Indian girls saved from prostitution by Aussie charity
CRAIG Tomkinson journeyed to India and the experience changed his life.
That was in 2006. Since then he has done whatever he could to help others in need.
The Federal Government might have announced a $3 billion cut in foreign aid, but one Mackay organisation is stepping into the gap.
The New Life Church, with senior Pastor Tomkinson at the helm, has raised $2.3 million for foreign aid work since 2006.
Pastor Enoch Kenway, who runs the Kidz Life Play Centre at the back of the church, said $500,000 had been raised in the past 12 months.
Some of that money was used to rescue more than 144 young Indian girls who may otherwise have been headed for prostitution or slavery.
Pastor Kenway said the girls were part of the Banjara caste in India.
"They can only have one daughter," he said.
If a family had a second daughter, Pastor Kenway said, the child was either killed or dumped, or the eldest girl was sold into slavery or prostitution.
"We'll take the eldest girl... we'll help support them and school them," Pastor Kenway said.
The church has created a boarding school where the girls live and can still visit their family.
The girls have been schooled to Year 12, and Pastor Kenway said about 10 would also be put through university.
"We've also run a lot of children's homes and dug lots of wells," he said.
The church has also run two community transformation programs in Myanmar and India.
These are a 12-month program that train community workers who go back to their village or into the country to help to develop it in a better way. A third is planned for Myanmar.
In 2006, Pastor Tomkinson created the Reaching Thousands Conference. It has been held every year since, most recently at the weekend.
PACKED UP TO HELP OTHERS
After working in the coal mines for 21 years, Bob Mann packed up his life in Moranbah and, with his wife Janine, moved to India to help the poor.
That was in 2004. Aged 50 at the time, Mr Mann said he'd never looked back - he was finally doing what he wanted to do.
Some said the couple were crazy, while others offered support.
"It was a big decision, but it wasn't ... because I was only doing what I wanted to do," he said.
The couple runs a school, which offers free education for the Kathputhli slum children in Jaipur.
"We have 400 plus of those children in our school," he said.
They've outgrown three buildings, including their current premises, and are in the process of raising money to purchase land and build a school.
Without education, these children may not have much of a future to look forward to.
"Our children are very much of a caste system in India, where the families of our children are basically puppeteers, street sweepers and rubbish collectors," Mr Mann said.
"Without an education our children will end up doing the same work as their parents."
Why India? Mr Mann said he couldn't say. It had been on his mind since 1990.
The school is partly supported by a program run through Mackay's New Life Foundation, which is an arm of the New Life Church.