Bollywood returned to Dallas last week as Spice in the City hosted Ark of the Rainbow’s biggest annual fundraiser. The event, which drew a full house, attracted supporters in Indian-themed attire hoping to alleviate poverty and human trafficking overseas through education.
Dallas resident Christine Allen says she experienced life in the slums of southern India when she took a sabbatical from her job in 2009. Having worked in the corporate world for about 15 years, she moved to India for a few months to learn more about the poverty there and volunteer with an organization working to rescue and rehabilitate girls who’d been sold into the sex trade.
“At the time, I was in marketing at Frito-Lay working on selling chips and just felt like God was calling me to find a solution and help women and children in need,” she says.
While some girls were helped, Allen says a corrupt legal system where pimps went without prosecution didn’t help and she soon realized that the root of the problem remained.
“In the slum area I was working in, there weren’t other education options, so people were growing up without job prospects, without money, without a way to feed their family,” she says. “It was extreme poverty that was causing families to sometimes sell their own children knowing what was going to happen to them because they needed to feed their other kids.”
Allen described an atmosphere of life without running water or electricity, where alcoholism, domestic violence and child brides were common “because it’s easier to marry off a girl than try to feed her.” In addition, Allen says if food or money for education were available, it often went to the boys in the family while girls were kept home to clean house, care for children or be sold to human traffickers.
“It can be a very heartbreaking place to work,” she says. “But on the other hand, it takes so little to make a difference in a developing country. We can see so much change with so little money.”
Through her volunteer experience, Allen met Latha Kuttiyan, and after discovering they shared the same desire to make a difference, they founded Ark of the Rainbow in 2012 and started educating children in the Doddigunta slum of Bangalore, India.
“[Kuttiyan] went door to door in the community and just talked to the families and said, ‘We’re going to start something that’s going to give your kids a way out of here,’” Allen says.
Allen, who has five children at home, says she visits India several weeks each year and works on a daily basis virtually with Kuttiyan to meet the needs of the school and community.
According to Ark of the Rainbow’s website, the school provides pre-K through fourth-grade classes to 200 children, with plans to grow by one grade each year. Schoolchildren receive nutritious meals and immunizations, and the organization also offers the boys and girls hope for the future through teen programs and college scholarships, as well as a nominal-cost medical clinic that is available to everyone in the community regardless of their participation in the program, Allen says.
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Allen’s husband, Dana, shared that the couple’s two oldest children were able to travel with them to India and saw situations like children their own age living with their entire family in a one-room, cinder block home with almost no toys.
While it’s easy to focus on the things they don’t have, Dana says, “The love and the joy of learning make it easy to smile.”
Dana says Ark of the Rainbow’s annual Bollywood fundraiser is a great way to connect with people and talk about a great cause.
“I love this cause,” says Michelle Whatley, who attended the event. “They are so passionate. They cover all their own overhead as their own charitable donation. It’s such a fun night.”