I recently returned from India, and my heart is full after seeing so many lives transformed as a result of our Good Shepherd Schools, and women’s training centres.
It was an emotional visit to NDG School for me. The village is about a three-hour drive from the city of Hyderabad—the people of this area are poor agricultural labourers and rock quarry workers. Everything is manual labour under the hot Indian sun. This poor and marginalized community wishes for more for their children, but they have no way of breaking their poverty, caste discrimination, or hopelessness.
Leslie and Darrell Gladman, who serve as board members, also came with me on this visit. We celebrated alongside the first graduating Grade 10 class. It was a very exciting day! I could hardly believe that some of the students walking across the stage to receive their certificates were the same children I met when they were only five or six years old.
It was so evident that the schools have shaped who these children are today, and where they will go in the future. I cannot begin to express my gratitude to you, our Canadian partners, for sponsoring these children and providing funding for the classrooms. My thanks to you for reaching out to low-caste children in India, and for your support over the summer.
With a grateful heart,
Executive Director, Dalit Freedom Network Canada
Bala lives in a village located in South India, in the state of Tamilnadu. Her father works as a taxi driver for daily wages, and her mother works as a street vendor, selling food in a roadside stall. She has an older sister, Sindhu. Although both her parents work, the income is not regular and the family is still very poor. They live in a small hut, and struggle to meet their basic needs.
With the goal to become a doctor, Bala graduated from VIL Good Shepherd School this year with 33 other students—each one of them being the first in their families to receive an education and learn English. Bala was the valedictorian and we want to take this opportunity to share with you the moving speech she gave:
Bala’s Graduation Speech
As I am standing here, I am looking out at children from Kindergarten through Grade 10, teachers and visiting sponsors—it takes my breath away. This is the last time that I will be together with my overseas friends because this is my final year of school. I am not a millionaire, nor do I live in a palace, but I am really so lucky and happy because I have such a wonderful school and loving overseas friends.
God gave me this amazing opportunity to study at this school so I would like to give my first thanks to God for the teachers. My teachers share their knowledge and love with the children. The students share their talents and voices, and parents share their resources by giving moral support.
Most of all, I am so thankful for the sponsors who make our education possible. By giving their money so that we can go to school, they are showing their love and affection to us, so I want to say thank you to our overseas friends. Not only is the money you are giving providing us with an education, but uniforms, and a mid-day meal also.
I want to thank you for all your love for us again and again. When we are receiving your letters, we feel so excited and wait in anticipation for your next letters.
At school, I have learned self-discipline. I have learned how to help others, share with others, and serve others.
I promise that in my future, I will uphold the needy peoples, like you; I will share my wealth, my time, my service, and my rich smiles with others.
Once again, I want to say lots of thanks from my class and my school.
Thank you very much,
This year, I had the privilege of visiting some of our women’s sewing centres. I got to take part in three graduations and attend a sewing machine grant ceremony. The grant ceremony is for women who have completed their training, and applied to receive a treadle sewing machine to start their own businesses.
The ceremony took place in the afternoon and excitement filled the room as the women filed in. There were speeches and sewing machines were presented to ten women. These were life-changing gifts!
As we carried the machines down the stairs, the husbands were there to proudly help carry the machines home. My heart swelled with joy knowing that an entire family was being given the gift of a life skill, economic improvement, and hope!
After the ceremony was over, I learned that there were still 100 women waiting for the gift of a sewing machine! I knew then that we needed to help. I shared this news with friends and partners back in Canada and could not believe how quickly everyone responded. I cannot express how deeply touched I am. All 100 sewing machines have been provided!
Kalpana is a bright young woman who graduated from one of our sewing centres last year. After graduation, she was happy to find work in a factory, sewing shopping bags. She received $2 a day for her work, which was more than she ever earned before. Possessing a sharp mind for business, Kalpana began to think of how she could earn more income.
Learning that we provide sewing machines to women who have business plans, she submitted her application. Her plan was to sew directly for local supermarkets who required shopping bags. The supermarkets would supply her with the pre-stamped material that included their logo, and she could make the bags.
With the gift of her new sewing machine, Kalpana began her home-based business. Now, she sews 300 bags per day and earns $12 a day. The demand for her business is growing so much that she is now teaching her friend how to sew and is paying her per bag.
Kalpana is so proud that she is running a successful business and is able to provide for her family.
“Each time we visit, we see God at work in ways that leave us changed, and once again our hearts were deeply touched by what we saw, felt and experienced,” Leslie Gladman says. Leslie and her husband Darrell travelled with Sherry on her most recent trip to India. They are Dalit Freedom Network Canada board members as well as sponsors of multiple children in India.
On their three-week trip, they visited six schools and attended three graduations. For two of the schools, they were first-time graduations. The students and staff warmly welcomed them, often with the sound of drums and music, and beautiful leis placed around their necks.
“We couldn’t help but feel incredible gratitude to each of you that sponsor these students. You contribute to the lives of these children in ways that words cannot express,” Leslie says. Donors are a big part of why graduations are able to take place!
It was a joy for them to visit the students, and hear stories from graduates sharing their experiences at school. Graduates told them how much the teachers meant to them and how difficult it was going to be just to leave the school. The school is an oasis of hope for many of the children.
“We have no doubt that God is at work in incredible ways,” says Darrell. “And His story has just begun in the lives of many of these students!”
Leslie and Darrell also visited a number of locations where women receive vocational training by learning to sew. In one centre the women were receiving treadle sewing machines, and they got to hear what a difference this opportunity has made in their lives both in confidence and economically.
“Trips like these stoke the fire in our hearts, yet again reminding us that God is up to something greater in the lives of many,” says Leslie. “Thank you for being a part of this good work!”