“Ambassadors of Hope” is a feature-length film documenting India’s child laborers. Children in several parts of India are subject to torturous work conditions in mines, factories or farms to support their families. Despite the country’s “Right to Education Act,” the promise of free compulsory education remains an unrealized dream because India’s child laborers are the backbone of the economic engine that runs the heavily populated South Asian country.
Now, there may be hope. A new generation of empowered students, nestled in Silicon Valley, home to high-tech innovation and development, want to turn that unrealized dream into a reality. “I refuse to accept that children should be forced into slave labor. I refuse to accept that we cannot do anything about it. Every child matters,” Kailash Satyarthi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for his efforts to end child labor, declared.
Now, Indian American students like Gurbaaz Singh and Anjali Bajaj, who were only 14 when they, through their innovative acts, brought about big changes in those children’s lives. Bajaj traveled to India to start teaching disadvantaged children to read and write English, so they would have a better chance of freeing themselves from a life of poverty.
Singh, who started a sports academy in India, so some of the country’s poorest children, many of whom work to support their families, could do something that most American children take for granted, play. Some of the students even provided training to the teachers.
Singh and Bajaj are just two of the inspirational teenagers featured in filmmaker Vera Anderson’s “Ambassadors of Hope,” a feature-length film documenting India’s massive child labor work force.
The documentary by the San Francisco Bay Area, Calif.-based filmmaker follows a group of Indian American children, who, through the Home of Hope charity, are trying to make a difference in the lives of these underage workers who are being robbed of their childhood and their right to an education.
“It’s about how young people look at problems, how they are transformed by problems and how they can contribute to solve a problem,” Anderson, whose credits include “The View” on ABC and “Today in New York” on WNBC, told India-West. “And I think that’s what we want to inspire our audience to see that what a different world it would be if we all showed some responsibility for our neighbor, and that neighbor could be thousands of miles away, especially children.”
Children in the U.S., too, Anderson said, suffer from problems, like drug addiction, alcoholism, which are prevalent in poor areas. “But in India,” she said, “poverty is greater so obstacles are greater, but these kids surviving on the streets are smart.”
Explaining Gurbaz’s commitment to social causes, Anderson stated that after a young girl was killed in a car accident, he fought to get stop lights in that community. Gurbaaz, now 17, has been a part of Home of Hope for five years now. He told India-West that during every trip to India, he’d wonder how he could help these children, and when he got an opportunity, he grabbed it.
“I feel pretty happy with the progress I have made but I feel there is still a lot to be done,” said Gurbaz, who is now actively recruiting volunteers for his mission. “I want to make as much difference as possible,” he said.