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  • Robert Benson

Vision 2020: Our Third Year and Beyond

Updated: Mar 13, 2020

Lovely Granada, a social worker who leads the Love Forward program in the Philippines, counsels our students regularly on issues including healing from past abuse.

As we enter our third year, Love Forward is excited to be supporting 41 women across three countries, covering all of their necessary educational and living expenses as they pursue a higher education. All of our students previously resided in orphanages and crisis shelters. With our support, each of our students have the opportunity to create a future that breaks from past poverty, abandonment, and abuse, not only for them but for the next generation.

Each of our three programs is unique and has a different focus, which continues to evolve. A brief update of each program follows.

India: Love Forward partners with The Refuge in Kolkata, which cares for about 325 children, and offers the opportunity of a higher education to all of the young women who age-out of the orphanage. We currently sponsor 13 students, who entered our program in 2018 and 2019, and anticipate sponsoring three new candidates in 2020. Our current students are studying subjects including law, accounting, engineering, nursing, and teaching. Two of the five students who entered college in 2019 tested into the Calcutta College of Medicine, where they will be studying nursing at the most prestigious and oldest medical program in Kolkata.

One of the changes we made in 2019 was to have the students continue to live at The Refuge while attending university, but in living quarters separate from the younger residents of the orphanage. This is intended to provide them with a more stable and supportive living environment, conducive to their ongoing studies, as opposed to living independently in a wider range of situations across the city. In addition, all of our students also have access to tutoring services on an as needed basis. We are continuing to evaluate ways that we can improve our program further as we head into 2020 and 2021.

The Philippines: Love Forward currently sponsors 18 students throughout the country, but we focus our program in the province of Bohol. Our students are referred by the Bohol Crisis Intervention Center, a government-operated crisis center for sexually abused girls; the Arms of Love Children's Home on Bohol; FCCDI, a non-profit community development initiative in Davao; and the National Council for Social Development, a network of 110 NGOs that dates back to 1949. Our current students are enrolled in college programs including social work, hotel management, teaching, and tourism.

Our vision in the Philippines is to expand our program to additional crisis centers, which have no transition program to support the girls when they leave - either in their continuing education or otherwise - despite the fact that they typically cannot return to their families. We believe that this is one of the greatest current needs among the highest-risk youth in the Philippines.

Given our focus on supporting students who have experienced significant trauma, we have a part-time director in the Philippines, Lovely Granada, who is working on her PhD in social work and is experienced in working with girls who have been sexually abused. Lovely is also developing a mentoring program that will train local caring adults and professionals to partner with each of our students as mentors, to strengthen our support for the students both personally and professionally.

Nicaragua: Love Forward partners with ORPHANetwork in Nicaragua, which in turn, networks with six different orphanages that refer students to our program, including Arms of Love, Casa Bernabe, Nueva Vida, Casa Norma, Hogar de Fe, and Hogar de Gloria. The 10 students that we currently sponsor are pursuing degrees in such diverse fields as dentistry, marketing, pharmacy, physiotherapy, banking, and tourism.

In 2018, severe civil unrest in Nicaragua resulted in hundreds killed and significantly damaged the economy, already one of the poorest in Latin America. In 2020, Nicaragua is headed for a third consecutive year of economic contraction, which contracted -5.9% in 2019 and -3.8% in 2018. Unemployment continues to rise, and in 2020, the number of people living in poverty is expected to increase to 32%, from 20% in 2018. In view of these developments, our focus includes helping our students obtain marketable skills that supplement their college education, such as English fluency. We are also supporting students while they engage in career-related internships to deepen their resumes.

As we look forward, our goal in 2020 - across all three countries - is not to increase the number of students that we sponsor, although the numbers are expected to grow slowly year over year. We expect to be supporting at least 45 students by the end of 2020. But our primary objective this coming year is to strengthen our support for each individual student sponsored by Love Forward, to ensure their current and long-term success. In future years, as our programs grow qualitatively stronger, we will further increase the number of students that we sponsor. But we will always place our first priority on the quality of the support that we provide each individual student.

We are also considering the possibility of starting a fourth program in Pakistan in 2021 or 2022. We recently developed connections in Pakistan and, as in the past, we will continue to grow along relational lines. Pakistan is currently ranked 151 out of 153 countries in the Global Gender Gap Index published by the World Economic Forum. Less than half of the women in Pakistan are literate and less than one-quarter participate in the labor force.

As we seek to value and support the most marginalized women and girls in our global society, our future growth as an organization may draw us increasingly into countries like Pakistan and India, where economic opportunities for women are particularly scarce and young women who have been abandoned or abused are at a particularly severe disadvantage.

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