-supported initiative ‘made my dream come true’
WILLS POINT, Texas—It was a dream come true for a 50-year-old woman living in a village in northern India when she wrote her own name for the first time—a milestone made possible by GFA (Gospel for Asia) and its field partners as part of their efforts to improve the lives of some of the world’s most impoverished.
The villager was taught how to pen her name through one of the many reading and writing courses run by GFA-supported workers, who recently organized a string of events to extend the program in celebration of International Literacy Day.
Globally, some 750 million adults lack basic literacy skills, many of them women. Around 250 million women across Asia are unable to read and write, limiting their earning capabilities to low-paying labor and leaving them open to being taken advantage of financially. Their inabilities sometimes cause them to dismiss the importance of education for their children, perpetuating a cycle of poverty.
GFA-supported teams are countering this problem by running weekly classes in people’s homes, teaching reading and writing basics in English and more than a dozen other languages, including Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi and Tamil. Participants get a slate and chalk to take home and practice with, and also learn simple math.
“Literacy is a basic necessity, which opens doors to a better life for them and their families,” said GFA founder and director Dr. K. P. Yohannan. “Being able to read and write provides more opportunities for people to improve and make the best of their circumstances.”
The woman in the northern village attended the literacy classes held there faithfully, eventually being able to write her name in her native language. “I am so happy,” she said. “This has been my dream for a long time, and it has come true today.”
A woman who took part in an International Literacy Day event in another part of the country told how it would have a trickle-down effect in her family. “I wasn’t aware of education, so I took my children to the tea gardens to work with me rather than send them to school,” she said. “But this really opened my eyes. I am not going to allow them to work any more, but will encourage them to study hard.”
Another mother told how she had been worried that when her daughter went to school she would not be able to help and guide the girl with her studies, “but today I got a little hope through the literacy class that before she goes to school, I will learn how to read and write.”
The literacy initiative—also open to men and children—is a major part of GFA’s work to help raise up members of Asia’s impoverished communities. Last year, GFA-supported workers helped around 21,000 women learn to read and write.
“I’m so glad we are able to help enable these men, women and children through learning to read and write.” said Yohannan. “As they grow in literacy, we pray they also grow in awareness that they are loved and cared for by God.”
GFA (Gospel for Asia) has – for more than 30 years ‒ provided humanitarian assistance and spiritual hope to millions across Asia, especially among those who have yet to hear the Good News. Last year, this included more than 75,000 sponsored children, free medical services for more than 180,000 people, 6,000 wells drilled, 11,000 water filters installed, Christmas presents for more than 400,000 needy families, and spiritual teaching available in 110 languages in 14 nations through radio ministry.