Come & See
The very best way to experience India is to take a visit. It is unlike anywhere else. Vibrant colors, amazing people, diverse landscapes, and some of the best food on earth are there. The best part is meeting new friends and seeing up close and personal how Dalit communities are transformed through education, healthcare, and economic empowerment. It is truly inspiring, and your life will be enriched by the friendships you make.
We are so glad you are interested in a visit. To get you started, here is a little bit of information about the Dalit people, DFN, and vision trips:
Who Are The Dalits?
The Dalits are the 250 million people living at the very bottom of the hierarchy of India’s caste system. Comprising a staggering 25% of the Indian population, there are nearly as many Dalits in India as there are people in the US. Sometimes known as the “untouchables,” Dalits are regarded as subhuman outcastes. They are history’s longest standing oppressed people group and constitute the largest numbers of people categorized as victims of modern day slavery. Hindu scriptures call them the “unborn,” which translates: it would be better if they had never been born. Because of India’s social, economic, cultural, and spiritual hierarchies, Dalits suffer unthinkable discrimination, humiliation, and lack of basic human rights, such as education, healthcare, and freedom of conscience. Only 10% of rural Dalit women can read and write. Dalits generally must work in the most “unclean,” dangerous, and inhumane occupations. They suffer overwhelming rates of violent discrimination and sexual abuse. Many are condemned to a life of debt bondage and bonded labor. Not surprisingly, the word “Dalit” literally means crushed, broken, or oppressed by the social hierarchy above. For more about the Dalit people, here is a link to Dalit 101 on the DFN website.
What is the Dalit Freedom Network?
Dalit Freedom Network was created as the result of a pivotal pilgrimage of Dalit people to New Delhi, India, in November of 2001. That day, thousands of “untouchables” stood up for their people, and in 2002, DFN was created with a vision to end the oppression of the Dalit people.
These are the areas in which we are currently involved:
- Education: providing quality English-medium education in communities where Dalit leaders have requested Good Shepherd Schools.
- Healthcare: offering medical services and supplies for Dalit communities that surround the Good Shepherd Schools.
- Economic Development: equipping Dalits for financial empowerment through Self-Help Groups, micro-loans, and vocational training.
- Social Justice: standing for freedom of conscience, dignity, and respect for all Dalits
Our schools are filled with students of all faiths, and the children are never pressured to change their faith or convert to any religion. All of our programs are offered freely to all Dalits with no “strings attached” for conversion.
DFN’s Partner in India
We can’t do this work alone, so we have partnered with Good Shepherd Operation Mobilization India (GSOMI), a faith-based organization of Indian nationals committed to serving the Dalits.
GSOMI plays a major role in each trip. They ensure that teams have appropriate lodging, transportation, and food on a daily basis. They also arrange the places teams visit. Team members can go to India knowing they will be well cared for when they arrive. In return, teams are expected to represent both DFN and GSOMI well while on the field.
DFN, along with our Indian partners, is moving towards the goal of establishing 1,000 Good Shepherd Schools.
Vision Trip Purpose
The primary purpose of a vision trip is so you can experience first hand this wonderful country and these wonderful people. Vision trips are designed to give you an overview of the scope of DFN’s work, so you will see a great deal in a short period of time. They are designed to educate you, but more than that they are designed to inspire you. You will also discover opportunities for future involvement to extend the impact of the work there. We hope you will decide to go on the next trip!
Please contact Jay Hoff, DFN’s Trips Coordinator for details on the next available opening.
(Note: The handbook is password protected.
If you are registered for a trip please contact Jay if you don’t have the password.)