Three literacy centers for children of brick kiln workers
by Shafique Khokhar

Three schools for the children of poor and exploited brick kiln workers inaugurated by Bishop Msgr. Rehmat in Bonnieabad, the city being created for them in Punjab thanks to Fr. Bonnie Mendes' Society for Human Development. A mother of three tells AsiaNews, "To see that our children will be able to study for us is a dream come true."

Toba Tek Singh (AsiaNews) - The Society for Human Development, run by Fr. Bonnie Mendes and Fr. Simon Khursheed, is building a new town called Bonnieabad in Mureedwala, in the Toba Tek Singh district of Punjab, and new houses for brick kiln workers and the homeless.

After assessing the needs, the Society decided to build literacy centers for poor children in the village, because there is no proper school in the village and, on the other hand, poor brick kiln workers cannot afford to have their children educated in private schools. Therefore, with the help of foreign friends, the Society for Human Development decided to build literacy centers for these poor children in Bonnieabad.

The Society built three literacy centers in the village at different locations, the inauguration ceremony of which was held yesterday in Bonnieabad. Bishop Indrias Rehmat of Faisalabad attended the event and blessed the literacy centers and also planted trees together with the villagers.  About 600 people were present at the inauguration, including children, fathers and poor families from the village. Special prayers for peace and prosperity in the village were offered during the ceremony.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Fr. Bonnie Mendes, president of the Society for Human Development, related, "Three classrooms of the literacy centers now have about 60 children sitting on their small chairs around colorful round tables. The joy at the opening ceremony was evident from their smiles. During the ceremony, a disabled girl told of her meeting with a Society for Human Development official and how she was able to take this opportunity to study."

"We have one goal," added Fr. Mendes, "to serve the poor community and in them Jesus crucified. We now have 60 children in the classes, but I believe more will join us in the coming months. From here they will learn to help improve society in the future. We will continue to work for them and try to expand our services."

Bishop Rehmat was delighted with the work carried out by the Society for Human Development, which in Toba Tek Singh runs about 20 institutions, including beauty salons, literacy centers, and training centers for poor girls and women so that after training they can earn income for their families. In Bonnieabad, they purchased land and built 34 houses for poor brick kiln workers and the homeless.

"I ask all of you to send your children to these literacy centers not only for a better future of your families, but also for the whole society" the bishop told the people of Bonnieabad. "Please continue to work for these communities," he added, addressing the Society for Human Development, "according to the teachings of Jesus and I assure you of my full support.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Nasreen Barkat, a brick kiln worker and mother of three, said, "For us it is not just a blessing that our children can go to school and study for a better future. We have been working in brick kilns for generations, and I never thought my children would study in such a healthy environment. It's a dream come true for us-I hope our children will stop working in the brick kilns and go out on their own to help improve the future of this village and society."