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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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!

 

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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!

 

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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!

 

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12 Flights, 26 Nights

Journey through India 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because ordinary things can offer Hope. Dignity. Freedom.

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

You make extraordinary things possible.

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

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

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

 

 

 

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.

Children work on art projects at a DFN school

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!

 

Not All Superheroes Wear Capes

Many of us are familiar with the often-caped superheroes that star in blockbuster movies each summer. While these “heroes” save lives and overcome villains, their story ends when the movie ends.

Fortunately, for many poor children around the world, a different kind of superhero exists. One that doesn’t wear a cape, but changes lives — in a behind-the-scenes but transformative way.

These superheroes are teachers at Good Shepherd Schools.

Thanks to your support, we are able to hire those with a passion of serving poor children in India in order to make a lasting impact in their lives.

“God, unbelievably, is using me to work in this community of people to serve His word to the people,” says one Good Shepherd School manager.

“Through English-medium education, students can change their life,” he says.

At Good Shepherd Schools, our superheroes teach students how to speak to English, encourage them, give them hope, and change the trajectory of their lives.

The difference between a village school and our schools, is that children are taught the English language, which gives them the opportunity for university-level education. If a student does not learn English, he or she has little hope of rising above their current level of poverty.

Good Shepherd School teachers guide each student in pursuing future careers according to each students’ interests, strengths and academic potential.

“If they learn English, they can work outside anywhere. They are able to learn. They are able to now practice daily. I have many parents come to me and they are so happy for what we are doing in the school, for the education we are giving to the children.”

These heroes don’t require an audience. They don’t have superpowers. But what they lack in flash, they make up for in heart.

“I’m so glad to be working this school as its manager.”

When you give to support education, it means the world to the students and teachers. Thank you for making a difference in the lives of so many!

Watch the video above to hear from one of our many superheroes!

 

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.

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 Student Stories