A Life Restored After Slavery

Human trafficking. Forced labor. Sexual slavery.

All of these words tie into a severe injustice in this world — modern-day slavery.

It’s important to stress the word modern. Slavery is not a practice that has been left in the past. Around the world, women and young girls are in forced labor. At its worst, they are being used for sexual exploitation.

Young girls like Rekha.

Before she even reached her teen years, Rekha was married off, but it was simply a cover as she became dedicated as a “jogini” — a widely prevalent and traditional practice.

In India, the centuries-old jogini system is a form of sex slavery, or child marriage.

Although Rekha attended school as a child and completed grade seven, her parents struggled to support the family through various odd jobs. So she was married off to her older cousin and sent to live with him and his family.

Being a mere teenager, Rekha struggled to assimilate to her new married life. Her husband’s family was unkind to her and treated her like a servant maid. Even worse, she was expected to have relations with their son.

Due to this early trauma, Rekha began to have nightmares and was sent back and forth between her parents’ home and her husband’s home.

There was no safe place for her. She was alone.

She soon believed that her fate was destined to be worse than that of a street dog, as she saw her young life crumbling around her.

Thanks to your generosity and support, Dalit Freedom Network was able to reach out to Rekha and bring awareness to an issue that continues being unseen by many.

Rekha’s husband eventually married another woman and although her life didn’t change overnight, her parents came forward to stand by her and help her.

With your support, Rekha has a new respectable vocation, dignified social status and is now looking forward to a better future.

But she is just one of thousands who need our help.

 

Please consider more girls like her as we continue to fight against the tragic injustices of human trafficking, child marriage and slavery.

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 Good Shepherd 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!

 

Inspired Women Inspire Women

Kavitha beams as she works her loom.

For the first time in her life she is free. With skills she learned at a vocational training center and with the encouragement of other women in her self-help group, Kavitha is proud to have a skill she can use to support her family.

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It wasn’t always this way.

Like most Dalit women, Kavitha was born into extreme poverty and faced incredible hardship as she grew up. Unable to read or write, she was forced into domestic service with very long hours for very low pay. She said, “I thought the rest of my life would be spent like this. But thanks to my training, it’s not! I am making mats for people to use in their homes now. Not only am I helping myself, I am helping others. Thank you to those who helped make this possible.”

Kavitha is one of thousands of women who now inspire others. She gives them hope.

Last March, nearly 2,000 women gathered in locations all over India in a show of solidarity and sisterhood for a day. It was a mini-conference of sorts. Vocational training graduates were honored, achievements were celebrated, and local dignitaries brought greetings. In one village, the women were able to shut down a shop that sold illegal alcohol, and they also organized a midday meal program in their local school to ensure students received adequate nutrition.

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Beyond the certificates and the celebrations are the friendships made and the inspiration women give each other. Many women living in poverty are isolated. With the daily struggle to survive, there is no time for friendships, relaxing, enjoying a cup of chai, and laughing. These mini-conferences give women the chance to be with each other, share their joys as well as their hardships. They leave the day renewed, inspired to share their stories with others in similar circumstances.

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This is the way communities are transformed.

They are transformed from the inside out. From the ground up. One conference participant, an agricultural worker, said, “This was the best day I had in a long time. I was able to meet new friends, and I was inspired by seeing those in my village receive certificates of achievement. It made me want to join a vocational program myself.”

We salute these women.

We lift them up. Each one is precious. Each one has worth. Each one has gifts she can use for good. At Dalit Freedom Network, we are committed to empowering women.

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It takes just $5 to send a woman to a mini-conference. It takes just $100 to start a woman on the road to freedom. Will you join us in freeing Dalit women?

Free A Woman

 

Free To Be … An Entrepreneur

Jasuben’s Story

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Jasuben arrived flat broke and alone.

Except for her five kids. Abandoned by her husband, Jasuben was left to fend for herself and provide for her family. She had no education and no marketable skills. Desperate, she started working as a day laborer picking okra in a nearby field. Her income was meager and erratic. She began to despair that her life would ever improve. And she began to fear her children’s futures would be bleak.

Even though her circumstances were desperate, Jasuben had an idea.

She had always been a bit of a dreamer, and this time, her idea just might transform the future of her family. If only she had the resources to make it happen.

One of Jasuben’s friends from their village, Lakshmi, owned a small business grinding spices. Jasuben began to wonder how her friend was able to start this business. She had no more education or skills than Jasuben. So she asked Lakshmi.

And Jasuben received the best news ever.

There was a group in her village that gave small loans to worthy applicants so they could begin their businesses. So Jasuben gathered up her courage and made a visit to this group, one that Dalit Freedom Network supports. She presented her idea: mixing glass cleaner for home use. Immediately the group saw the value of Jasuben’s idea and the need in the community and presented her with a loan to get her business up and running.

Today, Jasuben earns enough to support her family with a degree of stability and comfort. This is thanks to people like you. People who want to set others free.

It takes just $25 to help a woman start her own business. Today, please consider helping free another woman to be an entrepreneur.

Give To Free To Be

You can also support women by purchasing a hand crafted elephant made by women in one of our economic empowerment programs, The Lydia Project. Check it out here.

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From Nightmares to Peaceful Sleep

Kala’s Story

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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.

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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.

Give to Pratigya Shelter Home Here

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. 

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 Sharing

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.

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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!


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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!