Free To Be … A Student

Although summer is just beginning here in the United States, in India it’s back to school time.

Students in the 107 Good Shepherd Schools DFN supports are almost ready for a brand new year. Backpacks are being filled, uniforms are being purchased, and teachers are preparing to have full classrooms once again.

Jassica is 11 years of age.

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She is one of those 26,000 students in India who are ready for the new year. Wide-eyed with curiosity, interested in art and folk dancing, she is thankful to be in school again this year. It wasn’t that long ago when she thought she might never be able to go back.

You see, Jassica’s mother became overwhelmed with the difficulties of living in extreme poverty and decided she would leave her family, abandoning Jassica’s father and siblings. It’s a sad story, but a common one. Often when a parent decides to leave the family, the older children must go to work to help supplement the family income.

Although Jassica’s father is uneducated, fortunately he believes in the power of education, the freedom it offers.

So in the midst of his grief, he packed up his little family and moved into his mother’s home. Each day he journeys to the village square and seeks that day’s work. If he finds work at all, it’s usually lifting and loading cargo onto trucks for transport. It’s exhausting and physically demanding work, and the wages are very low.

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He’s satisfied though. He knows his own sacrifice means his girls can have a brighter future. He’s grateful to his mother for caring for the girls while he works. And he’s grateful to the Good Shepherd School in his area.

Jassica’s life could have been very different. Instead of preparing to go back to school this year, she could be working in a factory, or cleaning toilets in someone’s home. She could have been picking vegetables alongside her aunt. She could have been carrying rocks in a quarry.

Instead, she’s filling her backpack. And her mind.

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Thanks to supporters of Good Shepherd Schools through Dalit Freedom Network, Jassica is free to be exactly what she should be at this time in her life. She is free to be a student.

Would you consider helping another deserving child be free?

Please consider giving a one-time or recurring gift to DFN’s “Free To Be” initiative which helps facilitate all the ongoing freedom initiatives for the Dalits in India. Or sponsor an individual child. There are many children just like Jassica. Children who need you.

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Inspired Women Inspire Women

Kavitha beams as she works her loom.

For the first time in her life she is free. With skills she learned at a vocational training center and with the encouragement of other women in her self-help group, Kavitha is proud to have a skill she can use to support her family.

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It wasn’t always this way.

Like most Dalit women, Kavitha was born into extreme poverty and faced incredible hardship as she grew up. Unable to read or write, she was forced into domestic service with very long hours for very low pay. She said, “I thought the rest of my life would be spent like this. But thanks to my training, it’s not! I am making mats for people to use in their homes now. Not only am I helping myself, I am helping others. Thank you to those who helped make this possible.”

Kavitha is one of thousands of women who now inspire others. She gives them hope.

Last March, nearly 2,000 women gathered in locations all over India in a show of solidarity and sisterhood for a day. It was a mini-conference of sorts. Vocational training graduates were honored, achievements were celebrated, and local dignitaries brought greetings. In one village, the women were able to shut down a shop that sold illegal alcohol, and they also organized a midday meal program in their local school to ensure students received adequate nutrition.

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Beyond the certificates and the celebrations are the friendships made and the inspiration women give each other. Many women living in poverty are isolated. With the daily struggle to survive, there is no time for friendships, relaxing, enjoying a cup of chai, and laughing. These mini-conferences give women the chance to be with each other, share their joys as well as their hardships. They leave the day renewed, inspired to share their stories with others in similar circumstances.

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This is the way communities are transformed.

They are transformed from the inside out. From the ground up. One conference participant, an agricultural worker, said, “This was the best day I had in a long time. I was able to meet new friends, and I was inspired by seeing those in my village receive certificates of achievement. It made me want to join a vocational program myself.”

We salute these women.

We lift them up. Each one is precious. Each one has worth. Each one has gifts she can use for good. At Dalit Freedom Network, we are committed to empowering women.

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It takes just $5 to send a woman to a mini-conference. It takes just $100 to start a woman on the road to freedom. Will you join us in freeing Dalit women?

Free A Woman