Disaster Relief | How You Can Help Save Lives in Kerala

Natural disasters, such as a tropical storms or earthquakes, can take the lives of many. But one thing many of us don’t often think about, is the cost to survivors long after a natural disaster has hit. Those living in impoverished areas are often left in a more vulnerable position than before.

What little food they were able to come by, is now gone. Clean water is no longer available. Roads and buildings are destroyed. School buildings demolished.

It’s during this time, that our response to those in need is most crucial — such as now.

(Please note: this video was provided by the Indian government and uses the Indian place value markers.)

The Southern Indian State of Kerala has experienced the heaviest rainfall recorded in well over 100 years. The resulting floods have taken hundreds of lives, separated families and communities, and displaced millions of people from their homes — with most having nothing to return to.

We need your help.

DFN is responding to this emergency by providing flood relief aid in the northeastern border district of Kerala. As a result of the flooding and landslides, many of the victims living in this area have lost their jobs and are now begging for drinking water, food and shelter. Many have been badly injured and need urgent medical care.

Kerala is located in the hills and is made up of significantly marginalized groups. These individuals are already extremely vulnerable and are now disproportionately affected by the flood damage.

Tragically, 80 people have lost their lives and thousands more are displaced from their homes. Only a few areas have electricity left and mobile towers are under water. Many of the roads are impassable and there is no longer a bus service leaving or heading into the area.

The situation is dire.

So, how is DFN responding?

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Our on-the-ground team members are providing food, supplies, medical aid and relief, and they are helping with infrastructure repair and restoration.

However, we need your support.

The most urgent immediate need is for provision of food and subsistence.

Our response team has designed food and subsistence kits to specifically address the most crucial needs and we will be delivering these kits at five locations in the region over the next 30 days. Our goal is to supply 5,000 kits throughout September.

Will you help us in achieving this goal?

Each kit is $15, but any donation amount is greatly appreciated. You can make an immediate impact and support those in dire need with a donation to help fund one — or more — of these life-sustaining kits.

Donate today to help save lives in Kerala

 

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Freeing One Child At a Time

Mother Theresa once said, “If you can’t feed one hundred people, then feed just one.”

At DFN, we believe the word feed is synonymous with teach, help, empower, free, and so on.

We especially believe in “feeding” as many individuals as possible with an education.

According to UNESCO, one in five children are currently not attending school. In fact, in 2016, 263 million children, adolescents and youth were out of school. This figure represents nearly one-fifth of the global population of this age group.

There are many reasons for these harrowing stats. For millions of children, the number one reason is poverty.

And while we cannot help all 263 million children at once, we can work every day to help free as many children as we can.

Whether that number is large or small — every child matters.

That’s why we are so thankful for compassionate friends like you — friends who make it possible to help children like Yamuna, Prakash, Sakshi, and Shoury receive an education.

Yamuna studies in Grade Three at a DFN school. She comes from an impoverished and marginalized community. Her parents are low-paid manual laborers and her family lives in a two-room home.

But even with these challenges, we are thankful that Yamuna is being offered the best possible quality English education. She is excelling in her studies and is a cheerful student with good relationships. Even better, her parents are equally excited about her schooling and future.

Prakash has just begun his studies and has a very bright future ahead of him. Normally, this wouldn’t be possible as his parents come from a poverty-stricken background. Both his father and mother work on a farm and are subject to unexpected low harvests and a meager income.

With your support, Prakash’s future looks very different. He is a lively child and pays attention to his studies.

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Sakshi’s parents are uneducated and live way below the poverty line. Her father drives a rickshaw and her mother does odd jobs in the homes of their neighbors.

Most parents in this situation often feel education is a luxury and would rather have their children start working as early as possible. But despite their financial challenges, Sakshi’s parents are very encouraging with her studies. With this encouragement, Sakshi is active in her class and enjoys activities such as singing, dancing and indoor games.

Shoury studies in Fourth Grade at a DFN school. Sadly, Shoury has a tragic family background. He lost his father at a young age and, unable to provide for him on her own, Shoury’s mother moved them in with his paternal grandfather.

Shortly after, this grandfather also passed away, leaving him behind with Shoury’s grandmother and his mother. With little to live on, Shoury and his mother then went to live with his maternal grandparents.

Despite the constant moving and loss of his loved ones, Shoury remains a committed student. He performs above average in his academics and his mother does her best to support him.
With so much of tragedy in their family, Shoury remains cheerful most of the time and keeps going!

We are so proud of each and every one of these students and look forward too seeing their futures unfold — a future filled and free of poverty.

Thank you for joining us in our work to “feed” as many children as possible!

Give To Education Today

Fighting To End the Jogini System

“Freedom cannot be achieved unless the women have been emancipated from all forms of oppression.” -Nelson Mandela

The vision and power of these words are what we truly believe in and aspire to in our work with vulnerable women in India.

Especially women involved in the jogini practice (ritual form of sex slavery).

With your help, we have a mission of seeing this centuries-old system being completely abolished by 2026. We aim to cut off the drivers of this practice, as well as empower existing joginis and give them alternative livelihoods.

How are we working towards this goal?

Our staff actively implements awareness and prevention work, hosts monthly medical camps, educates women on their rights, provides grants to help women start businesses, offers skills training, teaches English to vulnerable children, and provides shelter to vulnerable girls.

We also work side by side with village leaders — a crucial part of our face-to-face work.

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Village leaders are empowered women volunteers who act as our eyes and ears in their own villages. They are often the first to hear about girls who are about to be dedicated as joginis. They are the crucial link in stopping these dedications.

These leaders also advocate against the jogini system in their village, identify joginis in their village and provide support to each one, connect joginis with DFN staff, and represent joginis needs in the local government.

Mybamma, a former jogini, has been a village leader for the last five years. At the age of 10, she was dedicated to Goddess Yellamma as a jogini at the insistence of her father. He would not only avoid having to pay a dowry for her, but would instead receive a financial “gift” at the time of her dedication.

The trauma of the ceremony and initiation were further compounded when her father passed away a week later. She was used by many men and became pregnant more than once in her teen years. Due to her young age and impoverished state, her first two children passed away during the deliveries. Her third child is now Mybamma’s pride and joy.

When Mybamma learned of DFN’s work, she quietly sat in the back of their meetings while learning about her rights and the value of her life. With the support of our staff, she had the courage to leave the system.

While she continues to struggle in her village as a result of this decision, she is determined to not go back, and in fact, she works to help other women in her position.

In addition to her daily labor job, she also spends her time teaching other women and counseling her neighbors with young daughters.

We couldn’t do the work we do without the brave actions and strong spirit of women like Mybamma. She encourages us to continue the long fight no matter what obstacles arise.

We hope to continue our expansion of programs into new villages and increase the trainings and support we can provide. Will you join us in our work?

Free A Woman Today

The True Value of Education

Did you know in Southern India many impoverished girls are discouraged from being educated?

Can you imagine being 12-years-old and instead of excitedly getting ready for a brand-new school year, you are instead told that your life isn’t worth the cost of education.

In fact, in many tribal areas stricken with poverty, when girls reach the age of 12 or 13, they are required to be completely housebound until marriage. This becomes a hindrance on families living in extreme poverty and parents often sell their daughters to the highest bidder.

These young girls are treated as slaves.

No one in this world deserves this type of treatment — especially young girls like Priyanka.

Priyanka’s parents were very forthcoming about the fact that they intend to sell her to a man in another city.

When teachers and school administrators of a nearby DFN school heard this news about Priyanka, they paid a special visit to her home.

The teachers sat down with her parents and explained the long-term benefits of entering (and keeping) Priyanka in school. They encouraged her parents to reconsider their decision.

Priyanka’s parents admitted they had never before though about a positive future for their daughter. It was the first time someone told them that with an education, she had the potential to become a doctor, engineer, teacher or public servant.

Though the payoff would not be immediate, Priyanka’s parents finally saw the true value of an education.

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There was much to celebrate when Priyanka’s parents agreed to enroll her in school.

Because of compassionate supporters like you, Priyanka was even able to receive a scholarship to ensure that nothing prevented her from studying.

Today, this special girl is now excelling in her studies. Her parents are active in her school activities and they have even started encouraging their friends and neighbors to enroll their daughters in school!

We love being able to share stories like this with you. And we are so grateful to be able to continue our work with the most vulnerable.

THANK YOU for standing with us and supporting our programs from where you’re at. You are changing lives!

 

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Free A Woman, Change a Life

Did you know India ranks as one of the most dangerous countries for women and girls to live in?

We are continually encouraged as the Government of India introduces new policies, laws and programs that aim to eliminate this violence.

We are also encouraged by compassionate friends — like you — who join us in our work to not only help prevent violence, but to empower women to heal from trauma, become independent, and live with dignity.

Women and girls who become joginis (ritual form of sex slavery) almost always come from an impoverished family and community. They often have poor nutrition and live in unhygienic conditions. Sadly, these women have an average life expectancy of only 39.5 years, according to a 2018 health survey by the Indian Government.

At DFN, we’re working to change this statistic and help more women become free.

For example, our Anti-Human Trafficking Project gave micro-grants to 25 former sex workers to start a new, clean and honest living.

Balavva was one such recipient. When she was just a young girl, Balavva was sold into the trafficking trade. Her childhood and right for a healthy family atmosphere where she is loved, cared for and protected, was taken from her before she even became a teenager.

This tragedy continued in Balavva’s life for more than 40 years.

Until now.

At 48-years-old, Balavva has a new chance at life because of the Anti-Human Trafficking Project. With her grant, she started a cottage goatery where she produces and sells goat milk and goat milk-products, such as yogurt and cottage cheese, to those living in her village. She is now a thriving member of the local economy, instead of being auctioned in the former flesh trade she was involved in.

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Shivalila is also a brave and empowered woman who has turned her life around.

At 35, Shivalila stays at home to raise and educate her two sons. She is all too familiar with the trafficking trade as she was forced into this life as a child for more than 25 years.

Not only did she lose her precious childhood, education, and right to a happy, healthy life, she also lost her self-esteem over the years.

A few months ago, Shivalila received a micro-grant and began a vegetable vending business. She was overjoyed to be running a legitimate business for the first time in her life.

We are thrilled to share these kinds of success stories with you. And we want to thank you for helping make them possible!

Will you continue joining us in our work to empower more women like Balavva and Shivalila?

 

Free A Woman Today

Leaving Poverty Behind to Make Dreams Come True

“Education is the only valid passport from poverty.” -Lyndon B. Johnson, 36th U.S. President

Former American president Lyndon B. Johnson was a great advocate for education and understood the significance of ensuring it was available to all children, regardless of socio-economic backgrounds.

It is with this same spirit and belief that DFN runs its education programs for the most vulnerable children in India.

But we couldn’t do this work without the support of compassionate friends like you.

Because of you, children like Roshini and Mathimaran are able to receive an education, pursue their dreams and ultimately, have the opportunity to leave poverty behind.

Roshini currently studies in 8th grade along with her older sister. They have been attending a DFN school since kindergarten.

Roshini comes from an impoverished family living in a marginalized community. A few years ago, she lost her mother to a fatal illness.

It was a great tragedy for the family.

Her father has always done his best to raise his daughters and provide for them, but since he is an unskilled laborer, he struggles to make a decent wage.

At school, Roshini excels in her studies. She has a natural aptitude for science and dreams of finding a career in science and technology. During the challenging time after the loss of her mother, staff members at the school were quite supportive of Roshini and her family. And they continue to encourage her at school, always telling her that she can make her dreams come true.

We believe she can — just like we believe Mathimaran can make his dreams come true as well.

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Mathimaran is in 6th grade and also comes from an impoverished family. His mother is a homemaker and, like many in his community, his father is an unskilled laborer.

Mathimaran lives further away from the school than most of the children, but is committed to attending every day. He commutes to and from the school on public buses.

He is a very good student and does well in his studies. Mathimaran has a very special dream. He is passionate about and gifted in the talent of music. He has competed and already won several awards for singing and playing instruments.

His dream is to become a musician. We can’t wait to see his dream come true.

When generous friends like you sponsor children like Roshini and Mathimaran, you become part of a global movement to help provide education to the most vulnerable children in India. You are making dreams come true.

Thank you for your compassionate support!

Empowerment Program Heals Trauma, Offers New Opportunities

In a time when the #MeToo movement, women’s marches and the fight for equal pay have been dominating our national media landscape, incredible empowerment efforts are also happening worldwide.

While these movements and cultural mindset shifts have been successfully helping thousands of women in America and other countries, it’s the oppressed women fighting poverty and centuries-old sex slavery traditions in South Asia, that we at DFN long to help set free.

Because all women — regardless of age, ethnicity, background, or financial status — deserve to live a thriving life full of hope, love and respect. So with your support, we recently implemented an empowerment program aimed to help women such as these recover from stressful and traumatic life events.

During this powerful program, DFN health and field workers guided and trained 20 young girls. All of the girls are from an area in India stricken with poverty and where the jogini (ritualized prostitution) tradition is still practiced. Most of these girls have been sexually assaulted or come from very vulnerable situations. Some are even the daughters of joginis.

As a result of these conditions, many of these young girls struggle to lead a normal life and blend into society. Some are unskilled laborers, while others live with the stigma of being a jogini.

During the program, these young women attended sessions that taught them about controlling emotions, overcoming trauma, facing one’s fears, how to deal with negative thoughts, forgiving others and moving forward, and understanding one’s identity. They were taught to see and understand their gifts, skills, talents, interests and passions, so that they can lead a purposeful life.

Sessions even included breathing exercises to help encourage calmness and lower heart rates — all simple tools anyone can use to help cope with traumatic situations.

The feedback from the program was overwhelming.

Many of the young girls said they felt hope and encouragement, and each had the opportunity to share about their personal gain with the others. A celebration was held at the end of the program to celebrate each girls’ progress.

Not only did the participants feel equipped to handle life successfully, but many felt honored, respected and valued for the first time in their lives.

The opportunity for change did not stop there.

We encouraged all the girls to join our vocational training center after completing the program so they could have opportunities to study tailoring, jewelry making, computers, cosmetology and to learn English.

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We are thrilled to say that 16 of the 20 girls have joined these courses and are on their way to changing their lives for the better!

We are especially happy for one participant in particular, a daughter of a jogini, who was called home immediately after completing the empowerment program. Her sister passed away and her family encouraged her to come back to the village and be with her family indefinitely. After a period of mourning with her family and grieving the loss of her sister, this participant proudly announced to her family that she would like to take advantage of these new opportunities and pursue her desire to learn tailoring and cosmetology

We look forward to receiving her in the vocational center!

Such has been the impact of the empowerment program, that this young girl and many more, are seizing the opportunity to break the shackles of poverty and shame in their lives.

Will you help us free more women to do the same?

Free A Woman Today

Educating our Future Generations

“One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen can change the world.” -Malala Yousafzai

In 2012, Malala Yousafzai, a young, well-known human rights advocate, boldly pursued her right to an education in Pakistan amidst an immediate threat of violence.

Her story and actions have inspired a worldwide passion for helping women and children receive an education, especially those coming from extremely challenging circumstances.

At DFN, we are incredibly passionate about providing an education to all, so children like Tejas and Chhakuli will have a brighter future.

Tejas, who is in Grade Two at a DFN school, attends with his older sister. They come from an impoverished and challenging background. Their father works hard to support the family by running a three-wheeler taxi service. Unfortunately, Tejas’ mother suffered from a long-drawn illness that put the family into further financial crisis.

Sadly, after a long duration of medical treatment, she passed away. The family grieved heavily after this loss.

However, with the help and loving encouragement from the school staff, they were able to work through their grief and move on. They received emotional support and practical help during this time. Eventually, Tejas began progressing in his studies and social activities.

We are thrilled to see his improvement and look forward to watching him continue on this bright journey.

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Chhakuli, only in Grade One, is one of our newer students. She comes from an impoverished and marginalized family. Her father, an unskilled laborer, works in a wayside eatery and her mother picks up manual labor jobs when she is able to. Barely making ends meet, the family lives in small shanty housing.

Although she is just beginning, Chhakuli shows great interest in her studies and in fine arts, such as classical dance and singing. Her parents continually encourage her to do her best. With the help and guidance of her teachers, she is showing great progress.

Educating our future generations goes beyond academics. It begins with instilling hope and encouragement in the lives of the most vulnerable.

We are thankful to all of our friends and supporters, who make stories like these possible!

Give To Education Today

 

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Learning To Tailor and Make Her Own Way | Pawani’s Story

Pawani, age 21, grew up in a marginalized Hindu community with her parents.

Like many in her community, her parents struggled to make ends meet and put food on the table. Pawani attended school but could barely complete primary level education because of the family’s desperate economic condition. Prospects for additional income were grim looking.

Bride To Be

So her parents did what they thought was best in this type of situation — they decided to find a husband for Pawani even though she was still in her teens. Her new husband, although he was an artisan by trade, barely made enough money to sustain a household.

Pawani soon discovered another challenge in her new home as a young wife — her in-laws. One aspect of traditional Indian culture is that a woman may be treated as “property” to her in-laws, even though she brings a dowry with her. This makes life difficult for many young brides.

Losing Hope

Day by day, life was becoming intolerable for Pawani. Her mother- and father-in-law kept pressuring her to bring in more money to the household, even if it meant obtaining the money from her own parents.

She couldn’t bring herself to ask for more money from her parents, who were barely surviving on their own. They had already gotten into enough debt by paying her pricey dowry.

An Empowered Life

Pawani then met one of our staff members who encouraged her to join a vocational training center. At this center, she would have the opportunity to learn the tailoring trade and generate her own income.

Pawani’s dedication and commitment quickly helped her obtain this new skill. She became empowered as she learned the highly marketable tailoring trade.

Now her hard-working and talented hands have crafted numerous crafts and uniforms used in DFN schools. Her well-earned income goes a long way at home and has helped her assert her legitimacy and place in her household among her in-laws.

When you give to DFN, you are helping to empower many young women like Pawani. Thank you for making her story possible!

Fighting the Hidden Dangers of Poverty

In many countries around the world, practicing healthy sanitation is often taken for granted. Millions of people, particularly those in developed countries, have at-home access to bathrooms.

The thought of danger or fear while heading to a bathroom never crosses our minds.

Sadly, this is not the case for many living in poverty-stricken communities, specifically women.

There is a hidden danger of sexual violence that is quite prevalent for impoverished girls and women who lack access to basic sanitation facilities. They often have no choice but to defecate in the open, making them vulnerable to stalkers and an ensuing assault.

This became the tragic reality for 13-year-old Smitha.

Usually Smitha would go to public toilets in the company of her friends to ward off any stalkers, but on one fateful day she had no choice but to go to one alone. She was quickly approached, trapped and raped by a 27-year-old man from her village. He threatened her with dire consequences if she reported his attack.

Smitha was traumatized. She could not hide this trauma from her parents and told them what happened. Her parents immediately contacted the police to report the incident and reached out to a local pastor. Thankfully, we were able to help Smitha get access to legal assistance and a court hearing was scheduled.

Although, justice was being fought for Smitha’s terrible incident, she was not able to escape the effects of this trauma.

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Despite being a high-performing student, Smitha stopped going to school. She feared ridicule from her peers and neighbors. She began spending most of her time indoors with her parents, often struggling to maintain a calm demeanor. Remembering the horrible incident, she was always on the cusp of tears. Her parents did what they could to help her and protect with what little means they had.

Fortunately, we found out about Smitha’s story and reached out to the family. Her mother, shedding tears of deep sorrow, verbalized the harrowing incident on that fateful day. She even took our staff members to the site where the rape occurred. Tragically, this public toilet is still used in the early morning hours and in the evenings, making more young girls vulnerable to attack.

After hearing Smitha’s story, we invited Smitha for counseling at one of our centers aimed at helping those who have suffered sexual violence, assault and human trafficking. The family gladly agreed. Now, staff is visiting Smitha and her family regularly to provide love, compassion and support until the court case is resolved. Although Smitha still suffers, she is now looking toward her future with optimism.

When friends like you support DFN, you’re helping to give love and special care to girls like Smitha.

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