In 2010, Imagine Learning employees Talmadge, Noah, and Eli Eyre, along with their wives, volunteered at a school in a leprosy colony in India. Because the brothers all work for Imagine Learning, helping children overcome obstacles was already big part of their lives. But seeing the immense need of these children of the leprosy-affected was a different matter altogether.
If you live in India today and you contract leprosy, here's the good news: leprosy is easily curable, and has been for nearly a century.
Here's the bad news: although you may live a full, healthy life, it may seem more like a life sentence. Your community will probably ostracize you. Your parents may shun you. Your spouse might abandon you. No company will employ you, and so you will be forced to beg for money and food. You will have no choice but to live in poverty in one of the leprosy colonies dotting southern India.
Fighting leprosy isn’t nearly as difficult as fighting the stigma associated with the disease. Because leprosy is perceived by many people in India as a curse, many communities ostracize even those who have been completely cured. Children of the leprosy-affected are also subjected to this discrimination.
In 2004, Rising Star Outreach was founded, an organization that strives to overcome this stigma by providing social and economic opportunities for the leprosy-affected and their children. During their time volunteering, the Eyre brothers realized that language and literacy software from Imagine Learning could be of great benefit to the children in Rising Star Outreach schools. And so recently, Imagine Learning partnered with Rising Star Outreach to teach English to the children of the leprosy-affected.
Becky Douglas, founder and president of Rising Star Outreach, knows that proper education can redirect the future of these children. And the most important thing for them to learn? English. Multinational companies in India don't harbor the same prejudice against the leprosy-affected as local Indian companies. But English proficiency is the most important factor in obtaining a job with a multinational company. In fact, a recent study showed that graduates in India who speak English earn salaries 500 percent higher than those who do not speak English.
"Having access to Imagine Learning's incredible system for learning English is huge,” said Becky. “If we can train our children to be qualified for positions in multinational companies, they will become economically successful.”
The organization recently completed construction on a new school at the center of the Rising Star Outreach campus. The new school has a computer lab, and Imagine Learning outfitted the lab with our language and literacy software, Imagine Learning English.
"We arrived at the school at recess time," said Noah Eyre, one of the Imagine Learning employees who traveled to India to install the program. "You should have seen these kids! Brightest eyes you can imagine. They each have such tough backgrounds, but most are filled with an excitement to learn. The installation of the program went very smoothly and the staff at the school was absolutely over the moon about it.
"Of course the best part of all was watching those kids file into the lab and light up as they began to use the program. I don't think they could have even imagined something this cool before, and now here they were with it right in front of them!"
Imagine Learning is thrilled to be able to partner with Rising Star Outreach in giving these children a chance at a better future.