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Underpinning this work is a belief in the “snowball effect” — that each child educated represents a future parent who believes in education; that each child spared the experience of parental alcoholism and domestic abuse will not grow up to abuse alcohol or women; that each empowered mother will lead to an empowered daughter; and that through this process of gradual, incremental improvement, Kerala will slowly leave behind those societal dysfunctions of which children are the ultimate victims.

Mrs. Thankapan is one of those empowered mothers — and she sees her young son finally facing a future far better than she could have once imagined.

“My son is now studying at St. Mary’s School, run by the sisters,” she says with a broad smile. “After he finishes there, I want him to do a three-year degree in university, and then he could get a job as a policeman.”

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A regular contributor to ONE, Don Duncan has covered the Middle East and Africa for The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, The New York Times and Agence France Presse.

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