From Rural Tribe to Medical School

Not all stories of those living in poverty start with tragedy.

Many children in India fight for their education from the beginning despite financial obstacles. Ajay from India is one such child.

Ajay comes from one of India’s indigenous tribes. He grew up in a remote and rural area, his father barely making ends meet by cultivating a small piece of land. But his father worked hard to support his family by growing rice, pulses and spices. And although Ajay’s community was impoverished and marginalized from the rest of society, he did not let this stop him from pursuing his education.

For Ajay had dreams of becoming a doctor.

He and his younger brother attended a DFN school in the nearby village and progressed from kindergarten all the way through tenth grade.

His grades had always been adequate but as Ajay got older, he realized the importance of achieving academic success so that his dream might come true. In high school, he studied harder and his interest in science grew, particularly in biology.

He also did well in extracurricular activities and played volleyball on the side.

Ajay graduated high school with top marks and began intermediate college courses. By now his ambition to become a doctor was very strong. Who would have thought this possible for a boy from his remote tribe?

Ajay soon found himself at a financial crossroads. In order to continue his studies, he needed to pass an extremely challenging college entrance exam. He needed tutoring, but this would cost his family a fortune.

Believing and supporting him fully, Ajay’s mother sold her remaining pieces of gold jewelry that she had been given as a dowry when she was married. It was a sacrifice she was happy to make for her son’s future.

This sacrifice was not wasted.

Ajay passed the entrance exam and was admitted to study at a reputable medical college in Telangana.

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Although Ajay received reduced university fees due to being from a  “scheduled tribe,” it was still not enough.

That’s why we are so thankful to friends like you who help us support young men like Ajay. His DFN school was able to fund the rest of his tuition and Ajay is now on course to achieving his lifelong dream of becoming a doctor!

 

Give To Education Today

Finding Academic Success Amidst Strife

Nowadays in our technology-immersed society, focusing on school and homework can be somewhat of a challenge for children.

In many parts of the world, children can bring their cell phones to school, check Facebook during recess, make phone calls, text message each other, and then go home to play on myriad gaming consoles or tablets.

The “screen” has become a major distraction. However, this is what many would call a “first-world problem.”

Sadly, for millions of children around the globe, this type of distraction would be preferable to their real-life problems.

Children like Priyanka from India.

Priyanka comes from a very impoverished family who lives in a one-room house. Her father is only able to work 15 days out of the month as he is a seasonal truck driver. His income, while infrequent, is also uncertain. He spends much of it on alcohol, resulting in an unstable and challenging home environment.

All of this took a toll on Priyanka’s studies, as all children need and deserve financial and emotional support from their parents while developing as a student.

Priyanka endeavored.

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When her mother and father began to think she didn’t need an education anymore, staff members at her DFN school were able to intervene.

These staff members visited Priyanka’s home and shared about the importance of education to her parents.

They allowed her to continue and Priyanka began to flourish. She made it through her primary schooling all the way to her graduating exams in Grade Ten.

“I am thankful to [my school] for enlightening my life. I want to become a doctor. I believe in God that this is possible,” she says.

Priyanka’s goal is to study biology in higher education courses so she can pursue a profession in the medical field.

Although her home conditions remain challenging, her spirit is inspiring and persevering.

It is because of partners like you that Priyanka has much-needed support (and hope!) in her life, despite her many obstacles.

 

Thank you for all that you do to provide education to so many in need!

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

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.

Hope Prevails After Tragic Loss

Life is not easy for low caste families in India. Many parents struggle day-to-day to put food on the table, much less have enough money to send their children to school. Many times, all that a family has — is each other.

But what happens when even a loved one is taken away?

At age 3, little Aarav learned these life lessons the hard way. His father is a manual laborer, barely making enough each day to make ends meet. His older brother and sister have already discontinued their education in order to make a living. Like many others, his brother took a low-paid, unskilled job in his late teens. His sister was married early and now lives with her in-laws.

Aarav still had his mother and father, until his mother contracted a severe flu infection. Because of their impoverished life, her condition worsened instead of improving.

They didn’t understand how ill she had become, nor had the literacy or resources to seek medical help. It’s a common and unfortunate reality for many families living in poverty.

At only three-years-old, Aarav lost a loving mother who wanted for a brighter future for him.

However, thanks to friends like you, there was hope looming on his horizon.

Hope for education…hope for love…and hope for a better life.

Aarav is now six years old and is a flourishing student at one of our schools — an opportunity that happened because someone like you cared.

Teacher and students at a Good Shepherd School

The staff at school carefully monitor Aarav’s health and social progress. When he doesn’t have enough nutrition, they ensure he is fed properly and understands the importance of eating healthy and attending school.

It’s a holistic approach that not only gives Aarav a better chance at leaving poverty behind, but helps him develop healthy interactive social skills, increases his academic performance and lets him know he is loved and cared for.

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

 

Give to education today to help more children like Aarav!

 

Teachers Are Our Favorite

Everyone has a favorite teacher, right?

Or at least one who was influential, one who challenged you, made you think, or opened new horizons to you. As the bumper sticker says, “If you can read this, thank a teacher!” That might be a cliche, but it’s also true.

October 5, is World Teacher’s Day, the day the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has set aside to honor teachers, and we are so glad they did.

Because teachers are our favorite!

Check out this video UNESCO created to celebrate the teachers in our lives – past and present.

At DFN, we want to honor teachers as well. There are nearly 1,300 teachers giving themselves to Dalit and other marginalized children in our 107 Good Shepherd Schools. Each one has a unique story, a unique calling, and a unique opportunity to impact children’s lives. Here’s a teacher we think you’d like to meet.

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Her name is Saroja.

Saroja’s* father left her family when she was just a child. With no quiet place to study and suffering from malnutrition, she lacked the stamina to study for extended periods of time. However, she persevered and graduated from a Good Shepherd School that DFN supports. Her heart’s desire was to become a teacher.

But just when she thought things were looking up, the bottom fell out.

She was unable to afford the tuition for higher education. Although she wanted nothing more than to become a teacher, it seemed unlikely she would get the education she needed to fulfill her dream. So, she went to work as a clerk to help support her family instead.

Then, a miracle happened.

At a Good Shepherd School alumni event in 2012, leaders saw Saroja’s potential and decided to sponsor her university education. She immediately enrolled in teacher’s training and graduated with honors.

Now, Saroja is a teacher at the same Good Shepherd School where she received her high school diploma.

Her greatest joy is looking for students just like she was. Students who need an extra dose of love, motivation, and care.

In celebration of World Teachers’ Day and to say thanks to the teachers in your life, we hope you’ll consider supporting a teacher in India.


It takes just $100 to provide ongoing training and professional development
but any amount is appreciated!

Give $100

Give Any Amount

 *identity changed for privacy and security

Sponsor Spotlight, Episode 1

Rachelle’s Sponsor Story

Each sponsor’s experience is unique, but Rachelle’s story is even more unusual because, unlike most sponsors, she met the first child she sponsored in person before she actually sponsored him. Rachelle is a former DFN staffer, and here’s her story:
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Rachelle with GSS students in 2015

 

“Last February, I had the remarkable opportunity of traveling to India in order to visit a few of the schools I had been working with throughout the previous year. From the very first step into the very first classroom, I was absolutely captivated. Upon our arrival we were lavished with dense, flowering neck garments and given a processional fit for royalty, where a measurable depth of petals surrounded our feet. Every student was beaming; singing songs they’d memorized and quoting their English lessons verbatim. Within a fraction of a moment, I realized two things; the enormity of my responsibility to these children and the power of education.

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Senses overwhelmed, my heart gave silent thanks as I was finally able–with my own eyes–to see the numerous donations of our partners tangibly displayed in colorful classrooms, fully equipped computer labs, and brilliant uniforms of blue and white. The translation of our day-to-day operations effectively reaching those on the ground was nothing short of inspirational. Every difficult and tedious task I had to do in the office paid such a high dividend once I stepped foot in these children’s world.

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The moment I laid eyes on him at one of the first schools I visited, I knew I had to sponsor this sweet little boy, a boy with eyes of gold and a heart full of dreams. I remember lying in my room that same evening with a combination of bittersweet emotions. Joyful I had found this particular child yet also sad because I had to part ways so quickly.

William Wilberforce once said, “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say that you did not know.”

It has rung so true and while I couldn’t remove my child from his circumstances, I could provide an education, a haven, and a place for him to simply be a child. Even though I was aware of the effectiveness of sponsorship through my role at DFN, something erupted in my heart. As I stood in the auditorium listening to the daring ambitions of a group of sixteen-year-old students, I felt tremendously responsible for the outcome of their lives. I saw the need, how could I not be a part of the answer?

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It’s been over a year since I touched Indian soil, but it always feels like yesterday. The sights, smells, and smiles linger in my thoughts with great affection. Now I have the honor of sponsoring another child (a girl, also from one of the schools I visited) and look forward to all the great things they’ll accomplish throughout their lives. Giving a child the ability to simply dream in their present establishes a foundation for amazing opportunity in their future.

What’s your sponsor story? Tell us at childsponsorship@dalitnetwork.org.

 

Interested in helping a needy child go to school?

 Find Out How

Good Shepherd Schools | A Classroom Tour

There are 107 Good Shepherd schools scattered around the whole of India. As you can imagine, the “classroom” in a GS school can look very different from school to school, state to state, community to community. We wanted to give you a peek into a few of the different faces of GS classrooms.

Although the classrooms vary dramatically, you will notice one constant in each one: Dalit children being given a chance at a new life through education. We are so grateful to the teachers and other staff members at each and every one of our schools, who choose to show up and teach these children, whether in a s modern classroom, or a refurbished chicken coop classroom.

Will you partner with us this month to get more Dalit children into the classroom this year?

 

SLUM SCHOOLS

Slum schools are located in major cities with a large population of Dalits. They are all a little different. Some provide classes up through 5th standard, and one slum school goes through 10th standard (the equivalent of 12th grade here in the states).  In addition to their education the school provides a safe place for children and prepares them to enter public school with confidence.  In large part the number of grades/classes depends on the space available. We are always looking to expand as much as finances, staffing and space allows. We have 5 slum schools at this time.

 

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VILLAGE SCHOOLS

Village schools are the most common with just under 100 all over India. These are the schools that are started in former school buildings, or other rented facilities available in the community. One school is actually on a former chicken farm. The classrooms used to be chicken coops! These schools start out with 4 classrooms and we aim to add one classroom per year. Village schools come in all shapes and sizes.

 

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FLAGSHIP SCHOOLS

“Flagship” is a term we use internally  to describe the schools that are exemplary of what we hope to see each school become; fully constructed (with classrooms through 10th standard as well as libraries, computer labs and other extracurricular support rooms), top rated in the state, and fully funded. There are 3 of these schools at the moment.

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No matter what kind of school, what kind of classroom, these kids have a space to learn and dream about a future of freedom and hope. They are treated with dignity and respect as they should be. These classrooms are sacred spaces and we long to see more and more children have access to an education like this. Will you join us in making a difference?

 

10,000 Reasons

The global Dalit Freedom Network has been challenged to free 5,000 children in 2015. 5,000! If we do it, every dollar we raise will be matched by a donor once the funds reach India. This means 10,000 children will have the opportunity to get the education they need to change their future! Fresh Start is a significant opportunity for us to start strong.

Get Involved

Fresh Start | Pranitha’s Story

When our team visited India in February, we had the delightful pleasure of meeting Pranitha. After sitting with her and hearing her story, we felt she embodied the hope and future of our work in India. Her story is a beautiful story of how a Dalit child goes from next to zero options in a life of poverty to becoming a Doctor of Pharmacy… simply because someone cared enough to fund her education.

 

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We could tell you Pranitha’s story. We could tell you how thankful she is for the education she received. But Pranitha herself is much better at sharing her own story and thoughts. And we are truly grateful to have been able to hear from her.

 

Pranitha’s story is not an anomaly. There are 10,000 other stories out there…

 

10,000 Reasons

The global Dalit Freedom Network has been challenged to free 5,000 children in 2015. 5,000! If we do it, every dollar we raise will be matched by a donor once the funds reach India. This means 10,000 children will have the opportunity to get the education they need to change their future! Fresh Start is a significant opportunity for us to start strong.

Get Involved