Six-year-old Kala* woke up screaming nearly every night, terrified of the nightmares. Unable to sleep, shaking with fear, Kala began to dread going to bed.
But that was before she came to live at the Pratigya Shelter Home for Girls.
Kala was born a Dalit to parents who are manual scavengers. They clean sewers by hand, the only way they can earn a few rupees. Outcasts from society, her parents were desperate to earn favor with their god in hopes of improving their situation. Kala was a beautiful baby, so when villagers approached her parents about dedicating her as a jogini, they agreed.
An illegal but traditional practice in parts of India, joginis (sometimes called devadasi) are dedicated to a goddess at a very young age. In essence this is ritualized prostitution. Once the girl reaches puberty, she becomes sexually available to any man in her village. The life of a jogini is almost unimaginable. Sexually transmitted diseases are rampant and the women have no skills with which to lead a life of dignity. Unbelievably, today it’s estimated that this form of exploitation affects at least 250,000 women in India.
Kala seemed destined for this plight. Ostracized. Uneducated. Outcast. Exploited. But thankfully, it didn’t come to pass. A social worker from Good Shepherd’s Anti Trafficking Unit heard about Kala’s upcoming dedication and swung into action. She, along with several activists in the village (including some former joginis) pleaded with Kala’s parents to put a stop to it. They did and agreed to send Kala to a place where she would be safe.
Today, Kala lives in the Pratigya Shelter Home for Girls. Under the loving care of the house mother and her teachers at a Good Shepherd School, she has blossomed from a frightened child into a confident and engaging young woman. She still has dreams, but no more nightmares. Today her dreams include becoming a teacher, getting married and starting her own family.
January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Let’s breathe a prayer of thanksgiving that Kala was saved from becoming a victim. Let’s breathe a prayer for all those who are trapped in exploitation. Let’s take action to prevent this from happening again.
Any amount you are able to give will help girls like Kala.
Thanks for taking a stand against Human Trafficking!
*Kala’s identity has been changed for her protection. The photos are from a re-enactment of a jogini dedication ceremony.
The Ultimate Way to Speak Up
The most powerful tool against poverty is education because it unlocks potential. Through education, a child discovers the freedom to hope, to dream, to rise above their current circumstances. And, they have the skills that enable them to go to college, get jobs, and break free from the cycle of poverty.
When you sponsor a child through Dalit Freedom Network you are part of a global movement to free the most vulnerable children in India. Your sponsorship, combined with compassionate donations from individuals and organizations around the world, address the root causes of poverty and discrimination among the Dalits and other marginalized groups. Together, this is a catalyst that transforms entire communities.
Your $30 monthly sponsorship provides:
A one-to-one relationship with your child, who receives a high quality English-medium education in a safe, loving environment with government-approved curriculum and fully qualified teachers.
Access to healthcare services for students and their families, and supplemental nutrition where needed.
Assurance that students’ family members have access to the full range of economic development opportunities provided through our Indian partner.
Faces of India: DFN’s Top 5 Photos of 2016
Speak up this week by sharing our Top 5 photos of 2016 on Facebook or Twitter or email. These photos were taken on our most recent trip to India in November, and we hope you enjoy these glimpses into the lives into some of the people we serve.
This lovely young woman was married at age 14. She’s now 19 with two children and lives in a slum area near Hyderabad. Her family receives healthcare services through the health worker in her community. What beautiful eyes and bright smile!
The intense gaze of this boy as he holds his baby sister in front of their home shows the depth of his dignity and strength. His parents work for daily wages and he he cares for his sister during the day. At this time he is unable to go to school but many children in his community attend a Good Shepherd School nearby.
Watch out for this little guy! He attends Lower Kindergarten in a Good Shepherd School and just couldn’t stay focused on the morning assembly.
A group of children in a registered slum enjoy a special treat while they pose for the camera. Most of their parents work in the rock quarry next to the slum. These children dream of going to school.
Best friends share giggles and smiles during a break in their day at a Good Shepherd School. The joy is evident on their faces!
The DFN family thanks you for sharing these snapshots of life in India!
Other ways you can speak up for the Dalits this holiday season can be found here.
You Can Speak Up for Dalits Simply by Giving a Gift!
If you are anything like us, you are immersed in Christmas preparation these days. There are trees to decorate, lights to hang, goodies to bake, and gifts to buy for those you love. This year, why not incorporate the Dalits of India into your Christmas gift-giving plans? It’s an easy way to “speak up” for Dalits this season!
DFN’s holiday catalog (new this year) offers options for every budget and need, beginning at just $5. You can purchase a month of education for a Dalit child, a desk and chair for a school, nutritional supplementation, and you can get a woman who has been impacted by the sex trade on her road to recovery!
We have products, too! In fact, the store has something for nearly everyone on your list. And many items are on sale!
Below are a few sale items to choose from, but you can browse the entire store here.
Small elephants are only $5 apiece. These adorable elephants are lovingly handcrafted by ladies in our vocational training centers. Silk and cotton elephants are available, but quantities are very limited, so act fast. (We also have medium-size elephants here.)
Tote bags/Sport bags: all items are now 50% off. These bags are a great way to “carry the Dalit story!”
T-shirts: save up to 30% on the latest styles.
So many options, so much good to be done. Thanks for your support of the Dalits of India! Every purchase makes a difference, and we appreciate you.
Please note the last day to order a product in time for Christmas delivery is December 16. The last day to order a gift donation from the holiday catalog is December 21. Act now to avoid the last minute rush.
P.S. If you are purchasing a gift for someone, we’ll help you out with a card. Just indicate your preferences in the cart when you check out. If you have questions, feel free to email or give us a call at 757-233-9110.
How Else Can I Speak Up?
Tell people about this! Share the opportunity on Facebook and Twitter! Share this blog post using the links at the bottom of this page. See other ways to speak up here.
If you have any questions about the way this works, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll answer your question right away!
Speak Up this #GivingTuesday by Giving a Dalit Child a New School Uniform
Most Dalit children live in extreme poverty. Their families often struggle to provide basic needs, including clothing. In India, wearing a school uniform is nearly universally mandatory, including in Good Shepherd Schools. Sponsored children have their uniform provided through sponsorship donations, but there are about 14,000 students of the 26,000 enrolled in Good Shepherd Schools who are not sponsored yet. These kids need uniforms, too!
So when our team was planning what to do for #GivingTuesday this year we thought, “What about uniforms?” Besides students who aren’t sponsored yet, there are students who have outgrown their uniforms and need new, larger ones. And as anyone who has ever had a child in school knows, sometimes clothing just wears out!
It only takes $25 to purchase a new uniform.
This is an easy way to speak up for a child who needs you.
What’s Giving Tuesday?
#GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration. Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving. This year, November 29 is that day.
The Challenge & How You Can Help
It’s so simple to get involved. All you need to do is buy a uniform (Or two. Or ten!) Each uniform costs only 25.00, and you can purchase one here. Our goal is to provide a minimum of 250 uniforms between now and November 29. But we’d like to blow that goal out of the water. And we can, with your help.
Do I Have To Wait Until #GivingTuesday to Purchase a Uniform?
No! You can speak up by buying a uniform right now, and we thank you for your commitment to being a voice for Dalit children.
How Else Can I Speak Up?
Tell people about this! Share the opportunity on Facebook and Twitter! Share this blog post using the links at the bottom of this page.
If you have any questions about the way this works, please e-mail us at email@example.com. We’ll answer your question right away!
The Goal Is Community Transformation
Six-year-old Raja wakes up each day around 4:00 a.m. He eats a hurried and scant breakfast of rice with a few lentils, carries water from the slum’s lone spigot to his mother, and by 5:00 a.m. is making the 3-mile trek on foot to his job at the fireworks factory. All day Raja toils, stuffing gunpowder into tiny tubes, dangerous and dirty work. He’s looking forward to Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, where he knows people will enjoy lighting the firecrackers he has made. He hopes his boss will give him a few free firecrackers so he can have some fun during the festival.
After an 11-hour workday, Raja journeys back to his family’s makeshift hut to rejoin his family. His father and older sister are day laborers in an agricultural field nearby, and they won’t arrive home for another couple of hours. His mother has been busy all day taking care of Raja’s baby brother and their elderly grandparents. All of them are hungry and there’s just not enough food to go around.
After a meal of more lentils and chapati (a type of bread), Raja is tired. He heads to his mat to sleep, knowing that tomorrow will be the same as today. He can picture no other life.
Raja is a Dalit. There are an estimated 250 million Dalits in India and about two thirds of them live in extreme poverty. They are at the bottom rung of society, considered “untouchable” by many. These are the people DFN serves.
To commemorate International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, we want to shed light and be hope because all over India, communities are rising up and being transformed from the inside out.
It begins with children, and education is the catalyst. The 107 schools we support form the foundation for community transformation.
But that’s not the only thing we stand for. We desire to serve the entire person, no matter the age, in a process we call the Community Transformation Model.
Since many Dalits actually believe they are less than human, changing this belief demands a re-visioning of society. In recent years the Indian government has sought to address discrimination against Dalits by passing new laws and initiatives. These efforts are making a difference; however, Dalits still need others to come alongside them. So that’s what we do through our education, healthcare, anti-trafficking, and economic empowerment programs.
We believe eradication of poverty is possible when people have the tools and opportunity to create secure futures for themselves and their families. So that’s why DFN stands with the Dalit people. We invite you to do the same.
Want to help? Here are two ways you can make a difference today!
Kids laugh, kids act silly, kids play sports, kids wave, kids show off, and kids play.
Sometimes when we think of the challenges and difficulties many Dalit kids face, we forget one of the most important things: they are still kids! And kids should be able to play!
So we hope this episode of our video series, “A Look Inside” brings a smile to your face and reminds you of some of your own happy childhood memories. Enjoy kids at play and say a word of thanks that these kids actually can play. That they’re not working in a field or a factory and that they are safe from traffickers because they have the opportunity to go to school.
For Dalit kids, play is a privilege, and we’re grateful to have a hand in allowing Dalit kids to be kids!
June is “Back to School” Time in India
Do you remember the anticipation of a new school year? Brand new supplies, a new teacher, new classmates, maybe even new shoes? On the first day of school, maybe you had sweaty palms as you walked into the building. Maybe you hoped a special someone would be in your class. Maybe you determined that this year you would not procrastinate. Or maybe you just wanted the cafeteria lunches to be better.
It’s hard to believe that while we here in the U.S. are just heading off on summer vacations, the teachers, students and staff at all 106 Good Shepherd Schools are preparing for the start of a brand new year.
Dalit kids all over India are making sure they are ready for that first day, teachers are planning lessons, and staff are making sure that the facilities at each school are ready to receive children.
Starting school is always exciting. It’s always a beginning. It’s always an opportunity. So, here at the beginning of school in India, we want to say thanks. Thanks to every person who supports a Good Shepherd School, whether it is through sponsoring a child, providing a scholarship, giving so that new classrooms can be built, or supporting a teacher or community health worker. Good Shepherd Schools wouldn’t exist without you!
We also want to remind you of some of the differences between the education system in India and the U.S. Here are a few:
- Just like in the U.S. a high school education requires 12 years of schooling. The difference is that children begin with Lower Kindergarten at about age 3 and complete the 10th Standard at about 14 years of age. This means that typically students complete lower secondary education earlier than their U.S. counterparts.
- Upon completion of the 10th Standard students’ high school education is considered complete, and each student must take a final exam. They are issued a certificate if they earn passing scores. Good Shepherd Schools provide government-approved education through the 10th Standard with a general studies curriculum. (Note: not all GSSs yet have the infrastructure to provide a full 12 years of schooling, although that is the goal.)
- Students may further their education by completing Class 11 and 12, called “college” or “higher secondary education.” During this period, Indian students may choose a specialty to focus their studies.
- After students complete the 12th Standard and pass the examination, they may enter University to earn a higher education degree.
We hope you will join us in celebrating the start of a new school year and wishing each of the 26,000 students who attend a Good Shepherd School a successful, peaceful, and safe school year.
Once again, thank you for supporting kids in India. You are making a difference, not only in individual lives, but in families and communities, and we appreciate your faithful and generous gifts.
You can still help a child go to school this year through DFN’s “Plus One” campaign. Here’s how! Each $30 gift fully funds a needy child’s education for a month. Thank you for your partnership through Dalit Freedom Network.
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:
“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.
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.
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?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.