Leaving Dysfunction Behind

Meet Ruth.

She is a bright student at a DFN school with a promising future. But this is not how her life started.

Ruth grew up in a dysfunctional family home — and on top of the dysfunction was severe poverty. In India, bigamy (having multiple wives) is illegal and punishable by law. However, many men still practice it.

Sadly, when women are illiterate, living in poverty, and do not have adequate support from their family members, their only option is to tolerate this behavior. In this situation, husbands get away with having more than one wife and the family becomes even more marginalized in society.

While many issues arise from bigamous marriages, such as marital and family disharmony, these marriages become even more challenging when the family is riddled with poverty. Many of the wives depend solely on the husband for financial security and income.

When Ruth was a small girl, her father — who had more than one wife — walked out the door and never returned. He abandoned his wife and children.

Ruth’s mother was hardworking and even while she was married, she often worked in her neighbors’ homes as a maid. After her husband left the family, she continued working hard to support Ruth and her two siblings.

It wasn’t easy, but she did not give up.

Unfortunately, their lives took another turn for the worse when Ruth was diagnosed with tuberculosis. This came as a great shock to her family, especially her mother. The good news is, the medication for this fatal disease is free of cost in all government-run hospitals.

Ruth began taking the medication and has been steadily recovering since. Her schoolwork has not suffered and her mother is very supportive and is encouraging Ruth to pursue her education.

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At DFN, we believe the most powerful tool against poverty is education. It unlocks opportunity and creates hope and transformation in the lives of the most marginalized. It breaks the cycle of poverty.

When generous friends like you sponsor a child like Ruth, you become part of a global movement to help the most vulnerable children in India.

Thank you for your compassionate support!

 

Free A Child Today

How Increasing Literacy Decreases Poverty

If you are reading this sentence, you are more fortunate than millions of men, women and children around the globe — many in India.

High illiteracy rates among families already living in poverty mean they are unable to receive the benefits of modern technology, gainful employment, and even the provision of basic needs.

The combination of being illiterate and marginalized means families are more vulnerable to exploitation, ill health and human rights abuses.

Children are unable to reach their full potential. Families become locked into the cycle of poverty.

The cost of illiteracy is more than one can imagine.

The good news is — this is a challenge we are working hard to overcome!

And we grateful to YOU for joining us.

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When friends like you support our work, families like Raju’s have hope for a better, brighter, more literate future!

Raju is an inspiring example of one who has transformed his life thanks to the compassionate support of individuals around the world.

His family comes from a community that has suffered social discrimination for many generations. Both his mother and father are illiterate and only able to generate income through low-paid manual labor jobs.

Because of their illiteracy and poverty, the family had very little access to health care or education.

With these financial challenges, everyone in Raju’s family had to take responsibility in earning income — even Raju himself.

As a young boy, instead of enjoying school breaks, vacations, and holidays with friends and family, Raju joined his father, mother and brothers in doing labor-intensive masonry work.

While most children from well-to-do families looked forward to times of recreation, Raju worked hard.

Thankfully, Raju’s life took a different direction. A few years ago, he began attending a DFN school and for the first time, he found hope for a brighter future. He has since joined extra-curricular activities and is excelling in his subjects.

Most importantly — for Raju — illiteracy is not a word that will define his future.

We are so grateful for partners like you who make stories like this possible!

 

Give To Education Today

12 Flights, 26 Nights

Journey through India 2018

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For someone who doesn’t enjoy being on an airplane all that much, I sure seem to to be doing a lot of it lately. Last month I sat on 12 different airplanes. 12 takeoffs, 12 landings, 12 uneventful flights (except for some nasty turbulence over the Arabian Sea). Total time in-flight: About 51 hours. Total travel time: I don’t even want to think about it! Jet lag: It’s a real thing!

My marathon journey to India didn’t start out to be that way. It was only supposed to be about 12 days – enough time to gather some great stories with our video team, take some photos, hang out with kids and teachers, see my Indian friends, and eat garlic naan and masala dosa. Oh, and drink lots and lots of chai. But one thing led to another, and before I knew it, I was going to be away 26 nights. Away from home. Away from loved ones. And you know what?

It was worth every second. Because every day brought something to savor. Or ponder. Or cry about. Or rejoice over.

I saw beautiful things: The sunrise, pink and yellow, breaking through the Indian haze from a train clacking and screeching its way through Uttar Pradesh. Graceful young girls in beautiful saris giggling on the side of the road. Fresh flower garlands adorning doorways of homes, shops, and auto rickshaws. Indian flags gently dancing in the breeze as the sun goes down and the cooler air of evening arrives. My heart was full when I saw those things.

I also saw hard things: A child beggar, not more than three years of age, alone, dirty and emaciated, scratching and banging on our vehicle door. Women scavenging trash heaps for anything they might be able to sell to support their family. Men addicted to alcohol passed out in doorways. My heart was broken when I saw those things.

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Mostly though, I saw ordinary things. Ordinary things, that when done with love, have the power to become extraordinary. A caring teacher’s supportive hug offered to a crying child. The “aha” smile that happens when a student learns something new. The curiosity and tentative attempts at conversation in English with a team of visiting Americans. The artistry of a well-tailored sari blouse crafted by a woman who used to live a life of hopelessness. The sense of accomplishment at a new skill learned or a new sense of purpose realized. My heart was warmed when I saw those things.

Because ordinary things can offer Hope. Dignity. Freedom.

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You are bringing these basic human longings in a tangible way to the people DFN serves – the poorest, most marginalized, and outcasts from society. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for being part of our global network.

You make extraordinary things possible.

Those 12 flights I took last month didn’t just transport me from one place to another. Sure, they did that, but they did so much more. They helped carve India’s people even more deeply in my heart. They bound me even more to a country that is not my own. (They also reminded me that I have an amazing husband and family who believe in what I do enough to be ok with me being gone for so many nights!)  Above all, those flights made me grateful. Grateful to be part of this work and grateful for you.

Even if you never visit India personally, you flew every mile with me in spirit. You just got to escape the jet lag!

For more about our ‪#‎journeythroughindia2018‬ check out Facebook and Instagram.
And stay tuned. We have lots more coming your way in 2018.

 

 

 

Health program provides care, reaches hundreds

In some areas of India, the centuries-old “jogini” system is still in practice even though it is against the law. Young girls and women are sexually exploited as prostitutes — and many times — abused.

Our goal is to completely eradicate the system in the next 10 years. In the meantime, it is of utmost importance to provide as much help to these vulnerable women as possible.

That’s where the compassion and generosity of friends like you matter.

Healthcare for the at-risk

With your help, DFN community health workers are able to implement a health program aimed at helping at-risk women in rural South India.

Teaching the basics

These community health workers help hundreds of women through medical camps, home visits and community education activities.

Many of these visits play a major role in our work of eliminating this continued sexual exploitation.

The health education sessions offer trainings on a variety of issues — including, HIV/AIDS, nutrition, hygiene and preventive health tips.

One crucial part of the program is the home visit.

It is during the home visit that community health workers are able to spend time with joginis to learn more about the issues they face. In many instances, home visits are the most effective way to hear their stories which provide insights to help tailor our programs.

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Extending life and inspiring hope

The team also keeps track of births and deaths in the community. Knowing these numbers reveal insight into the reality of village life, specifically that of the jogini community.

We have also created and introduced new facets of the program, such as the “buddy system.” This system enables longer-serving health workers to partner with newly trained personnel to share their experience and knowledge. They also encourage them in their work so that more and more women may be helped.

This is the kind of work that you are supporting in India. You are helping us share crucial information, education and care to vulnerable young girls and women in need…and we thank you.

 

Consider helping more women
in need and give today!

 

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International Women’s Day: A Celebration of Empowered Women

Today marks International Women’s Day — a day to reflect on and celebrate the work being done around the world to free and empower women. It’s a day to honor and recognize the many women who are contributing to this work by speaking out and standing up for those still suffering.

Women like Narayanamma.

Narayanamma grew up in a poverty-stricken community in rural India, yet still had a promising start to life. Not only was she able to attend school as a child, but she was able to continue her education through 10th grade.

Sadly, extreme poverty took its toll.

Narayanamma’s father was very old and unable to support her family. Her mother struggled with mental illness and was also unable to work. Being an only child, Narayanamma was their only hope for income and support. Her parents did not want her to marry, as it meant she would leave the house to live with her husband’s family, unable to contribute to the family income.

So, at the age of 15, Narayanamma was dedicated as a jogini (temple prostitute); in essence, “married” to a goddess.

She immediately dropped out of school to fulfill her temple duties. These duties involved her being used sexually by the men of her village. As hope slowly faded from her life, Narayanamma began to feel severely exploited and was saddened that she would not be able to have a real husband.

Men came and went. Some offered Narayanamma hope and promises of a lasting relationship, but after she became pregnant, she was abandoned.

“Men think that no one will stand up for joginis and challenge them,” she says. “Men use us to satisfy their desires, then they forget us. No wonder we feel worthless. For us, if just one woman is abused, this gives permission for all of us to be abused. If one woman loses respect, we all lose respect.”

It was a dark time in her life. Her spirit was broken and she was overwhelmed by self-doubt and fear.

But love and generosity showed up when she least expected it.

Because of the compassionate support of friends like you, DFN partners were able to start working in her village to help empower and free joginis from the exploitation and abuse they face daily.

Narayanamma received funds through our economic development programs to set up a small  stall selling basic provisions. Because of the funds she received, she was able to escape the clutches of dishonest lenders – which meant she avoided being forced into exploitative bonded labor.

Her life trajectory has changed for the better. She still faces challenges, but her mother’s mental health has improved and she is able to send her two children to school.

One thing Narayanamma knows for sure — she will fight so that other young women can escape the life of a jogini. She now works with our anti-trafficking unit to challenge the practice and works hard to protect joginis from sexually transmitted diseases and ill-health.

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“I am very sad when I see girls being made joginis,” she says. “I’ve helped to stop dedications. In one dedication we stopped, the girl was then able to marry someone who would be a real husband.”

Life still isn’t easy for Narayanamma, who is now 24-years-old. But she perseveres. Her own experience has empowered her to raise awareness of this exploitative, centuries-old practice and it drives her to help others find the same hope she found.

This International Women’s Day, we hope you’ll join us in becoming a catalyst for change — to help more women like Narayanamma. Here are three ways you can support and empower women today and every day of the year!

 

  1. Pray for women — even better, ask the women in your life what prayers they need!
  2. Tell the women in your life that you love, respect and support them.
  3. Donate to help free more women from exploitation.

Overcoming Generations of Poverty

Meet Nikitha.

She is a young girl with unlimited potential…living in a community rife with limitations.

Being from a low-caste community, her family has faced many challenges over the years. Although technology and the benefits of modern life helped many others in India, these benefits remained inaccessible to her community and family.

Benefits such as a good education, access to healthcare, job opportunities — the list goes on.

When Nikita was a small girl, her father passed away leaving her mother to care for her and three other siblings. Unfortunately, her mother — like many others in the community — is illiterate. She began working as low-paid manual laborer just to make ends meet and put food on the table.

However, this meant her children were left home alone and vulnerable. So Nikitha’s mother moved the family into her parents’ home, who were already facing their own challenges.

In a low-caste community, no one is immune to the challenges of day-to-day living.

When supporters like you show up in the lives of those in need — there is hope.

Nikitha’s mother found out about DFN’s schools and asked for her admission.

Because of the generosity of friends like you, Nikitha was able to attend school.

It was a significant breakthrough in her life…and the life of her family.

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Nikitha is now on a path filled with brighter opportunities. She is receiving constant encouragement, counsel and care from the school staff. And even more wonderful, her family is on the road to receiving holistic care and love.

We couldn’t do the work with families like Nikitha’s without your support and we are grateful for you.

 

Give to the education fund today to help more families in need.