THE DALIT PEOPLE
Who are the Dalits?
For over 3000 years the Dalits – or Untouchables – have been positioned at the bottom of Indias' society and are subject to the most aggressive and dehumanising abuse. They are born into a culture that devalues them from birth with society considering them lower than animals. The term ‘Dalit’ literally translates to downtrodden or oppressed and there are 250 million Dalits who are exposed to this injustice.
What is the Caste System?
Your caste system embodies a belief that men and women are not made equal and that by birth, your caste determines your opportunities and future. Hinduism states that the four castes originated from four parts of the body of the god Brahma. The Brahmin or priestly caste proceeded from Brahma’s head, the Kshatriyas from his arms, the Vaisyas from his thighs and the Sudras from his feet. Far beneath the Sudras are the Untouchables or Dalits who were rejects from the social order altogether, being not made by God.
How did Life Association begin?
Around 20 years ago, Simon Hawthorne and Paul Morley visited Uttar Pradesh, one of the most backward states of India, and fell in love with the people of this amazing country and their children. They also experienced first hand the injustice suffered by the Dalit people and it has been their passion to provide education and support in any way they can ever since.
How can the injustice of the Dalits stop?
Apartheild came to an end through a movement of people of many nations with one voice and one message – that apartheid is wrong. We believe that the injustice of the Dalits is the biggest human rights issue in the world today. It will take a similar movement of ordinary people to tackle this extraordinary oppression that has affected millions of people for thousands of years.
For further information about the Dalits download our free ‘The Dalit People’ booklet here.
Our first school built in 1993 in Uttar Pradesh now has 450 children attending with over 95% going onto further education at college or university and all receive an outstanding Christian education. The church, on the same 8 acre site remains the only evangelical Christian witness to 1 million people. We recently opened our new laboratories which will allow us to get recognition from the Government in Delhi and enhance the University placements available to our children. (see picture of our laboratory in the gallery)
Life Association opened its school in a slum village in the coastal town of Machilipatnam in 2010 . The village suffered from cases of leprosy and poverty on an extreme level. The children were employed as rat pickers at the local station or rag pickers earning a few rupees a day with none of them receiving an education. Our school currently provides not only an education for 125 Dalit children but also food and healthcare. In November 2014 10 riders took part in the Cross India Cycle Challenge which raised £41,670 enabling us to build a second floor to this school so that 100 more children from the village can receive an education. Find out more about our Cycle Challenge here.
Gannavaram, Andhra Pradesh
Our project in Gannavaram opened in 1997 and now provides a home, food, education and all the health care needs for 80 Dalit orphans and other poor children who would otherwise be left in desperate need.
We run regular trips to our children’s home here in beautiful rural India and are always looking for volunteers who share our love of children and are willing to get involved.
Madurai, Tamil Nadu
In 2013 Life Association took on board a school in Madurai for special needs and disabled children. This is now flourishing and provides a loving home and education for these precious children.
During the menstrual cycle Dalit women suffer the indignity of being considered untouchable by, not just the higher castes, but even their own caste. At this time they are considered unclean and unfit to prepare food, enter temples or even attend weddings. This is made worse as poverty leaves millions of women to resort to unclean cloths and other unsterile materials.
We have recently set up a small production unit that will provide affordable, clean and hygienic towels of acommercial standard and also employment for some of the young adults in our special needs programme.
Since 2002 in Mumbai, where our Dalit Candle business is also based, we have a boys homes for street children who are adopted for life. Over many years we have seen them rescued from a life of misery to become married with good jobs and a strong faith. All our Dalit Goods are named after the children from our projects, some of them in the picture to the left including Ajay, Vishal, Murgan and many more.
In 2013 we partnered in supporting a school project in Calcutta where 54 children from a slum community receive education and good food. We have also begun a kids club in the Sonagathi red light district, the world’s largest brothel. Many of the children are destined to a life of prostitution but we hope, in time, to be able to provide education and an alternative lifestyle to them and their mothers. In 2015 we opened our first hospice and health centre. Kolkata is notorious for allowing people to live and die on the streets of this vast city and with around 20,000 Government hospital beds to a city of 14 million, there is an acute need for such a service. Our vision is that, if people are at the end of their lives, they can at least die with dignity, with clean sheets and good food and nurses to care for them and, perhaps for the first time, hear of a God that loves them and meet people who genuinely care.
Bloom is a community empowerment project based in two villages in Vellore District, Tamil Nadu. Bloom sponsors a tuition project for children living in significant poverty which provides educational and nutritional support. To support a child at this centre costs £5 per month - please specify Bloom when setting up your regular donation and indicate if you would like to receive letters/updates from/about the child.
We are also launching a small project to support abandoned elderly people via communal meals - see 'sponsor an elder' tab.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
The work of Life Association brings hope to children who would otherwise be hopeless, exploited and in many cases abused. Our Dalit Goods business seeks to raise awareness of the Dalit plight, provide work to the underprivileged in india, and support our work.
Become a church rep
Selling our Dalit Goods products at the back of your church, school, workplace or community centre can be a great opportunity to raise funds for the work of Life Association as well as build awareness of the injustice surrounding the Dalit people. We'd be more than happy to visit you and speak on the issues surround the Dalits before we pass the baton over to you to sell the remaining stock.
Volunteer at an event
We do a number of festival and markets each year but our staff can only get round so many. If your interested in selling our Dalit products get in touch to see what events might me in your area that you could volunteer at. Festivals and markets we attend already are New Wine, Greenbelt, Keswick Convention, Manchester and Chester Christmas Markets and Spring Harvest but if you know any others near you please let us know.
Put on a fundraiser
Put on a curry night, cycle the width of England, have your ladies group round for afternoon tea. These are some of the fundraisers that supporters of Life Association have put on before. No matter how big or small your event is these are a great opportunity to raise funds and hopefully influence someone else to have the same passion for Indias' Dalits as you. We’ll supply you the information, printed material and even Dalit Goods stock to help you make the most out of your event.
Go to India
If you are a teacher or medic or simply love children then why not come to India with us for life changing experience and the trip of a life time. Each year we take teams of volunteers out to India to serve and live short term in our largest orphanage in Gannavaram – a remote Dalit village that is far away from the tourist areas normally visited by westerners. If you are a medic or teacher and have India on your heart we’d love to hear from you as we have plenty on long term opportunities to serve in our projects as well. Find out more information on our trips to India here.