Pray For Persecuted Christians In India

For many living in America, it is often taken for granted that the country was established on the grounds of religious freedom. The Founding Fathers ensured that all individuals have the right to choose their belief system and practice these beliefs, as long as no harm comes to others because of it.

Unfortunately, to this day, there are many countries around the world that discourage this type of freedom. In many of these countries, Christian beliefs and practices are even condemned through acts of assault and physical threats.

However, this doesn’t stop believers from continuing the great work to share God’s word with others.

According to the All India Christian Council (AICC), who recently released a new report about the Atrocities against Christians in India, 2018 had the highest number of attacks on Indian churches in history. Sadly, this number has been increasing over the last few years.

Pastors and Christian families are being harassed, beaten, and persecuted.

But faith lives on.

Members of AICC are helping those being persecuted. For example, seminars are being held to help pastors and church leaders learn about India’s laws and legal system to help them file police complaints and begin legal procedures.

At DFN, while we are aware of these atrocities and the risks taken by doing the work we do, we continue on.

And in spite of these challenges, we praise God for allowing us to continue our work to help the most vulnerable in India — children and women.

We are thankful to you too.

Without your faithful and compassionate support, we wouldn’t be able to help provide hope, transformation, and a brighter future to those who are exploited and marginalized.

Thank you for joining us in this challenging, but rewarding work. We ask you to join us in continued prayer for all those who are taking risks every day to practice and share their Christian faith, amidst the danger it poses. Please pray that our staff and those being helped are protected from any harm that could potentially come their way, as a result of this persecution.

Thank you for all that you do.

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New Tailoring Center Celebrates Grand Opening

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.” —Numbers 6:24-26

We are delighted to share with you that we recently celebrated the grand opening of a brand-new Tailoring Center! The center was completed in November and we were overjoyed to welcome 60 women who will now be able to attend DFN vocational training programs in a safe, clean, and comfortable environment.

Many of these women were previously trapped in forms of modern slavery: sex trafficking, domestic servitude, and bonded labor.

Because of your generous and loyal support, we were able to finish building this center which increases our capacity from 24 women in two sites to 60 women in one site!

The women make handicrafts as well as school uniforms. This type of work not only frees them from the abuse and injustice of their past, but they are discovering a newfound confidence and independence.

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Thank you for helping us empower women to create a brighter future for themselves!

 

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You’re Making a Difference!

Many of the stories we share are about young boys and girls who are just getting started in their educational paths. These students all come from impoverished backgrounds and families who are living as outcasts from society.

Their parents are often day laborers, manual workers, or subsistence farmers. Their futures were often headed down the same path.

However, because of you, they are now receiving a proper education and opportunities to have a brighter future.

Though you may not see the outcome overnight — your support has a tremendous impact on these precious children.

That’s why we are so excited to be able to share with you when DFN students have graduated and pursued higher education opportunities.

Students like Raghav Yadav and Arshdeep Singh.

Raghav comes from a simple farming community. His father works hard on their small farm, but has always struggled to make the income needed for the family to live above subsistence level. Raghav’s family also lives in a joint family system. This means extended family members, such as grandparents, and aunts and uncles live together. The older men farm on a division of labor, and while there are some advantages to this system, there are also challenges, such as splitting the produce and yield.

But Raghav’s future was not in farming.

Because of the compassionate support of friends like you, he was able to attend a DFN school and he studied hard. Over the years, Raghav developed his writing and communication skills and showed a natural aptitude for science. His diligent study habits helped him pass his Grade Ten exams conducted by the Board of Secondary Education and he graduated!

Raghav is now pursuing further education in science to ultimately seek a career in astrophysics.

We are so proud of him!

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Arshdeep Singh comes from a very similar home and background. A few years ago, his father sold all their belongings in another town and came to settle near a DFN school. His family also lives in a joint family set up in a poor farming community.

When Arshdeep and his siblings were given the opportunity to study at a DFN school, they did not take it lightly. They knew this opportunity could change their lives and the lives of their family.

His older sister graduated from school a few years ago and his younger sister is studying in high school. Arshdeep consistently performed well all through primary school and high school. Although he lived in hardship at home, he maintained a good academic record.

Even more impressive, Arshdeep scored so high on his graduation exam that he set a school record for all-time high score! Arshdeep has a strong desire to continue his studies and has already begun pre-university courses. He aspires to have a career in technology.

We can’t wait to see his goals become a reality!

Both of these young men have accomplished so much, despite the challenging circumstances into which they were born. With your generous support and encouragement, they have been given a new chance at life and a brighter future filled with many opportunities.

If we don’t say it enough — THANK YOU for making these stories possible!

 

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Manual Scavenging | The Hidden Economy of Poverty

For those of us who live in developed countries with adequate plumbing and sanitation facilities, this economy doesn’t even exist. And even in developing countries, this economy doesn’t exist for most.

But for caste societies — such as those we work with at DFN — manual scavenging is a very real issue of social injustice perpetuated generation after generation.

Manual scavenging is the degrading practice of cleaning human excreta in dry latrines with bare hands and carrying it for disposal in dumps, lakes, or rivers. It also includes cleaning sewers, septic tanks, open drains into which excreta flows, and railway lines.

Sadly, because of the caste system in India, the most vulnerable individuals of the population are subjected to this occupation. This plight has only furthered their discrimination, exclusion, ostracization, and victimization in society.

Social activists Rashtriya Garima Abhiyan and Jan Sahas are fighting to abolish this abhorrent economy.

Over the years they have conducted a study about those affected by manual scavenging. They recently released their report, “Justice Denied” and a documentary, “The Cost of Cleanliness” at Deputy Speaker Hall in The Constitution Club of India, Rafi Marg, New Delhi. Four hundred members of the survivor families participated in the event to share about their experiences.

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The results of their study were shocking.

The focus of the study “was to understand the progress on implementation of the MS Act 2013, socio economic condition of the families after the death of the deceased and to analyze legal course of actions in the incidents in which (First Information Reports) FIR was registered. The survey was carried out in 11 states of India in which the families of the deceased from the respective states were interviewed.”

The MS Act 2013 (Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation) prohibits manual scavenging. However, they found that the practice still persisted, illegally at times.

They found that 300 individuals have lost their lives from 1992 to 2018 due to manual scavenging. But this practiced has affected many more over the years.

They also reported: The highest death rate of 37 percent was recorded in the age group of 15-25 followed by 35 percent and 23 percent in the age group of 25-35 and 35-45 respectively.

The report also includes legal action, prevention and rehabilitation for families and individuals.

Watch their documentary to learn more and read the full report and its findings here.

The manual scavenging economy is one of the many ways marginalized societies are oppressed and cast out from society. At DFN, we are committed to standing up for their rights — rights to education, health, and economic opportunity.

When you support our work, you’re helping these individuals to break the cycle of poverty and discrimination in their lives — for years to come.

Join us as we stand with India’s people.

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The Trickle-Down Effect of the Jogini System | Kumaramma’s Story

Meet Kumaramma.

At 25, she is a loving, hard-working daughter, mother and widow. Sadly, her husband passed away two years ago due to a fatal illness. But she has persevered and is raising her three-year-old daughter as a single mother.

After his death, Kumaramma began working in a  factory to provide for her family. She lives with her mother and daughter in a small hut.

Unlike her mother, Kumaramma has escaped the life of a jogini (ritual form of sex slavery) in her village. However, growing up she faced much prejudice from her peers and others in the community because her mother was a jogini.

As an adult with a steady job and a child she loves, she put the jogini stigma behind her.

Or so she thought.

There are many different ways the jogini system in India has affected women over the centuries — not all of it directly.

As she was working in the factory one day, an iron plate fell from the roof and landed on Kumaramma’s leg. She was badly injured and bleeding profusely. Her friends rushed her to the local clinic for treatment. After a few days, she realized the injury was not healing and the wound was getting more and more painful.

Subsequent visits to the doctor didn’t help either.

So she decided to try Hindu acts of worship, known as Pujas, for her healing. The belief in her village was that these Pujas performed by a temple priest will heal any ailment. They are also quite expensive. But, Kumaramma was desperate for her leg to heal so she could return to work. She took the advice of her relatives and went to many different temples for multiple Pujas.

None of these ceremonies healed her leg.

Kumaramma’s situation was becoming quite bleak. Without her job, she was unable to provide for her mother and daughter. Not only that, but the pain in her leg was becoming unbearable.

A DFN health worker was visiting Kumaramma’s village and learned of her situation. After a long talk with our health worker, Kumaramma agreed to visit a government hospital with our staff. The doctor was very attentive and asked for a complete background history of her wound and life, in addition to treating the leg.

He asked Kumaramma to take an HIV test.

Our staff supported Kumaramma through this as she was at first reluctant to take the test. Unfortunately, the result came back as positive.

Most likely in shock or denial, Kumaramma refused to take the medication. Our health workers continued to stay by her side and give her the support she needed to understand the seriousness of this illness and the benefits the medications would bring about.

As a result, she began taking the medication. Three months later and after regular follow up visits from our staff, Kumaramma is feeling much better and her wound finally healed!

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She has successfully returned to work and has expressed her gratitude for the support she received during this challenging time.

“If you did not come in time, I may not be in this world right now,” she said.

Kumaramma’s daughter was also tested and thankfully, her results came back negative. Although Kumaramma herself was not a part of the centuries-old jogini system, she suffered the trickle-down affects of sex slavery survivor.

There are many more women out there suffering a similar fate who need our help. Will you join us in our work to help them?

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A Prescription of Love and Support After a Lifetime of Abuse

When an individual visits the doctor for an ailment or injury, they are often treated on the spot or given a prescription for ongoing treatment.

These visits and prescriptions cost money. What doesn’t cost money is the love and support someone receives from family or friends after returning home, or while they are healing.

This type of treatment cannot be assigned a monetary value — it’s priceless.

Sadly, for 45-year-old Lagamavva in India, love is in short supply in her life but ailments are not.

Lagamavva first began visiting a DFN medical clinic earlier this year. She suffers from bad arthritis in her knees and needs nutritional supplements to remain healthy.

She quickly became a regular at the clinic, coming in every two weeks.

However, Lagamavva’s current health ailments pale in comparison to the lifetime of abuse and mental trauma she has suffered.

When Lagamavva was 12-years-old, she was dedicated as a temple prostitute. Her parents were struggling with their own health and finances. They believed if she was dedicated, the goddess Yellama would be appeased and their problems would be solved.

After spending two years being used by the men in her village, Lagamavva decided to run away to Mumbai, in search of a better life.

She arrived penniless and homeless.

A handsome man quickly befriended her and invited her to stay in his house. Desperate for a home, she agreed to go with him. She soon realized this invitation was not at all what it seemed.

She learned that this place was a brothel run by local gang leaders. She and three other girls suffered much in this home. Many men came and went, often armed with large knives.

Lagamavva was devastated, feeling she had just returned to the same abuse she was running from. But it was too late, the men would not let her leave. She was guarded day and night for many years.

It was a horrific time in her life.

Finally after eight years of sexual abuse, beatings and forced abortions, she decided she could no longer take it. She braved a risky escape by sawing through the grating in her window, climbed down two floors and crept away in the dark.

Sadly, she returned home to parents who no longer accepted her and a village that ostracized her.

That night she slept under a tree and, left in this vulnerable state, she was again assaulted by men.

It was after that night that Lagamavva knew that she needed to take care of herself and become an independent woman. Thus far, no one in her life had shown her any respect, care or love.

She built a hut made from sticks and tarpaulin. Her bathroom is the open field and her a kitchen a small fire outside her front door. It wasn’t much, but it was hers.

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Over the years, Lagamavva became pregnant and had four daughters. She loved her daughters and enrolled them in the government school, encouraging them to study hard.

As they grew older, her daughters began to reject her after finding out about her life as a prostitute.

Lagamavva now lives with her youngest daughter who has a job to help provide income, as she is unable to work due to her crippling knee pain.

With each visit to the medical clinic, DFN health workers continually encourage Lagamavva and let her know she is loved and cared for. Her life matters. She matters.

Join us as we continue praying and caring for women like Lagamavva, who often need more than simple medical treatment — a regular dose of tender loving care.

Disaster Relief | How You Can Help Save Lives in Kerala

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

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

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

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

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

We need your help.

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

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

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

The situation is dire.

So, how is DFN responding?

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

However, we need your support.

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

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

Will you help us in achieving this goal?

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

Donate today to help save lives in Kerala

 

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Freeing One Child At a Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Fighting To End the Jogini System

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

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

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

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

How are we working towards this goal?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Free A Woman Today

The True Value of Education

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

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

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

These young girls are treated as slaves.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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