Speak Up By Sponsoring a Child

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.

Search For Your Child

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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:
  1. 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.
  2. Access to healthcare services for students and their families, and supplemental nutrition where needed.
  3. Assurance that students’ family members have access to the full range of economic development opportunities provided through our Indian partner.

Begin Your Sponsorship


Sponsorship FAQs


 Student Stories

Speak Up By Gifting

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!

 See Holiday Catalog

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 See Holiday Catalog

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.

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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.)

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Tote bags/Sport bags: all items are now 50% off. These bags are a great way to “carry the Dalit story!”

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T-shirts: save up to 30% on the latest styles.

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Candles and Soaps handmade by Dalit people: all items are on sale.

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 info@dalitnetwork.org. We’ll answer your question right away!

Working to Eliminate Poverty

The Goal Is Community Transformation

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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.

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!

Sponsor a Child

Give to Education

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

Modern Slavery: Bonded Labor

Modern slavery exists in nearly every country, including the U.S.

In India, much of the trafficking takes place within the country, and most of the victims of modern slavery are Dalits, tribals, and others from poor and marginalized communities.

The Indian government is taking steps to address human trafficking and modern slavery within the country. Their actions include setting up Anti-Human Trafficking Units and fast-track specialist courts. The government is also addressing the pressure of poverty through programs such as the rural employment guarantee. Working with and alongside government initiatives, organizations like DFN and philanthropic individuals are tackling the issue in local communities. DFN works to prevent human trafficking through education of children most at risk, as well as through economic development initiatives,  and shelters for survivors and recovery counseling.

To commemorate the United Nations’ World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, which takes place on July 30 each year, we want you to learn about one of the most common types of modern slavery in India: Bonded Labor.

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Bonded Labor

Bonded labor is the most prevalent form of modern slavery in India today, despite being against the law. Individuals and families, including children, are exploited in slave-like conditions to pay off debt.

Here’s how it works. A lender, generally a landowner or factory boss, uses a number of tactics to exploit workers. The borrower is often forced to work for very low wages in order to repay the debt. Exorbitant interest rates (from 10% to more than 20% per month) are charged, and money lent for medicine, clothes, or basic necessities is added to the debt.

In most cases, up to half of the day’s wage is deducted for debt repayment. Further deductions are regularly made as penalties for breaking rules or poor work performance. The laborer uses what little income remains to buy food and supplies from the lender, at heavily inflated prices. They rarely have enough money to live on, so they are forced to borrow even more money just to survive. Any illness or injury, often due to the appalling working conditions, spells disaster. More money must be borrowed not only for medicine but also because the injured individuals cannot work.

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Sometimes the debts last a few years, and sometimes (especially in agriculture) the debts are passed on to future generations. When this happens, it becomes a vicious cycle virtually impossible to break.

What causes a person to get caught in this cycle? Many factors, including extreme poverty, lack of education and literacy (making it easier to exploit victims as they cannot keep track of their debits and credits), not owning property, and the lack of any reasonable alternative for victims are key conditions. In addition, little opportunity for alternative sources of income for basic needs drives people into a crippling debt agreement with an exploiter.

People can even find themselves trapped in bonded labor without actually borrowing money. For example, a ‘jamadar’ (agent) may offer an advance for a worker’s wages, or transport the worker to a new work site. Then, the workers discover they must pay back the advance or refund the cost of transportation.

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There are millions of bonded laborers in India. The majority (as high as 80-96%) are Dalits (Untouchables) and Adivasis (indigenous tribespeople).

Other types of modern slavery include sex trafficking, domestic servitude, beggar gangs, organ harvesting trafficking, and ritual sex slavery. Future blog posts will tackle these issues head on.

If you want to make a difference for those impacted by bonded labor, it takes as little as $30 to free a child for one month or $150 to free a woman through vocational training.

To see all giving opportunities, including traditional child sponsorship, please visit our campaigns page.

Thanks for standing with the Dalit people!

It’s Back to School Time

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Fresh Start | Child Sponsorship

This month, our annual Fresh Start child sponsorship campaign begins. This year the global Dalit Freedom Network (operating in several countries and continents) has an audacious goal of seeing 5,000 children sponsored. IF we meet that goal, once the funds reach India, a donor will match dollar for dollar. That means 10,000 children could get sponsored! These children represent our 10,000 reasons campaign. Join us! 

 

Have you ever thought about what actually goes into making a child sponsorship program work in a developing nation?

 

Have you thought about what steps are involved in getting your letter across the world and into the hands of a child in rural India? What about that photo you were sent… have you ever wondered what it takes to get that photo sent to you?

Many who have sponsored children though an organization such as DFN, Compassion or World Vision have probably never thought through all of the necessary details and steps of what running a sponsorship program actually entails. I know I hadn’t until last month when a DFN team visited our child sponsorship (CS) office in India.

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Sagay, the CS director, led us to the room where the sponsorship magic happens. Well, it’s definitely not magic… it is a lot of very, very hard work. He introduced us to the CS team of 8, and walked us through each step involved in the program… from photographing each child, to collecting their personal details and school information, to matching them with a donor, to getting the donor’s letter(s) to the child, to collecting letters from the child for the donor, to wrapping up the year with a school/personal report etc. Whew! Just typing it out makes me want to take a nap. And that is just the tip of the iceberg, because brace yourself… this is all done by paper. PAPER.

 

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We saw mountains of papers representing each of the children. Many of the Good Shepherd schools are in rural areas or places without reliable internet access. So there is no e-mailing, scanning, filling out online forms and the like. Each page is filled in by hand. Usually by the teachers and school administrators who already have very full workloads.

 

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 CHILD SPONSORSHIP FAQ: 

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How does sponsorship help a child in India who is at a high risk for human trafficking?

With 40% of its 1.2 billion people under the age of 18, India has the highest population of children in the world, as well as the largest number of children in poverty. Their poverty puts them at risk for child labor, forced labor, or bonded labor and makes them especially vulnerable to being trafficked. Nearly 30% of the students at our Good Shepherd Schools have parents who are bonded laborers, a modern form of indentured servitude relatively unknown in the modern western world. In most poor villages in India education is not available, and consequently there is little hope of children ever rising above the economic hardship and the limitations of their parents. As a child sponsor, you make it possible for your child to receive an English language education and in doing so, you invest in the freedom and future of India’s most vulnerable children.

How does a child get into the sponsorship system?

Each Dalit child who enrolls in a Good Shepherd school gets put into the child sponsorship system.

What do  child sponsorship donations cover?

Your faithful donations cover tuition, uniforms, school supplies, midday meals (where necessary), textbooks, teacher salaries, and administrative costs for your child’s education. As a child sponsor, you help to provide a top-quality, English- medium, values-based education for India’s most at-risk children, and help to launch their courageous journeys toward dignity, equality, safety, and security. Not only does your sponsorship donation cover all of the education fees and costs, but it also strengthens an entire community. With education as its foundation, each Good Shepherd school becomes the central hub for all education, economic development, healthcare, and social justice initiatives in that specific community.

How long does it take to collect all the preliminary information for each child?

It can take anywhere from 3-4 months to collect the initial forms for each and every child (new children in the programs, as well as updates on current students). Teachers and school administration take the time to manually record each form for each child.

What other documents or information are collected over the year?

On any given year, the following documents are collected:

1. Intake form (for new students/sponsor children)

2. Healthcare form (information about the health status of each student as well as the family)

3. Education form (information about grades, subjects, extra curricular activities etc.)

4. End of year progress/evaluation. Each child usually writes one letter to their sponsor per year.

What does it look like to get a letter from a sponsor to their child? How long does that process usually take?

 

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Postal mail usually takes a few weeks to travel overseas and clear customs before it reaches our team in India. Since many schools are located in remote parts of India, in-country mail can take weeks to reach them. There are other factors which may at times be responsible for delays, such as heavy monsoon rains, civil unrest, or children being absent from school. Furthermore, when schools are not in session, our Indian partners will hold sponsors’ letters until the students return to class. Due to the extensive journey letters must make, a child may receive their letter a few months after it is sent. Similarly, when a child replies, his or her letter must make the long journey back to our office.

How many children does DFN USA currently collect data on for the sponsorship program?

We have a little over 6200 children in the DFN USA sponsorship program. (There are nearly 27,000  children enrolled in all, divided between DFN offices around the world. About 13,000 of them are sponsored between all the offices.)

How many of those children are currently sponsored?

We have just over 2200 of the 6200 still unsponsored in our DFN USA program.

What are the children in the Good Shepherd Schools being taught?

In each of our schools, children study a preparatory, government-approved, India-standardized curriculum, with English as the language of instruction. Without the ability to speak and write English, Dalit children will not be able to excel in Indian society. They also receive a values-based education that promotes the principles of freedom, equality, and human dignity for all. Every one of our schools provide education to children regardless of their class, creed, or faith.

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As you can see, child sponsorship is a time-intensive, but rewarding endeavor. And it is an essential foundation for reaching and changing the lives of Dalit children. I have a newfound appreciation for all those who work so hard behind the scenes to make child sponsorship a reality in the developing world.

10,000 Reasons

The global Dalit Freedom Network has been challenged to free 5,000 children in 2015. 5,000! Plus, 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.

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