Childview

Faith in Action: The Scott Brothers

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From left: Jonathan, J.D. and Drew in India.
From left: Jonathan, J.D. and Drew in India.

Jonathan and Drew Scott, 35-year-old identical twins hailing from Vancouver, tackle tough challenges head-on in their popular home renovation TV show, HGTV’s Property Brothers. The show first aired in Canada but is now broadcast in more than 50 countries. When World Vision invited the brothers to join its Global Ambassadors program to spread the word about child poverty, the Scotts were eager to help.

“We have long been involved with World Vision,” says Drew. “Growing up, our family sponsored a child, so we were always aware of World Vision’s work and the importance of giving back to our community, whether it’s at the local, city or international level.”

Jonathan and Drew chatted with Childview about their recent trip to India with World Vision (their brother, J.D., a writer and musician, travelled with them). They visited to see how the organization is protecting children and helping to prevent child labour.

What type of work are you doing with World Vision?
Drew: Our most recent work focused on World Vision’s anti-child labour campaign, No Child for Sale. We raised awareness about the dangers of child employment, and brought attention to the realities of child slavery by helping people understand what 3D—dirty, dangerous and degrading—jobs are, and how every single person can make a difference.

Why did you want to partner with World Vision?
Jonathan: World Vision is an internationally respected organization that we have supported since we were kids by sponsoring a child. Last year, I spoke with a friend who was more involved with World Vision about witnessing the conditions in person and I felt this would really help provide perspective. It was a humbling but rewarding experience and truly put faces to the problem of child labour. It gave us a deep appreciation for the work World Vision does and the positive impact they are having on the lives of these children.

Drew: They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but to be there with the kids was an experience beyond words. We were often left speechless when we stepped into the living conditions of families and the daily struggles they all face.

How did your expectations of the trip contrast with the reality of what you saw?
Drew: We didn’t realize how widespread the problem of child labour is. It felt like every corner we turned was another slum, which meant there were another several hundred kids enslaved to labour— and this was just in New Delhi alone.

Jonathan: My whole life I thought I understood what poverty was, but after visiting the slums in New Delhi, I realized I had based that solely on my own limited experiences. Seeing in person the thousands of malnourished people living in squalor, rummaging through garbage to find their next meal and struggling to survive really takes your breath away. I found myself struggling to comprehend how these conditions could exist in today’s modern world. It’s a sad realization that the many luxuries we take for granted back home have not made it to many areas of the globe.

What did you learn on the trip?
Drew: It was difficult for us to fathom kids as young as four years old are forced into 3D jobs, and extremely frustrating to know that it’s common that their parents take part in this process, too. We were overwhelmed with confusion that parents could allow their children to beg in the busy streets without any clothes or shoes. Or they would have their kids sell drugs, or worse.

Jonathan: We spoke to World Vision educators and volunteers in India and learned that this way of living runs deep from generation to generation. It’s hard to just swoop in and save these kids. On our first day, after visiting one of the slums, we were welcomed into a room no larger than 10 x 10 feet. About 15 children filled the room and watched us, smiling and wide- eyed. This was their school that World Vision provided. This was the saving grace.

Was there one child protection project that really stood out for you?
Jonathan: I’m a strong believer in the importance of education, which is why I feel that the World Vision education centres in the slums had the most impact on the community. After speaking with many of the children, it became clear that these facilities were their only hope. Many couldn’t comprehend the concept of “dreams,’’ as they knew nothing beyond their own plight. Before entering the World Vision program, they didn’t realize there was any other way of life.

The education centres open up a whole new world of possibilities for these children who could never grasp the concept of hope. It allows them not only to dream but shows them the steps to attain that goal. When we asked these children what they aspire to be, most said a teacher.

Tell us about a child who really made an impact on you.
Jonathan: I really connected with Bitoo, who shared his experience of selling and begging on the streets. He is such a young gentleman, and at only 12 years old already has some wise words for other kids. He told us, “You can become anything if you study. You can pursue your dreams.”

Drew: Four-year-old Negma was one of the smallest kids we met there, but her bright personality stood out the most to me. We were sitting in a classroom about to sing a song when I noticed that some boys were picking on her, making fun of her hair. She immediately reacted by shutting down—you could see her spirit shrinking away as she hid behind another classmate. Negma had suffered second-degree burns all over her body just a few months before we visited. She didn’t receive medical attention or have support from her family.

After the boy apologized to Negma, with a lot of encouragement and patience, she slowly came out of her shell again. By the end of our day with her, Negma was singing and dancing! It really showed how important it is to support our children and was an example of how someone can thrive when they are sure they have people who care.

How are you involved in raising awareness about child protection issues today?
Drew: Through our social platforms we have been able to share our experience with everyone. We speak from the heart on causes we are passionate about. We hope that we will inspire our audiences to get involved.

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INTERVIEW HAS BEEN EDITED AND CONDENSED.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of Childview.

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