We will now turn our attention to what can be done. And there is good news! We at DFN, with the help with our generous and faithful supporters and our Indian partners, offer hope and opportunity to thousands of Dalit people
What Can We Do?
Although the Dalit plight can feel daunting, we at DFN look through a lens of hope, possibility, opportunity, and ultimately freedom from the Dalits’ vulnerability to poverty, oppression, and modern slavery. It’s what drives us personally, and it’s what drives our work on behalf of Dalit communities. We believe every person is valuable, every person has the right to safety, health, and dignity, and that every person should have opportunity.
The Dalit Freedom Network began in 2002 in response to the cries of Dalits for help in their quest for freedom from the lingering effects of caste. Out of that pivotal moment came our mission: to end atrocities and help the Dalit people achieve fundamental rights through a foundation of education, healthcare, and economic empowerment.
Through the implementation of our holistic community transformation model, we have a goal of transforming 1,000 villages in India over the next decade. And it all begins with education.
The first step to village transformation is the education of its children. Since the majority of Dalit adults are illiterate and unable to provide a quality education for their children, few Dalit children have a hope for a better life. DFN is standing with them by offering hope and opportunity through the cornerstone of our community transformation model: education.
In each of our 107 Good Shepherd Schools, nearly 26,000 students learn English and are taught the values of freedom, equality, and human dignity for all. GSS students are becoming a generation of thinkers and change agents who will carry forward the principles of liberty and justice. The instruction provided in our schools adheres to the most stringent India standards, and many of our students earn top-tier scores on nationalized tests.
There are more children in India than any other country in the world. Every day, many of them live in real danger of being trafficked, maimed, or sold into slavery. Nearly 30% of students receiving an English-medium education at our Good Shepherd Schools have parents who are bonded laborers. When you fund the education of a child, you make an investment in their freedom and their future. Without your help, most cannot stay in school or escape the poverty that puts them at risk for commercial sexual exploitation, forced labor, or bonded labor.
Children receive financial assistance to attend a GSS through our education fund, either through traditional child sponsorship (sponsorship FAQs here) or through funding scholarships. No matter how you get involved, you provide curriculum and supplies, books, uniforms, and a midday meal (where necessary) in a caring environment.
A word about our 2015 graduates:
440 Dalit students graduated from a Good Shepherd School this year. We at DFN are so proud of each of these young people! As they head out into the world, whether it is to work or continued education, they are poised to create transformational change in their communities. Most are headed to junior college for two years and then to formal university to become doctors, nurses, teachers, programers, engineers, or wherever their desire and hard work takes them.
Interested in seeing more ways you can stand with the Dalit people through education? See our opportunities here.
Many Dalit people cannot afford visits to a doctor or a hospital and suffer—sometimes even die—from diseases that are curable. DFN and its partners in India provide basic public healthcare in villages and administer vaccines to children in our schools. As Dalits gain access to hygiene training and healthcare for the first time, they are empowered to live healthier, more dignified lives.
We do this through our Four-Tier Healthcare Delivery System:
Tier I is the Community Health Workers (CHW) Initiative. Dr. Paul Farmer, a medical doctor and professor of medical anthropology at Harvard University was asked in 2007, “Which single intervention would do the most to improve the health of those living on less than $1 a day?” Dr. Farmer’s reply: “Hire community health workers to serve them.” DFN is on the leading edge of this movement. Presently, there are 60 CHWs trained, placed, and operating out of our Good Shepherd Schools.
Tier II is the Regional Clinic Program. Our regional clinics provide quality preventive, curative, and diagnostic healthcare to Dalit communities. We encourage local community participation, both medical and non medical, in the planning and operating of our regional clinics.
Tier III is the Mobile Clinic Program. The Mobile Clinics aim to provide healthcare services and programs to under-served communities in both rural and urban settings. Health education and awareness programs, diagnosis and treatment, referral services, and data collection are some of the services offered.
Tier IV consists of a Nurses Training College and a Dalit Hospital Project in Hyderabad. Now in its final stage of completion, the hospital will provide the following facilities: cardiology, cardiothoracic surgery, gastroenterology, neurology, neurosurgery, nephrology, urology, accident, trauma, and emergency care, and lab services, as well as the Nurses Training College and the Community Health College.
Interested in seeing more ways you can stand with the Dalit people through healthcare? See our opportunities here.
DFN believes economic development is one of the best ways to invest in Dalit lives. Increasing economic opportunities helps Dalits stand independently, support their family, fund education for their children, and find hope for the future.
Our economic development strategy has three main efforts: financial assistance to qualified individuals to enable them to begin small businesses, vocational training in marketable skills, and self-help groups. These initiatives are monitored by a national board of directors for financial accountability.
1. Financial Assistance: Our initiatives offer help to budding entrepreneurs so they can start a small business.
2. Vocational training: Provided for older teenagers and adults—men or women—who want to learn income-generating skills. These training classes include such trades as beauty/barbering skills, spice-making, tailoring, driving, carpentry, cycle repair, ironing, and electrical work.
3. Self-Help Groups: Participants learn organizational skills and business best practices. Locally trained officers teach financial accounting principles and offer support in a spirit of community, trust, and personal care. Currently, the majority of groups are organized and run by Dalit women. Most could not have dreamed of this kind of opportunity previously!
Interested in seeing more ways you can stand with the Dalit people through economic empowerment? See our opportunities here.
Do you have a particular interest in the needs of girls and women? See those opportunities here.
DFN cannot stand with the Dalits in their quest for freedom, equality and opportunity without you! Thanks for being a DFN partner!
Other posts in this series: