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Sir Richard Branson's daughter, Holly Branson, patron of Free The Children (FTC), is in India to adopt Udawad village in Udaipur.

For its “Adopt a Village” projects, FTC raises funds and gathers volunteers to help make long-term improvements to communities through the building of schools, installation of clean water and sanitation systems, implementation of alternative income generation programs, and provision of healthcare education and supplies.

In India specifically, Adopt a Village has a special focus on gender equality as well. According to FTC’s website, 15 million children in India are bonded laborers (having been pledged as collateral for high interest debts), almost half of all Indian children are malnourished, and only half of the age-appropriate girls are enrolled in secondary school.

“Free The Children works alongside villagers,” says Holly, “educating them and implementing methods of water conservation, irrigation and farming,” that will not only improve the health of villagers, but also provide sustainable sources of income so they won’t need to borrow money.

Herbal gardens provide preventative medicine. A reliable water source provides health and keeps gardens thriving. Solar dryers allow harvest, such as ginger, to be dried before market – drying generates work for village women and, by cutting out the middleman, returns a 40% higher profit, which in turn motivates farmers. This is the very income that allows families to send their children to school, rather than to work.

So far, Lai Gow, Gayriawas and Kuliyo ki Baghal villages in India have been “adopted” by FTC. Now Branson is working on Udawad. “It’s amazing to see the impact Free The Children is having on communities,” she says.

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