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 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!

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 | Pranitha’s Story

When our team visited India in February, we had the delightful pleasure of meeting Pranitha. After sitting with her and hearing her story, we felt she embodied the hope and future of our work in India. Her story is a beautiful story of how a Dalit child goes from next to zero options in a life of poverty to becoming a Doctor of Pharmacy… simply because someone cared enough to fund her education.

 

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We could tell you Pranitha’s story. We could tell you how thankful she is for the education she received. But Pranitha herself is much better at sharing her own story and thoughts. And we are truly grateful to have been able to hear from her.

 

Pranitha’s story is not an anomaly. There are 10,000 other stories out there…

 

10,000 Reasons

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

Get Involved

 

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.

Get Involved