Growing up in rural India can be difficult. Untouchability is still a part of everyday life and for Dalit people, this practice equates to harassment at work, school, and even in public.
Dalit men and women are often refused jobs, leaving them with little control over their lives. They must work for employers that capitalize on their plight, paying them mere pennies for their back-breaking work. Many Dalit people become indebted to their employers for life.
A vicious cycle of poverty ensues, in which children grow up to take on their parents’ debt, paid off with bonded labour. It really is modern-day slavery.
When we welcome children into our Good Shepherd Schools, we are careful to tell them that they have value and worth. Gradually, the children bring home stories of hope to their parents, and positive change spreads throughout the communities.
Our mission also focuses on the empowerment of women. By teaching them practical, employable skills, we provide options and the tools to change the course of their futures.
When you give, you are providing freedom—socially, economically and spiritually. Thank you for your continued generosity!
Executive Director, Dalit Freedom Network Canada
Jyothi is a 16-year-old girl who recently graduated from one of our Good Shepherd schools, having worked through many obstacles just to get herself to school in the first place.
Her family was lured into bonded labour by a wealthy, upper-caste factory owner. Preying on Dalit families who were already in debt, he made promises that were too good to refuse. He would waive their debt, he said, if they worked for him for a few months. In the meantime, he secretly increased the rate of interest to such an astronomical amount that they would never be able to pay it back.
This is not an unusual occurrence in India. Because of their parents’ enslavement, children often have no choice but to help the family scrape together enough income to survive.
This means missed classes, and sometimes even whole semesters. The factory owner—now essentially a slumlord—controls their lives.
Jyothi’s family lives in a one-room hut made of mud, sticks and plastic sheets, with an open drain that flows throughout the entire slum instead of any toilets. Jyothi herself is the youngest of three children, and the financial strain is a heavy burden for her parents.
Despite these conditions, they are filled with hope because of Jyothi’s success at school. Throughout her studies, she would bring back new knowledge from the lessons she’d learned at school, and her parents slowly began to envision a future for their daughter that they’d never imagined before.
Because of her family’s extreme poverty, Jyothi was one of the Good Shepherd Schools’ first sponsored students. It is wonderful to see the transformation that has happened since she started, but there are still many obstacles for her and her family to overcome.
Jyothi’s dream is to further her studies in accounts and BPS (Biology, Physics, Chemistry) so that she can become a nurse. Her family encourages her to keep studying so that she’ll be admitted into a well known college in Chennai. Her family will do everything they can to help her pursue her dream.
Are you interested in becoming a sponsor of a Dalit child? By taking on this task, you are personally telling a child that they are valued, and that you care about their well-being, their happiness, and their future. You are embarking on a journey and committing to travel it alongside the child you support.
More than 26,000 Dalit children are attending our Good Shepherd schools, but hundreds of children are still waiting to be sponsored. This leaves many with no other option than to labour alongside a parent to bring in some extra income. Not only is this labour back-breaking work—especially for a child—but it’s often endless, with a pay rate so low that escaping debt is impossible.