For centuries, Dalits were deprived of their rights to education and to a dignified life under caste oppression. Currently, India has more than 280 million children between the ages of 5 and 14, according to the country’s 2011 census. UNICEF says 12% of these are child laborers who work in the most inhuman conditions just to survive. This is a prime example of how many children today are still deprived of their childhood, education, health care, and fundamental rights. Dalit Solidarity Sponsorship, matching donor to child, is something that works. It is a time-tested method of saving children, one needy child at a time.
Most of our students are children of day laborers. Their parents work in the rice paddies and sugar cane fields for about four months each year. The annual income for a family of five in our villages is about $150. They live in mud huts with thatched roofs and dirt floors, no indoor plumbing and limited electricity. Their diet is primarily rice. Only rarely do they eat vegetables, fruit or meat. Almost half of our students have lost one or more parents. They are the first members of their families to attend secondary school — the first who can read and write more than their names. These students face serious discrimination from a society that tells them that, no matter their efforts in classroom or workplace, they will never equal non-Dalit friends. Today, Dalit Solidarity provides more than 300 students a year with quality education through its academic programs.