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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Scaling New Heights for India’s Lowest

Scaling New Heights for India’s Lowest
By Paul Beck


Hiking doesn’t get much harder, or higher, than the Himalayas.

Raising funds for India’s most oppressed children, Church of Scotland member and Elder Philip Rose along with wife Sharon are however literally and physically ‘up’ for the challenge of trekking the world’s tallest mountain range.

“I wanted to be involved for several reasons,” begins Sharon, who will be team leader for the 20 British hikers. “Not only for the experience of visiting India or hiking the Himalayas, but mostly because I have been telling so many people about the Dalit people and their sufferings.” “I have spoke so much about the Dalit situation I thought it was time to see it for myself and to raise enough money to build another school” says Philip

Despite India’s recent economic advancement, its 250 million Dalits face extreme poverty and every conceivable form of discrimination. The country’s growing wealth does not reach those living outside Hindu’s caste system, labelled the ‘untouchables’ of society. Dalits cannot eat with or even drink the same water as people of a higher caste background. They are relegated to the lowest jobs and face humiliation daily. In a recent case, a six-year old girl Dalit girl was pushed into burning embers after she walked on the ‘wrong’ path.

Sharon serves with the Christian charity Operation Mobilisation Philip helps out when possible. Responding to the Dalits’ cries for help, to date OM has established 80 schools across India that are providing 13,000 Dalit children with an education. At the request of local leaders, the students follow an English-medium curriculum emphasising a Christian worldview of personal worth to God. Each Dalit Education Centre also hosts adult evening classes, health seminars and self-help groups for the local community.

As part of the trek through the Nanda Devi region, Philip with Sharon and her team will visit one of the schools OM oversees. “I wanted a first hand, physical experience that would make this more real to me so that I can make it more real for others,” explains Sharon. “To meet the people, to visit their communities, to see the schools, to witness the transformation that is taking place and to be able to say 'we have been, we have seen and we have my own stories to tell'.”

The eight-day trek will doubtless be draining. Starting at 6am for a hike of five hours through difficult terrain, the group will be pushed physically and mentally. However, Philip and Sharon hope that being surrounded by the awesome scenery of God’s creation will also ‘uplift’ there own faith. “We are sure we will learn a lot about perseverance and team work. This is a chance to literally grow closer to God!”

Sharon will certainly need the prayer and support of others as she prepares for departure on 13th September. Those wishing to sponsor them and raise funds for a new Dalit Education Centre in the state of Jharkhand can visit www.uk.om.org or email pkrose2u@aol.com or Sharon.rose@uk.om.org

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