For 3,000 years, the caste system has characterized the political and social climate of India, and isolated 250 million people known as "Untouchables" or Dalits. This rigid hierarchic system determines the rights a person receives according to ancestry. As a result, each Indian is thought to deserve his or her status, whether high or low. Dalits, however, are not considered by the system and are quite literally "out-caste." Denied religious freedom and access to education, Dalits are trapped in the world's largest form of modern-day slavery. As the caste system begins to collapse, we invite you to join us as we bring hope and a future to the Dalits.
Today, the Dalits are calling for change--and asking the world to get involved. The Dalit Freedom Network was form in 2002 in response to this cry. DFN focuses on Community Transformation through education, healthcare, economic development, and social justice initiatives. Each of these programs is deeply interdependent, resulting in sustainable change and hope for India's Dalits.
The Dalit Freedom Network partners with India's Dalits in their quest for religious freedom, social justice and human rights by mobilizing human, informational, and financial resources.
The DFN office in Denver, CO, serves as a clearinghouse of information on activities involving the Dalits, and has experts working in a variety of strategic areas including: Dalit Education Centers, Economic Development, Healthcare, and Social Justice.
Dalit Freedom Network was organized in 2002 to work with individuals, foundations and organizations outside of India to coordinate their combined resources for use towards the emancipation of Dalits in India.
We seek to carry forward the legacy of William Wilberforce who worked tirelessly for the abolition of slavery and the reformation of society; the legacy of William Carey who worked for the abolition of Sati, the practice of burning widows on the funeral pyre of their husbands; the legacy of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar and Mahatma Phule who pioneered the movement for the abolition of caste and the Dalit quest for freedom and dignity; and the legacy of Mother Teresa who showed God's love in word and deed to the sick and dying; and to follow the command of Jesus Christ who called us to be 'the salt of the earth' and 'the light of the world.'
Dalit Freedom Network's vision is to oversee holistic transformation in Dalit communities. We realize that Community Transformation is a massive and lengthy undertaking requiring significant contributions of time, money, and will. But we believe it is possible through the following programs.
Education. Dalits believe that they are a different, subhuman species because Indian society treats them that way. Changing this belief demands a momentous reconstruction of Indian society. DFN is committed to developing Dalit Education Centers (DEC) in each community that teach children that they can hope for a positive future. Because fluent English skills give high-caste students access to decent jobs, we provide an English education to all students. DECs break down caste barriers because students of all castes are admitted and we provide a safe place for interaction, regardless of caste. Plus, our DEC model is sustainable. Financial partners subsidize the cost of education through our child sponsorship program, but each child also pays small, manageable fees once per year.
Healthcare. Although public healthcare facilities are available, many Dalits are turned away at the door because they are considered too "unclean" for anyone to help. Their communities are plagued by common, curable maladies that often develop into malformations because proper treatment is unavailable to them. The DFN Healthcare Program includes building Regional Medical Clinics in strategic locations, placing a Community Healthcare Worker in each school location, contributing to a scholarship for Dalits who plan to go into the medical field, and short-term visits from medical experts in the West.
Economic Development. Raj, a village resident in Central India, said, "My family lived in a leaking house made of grass and straw. We never dreamed of owning anything better. However, after my wife joined [a DFN] Self-Help Group, faithfully saved money and was granted a loan for our agricultural work, we were able to earn enough money to build a small house... I never believed my family could be safe and dry until now!" Currently, our self-help groups involve more than 5,000 families in 250+ communities. They teach money-management, vocational training, and provide ID cards to give Dalits the support they need to become economically independent community members.
Social Justice. DFN seeks to bring international attention to the Dalit cause and to see current designated aid to India earmarked for the Dalits. In May 2007, our International President Joseph D'souza and President & CEO Nanci Ricks, as well as Dalit leaders, testified before the Human Rights Caucus in Washington. Their visit is just one example of ways that DFN is a voice for the voiceless.
The mission of Dalit Freedom Network becomes practical through our model of holistically transformed communities. This model is based on an interactive relationship of Dalit Education Centers, healthcare initiatives in Dalit villages, self-help groups that promote vocational training and mirco-enterprise, along with efforts to raise awareness of the social justice issues involved in the Dalit situation.
We are proud to say that DFN and our Indian partners are the only people working in India today with complete support of the national Dalit leadership. This stance of total solidarity gives a distinct advantage to DFN as we move forward in the Transformed Community Initiative.
Nanci Ricks is the President and CEO of the Dalit Freedom Network (DFN). Through the years Nanci has been involved in numerous activities in her local community. Her volunteer involvement has included: beginning and running a support group for homeschooling families, leading a program to provide meals for those in crisis, counseling in the Stephens Ministry, providing meals for a lunch program for International Students, coordinating the local chapter of Mothers of Pre-Schoolers (MOPS), assisting with the running of Children’s Hospital Burn Camp for burn survivors, helping with a character development program in the inner city, as well as the various “opportunities” that arise when raising four children. Nanci has dedicated her life to bringing holistic transformation within India and encouraging others to get equally involved. Physical Therapist Nanci has her B.S. in Physical Therapy from Indiana University. She has published several research articles particularly in the field of pediatrics, and has co-authored a chapter in a book on the rehabilitation of burn survivors. Her present practice of Physical Therapy comes mainly on her semi-annual trips to India and during the Children’s Hospital Burn Camps. Nanci is married and is the mother of four children. She resides in Denver, Colorado.
Bob Beltz Advisor to the Chairman, The Anschutz Corporation Denver, CO
Peter Dance Director India Ministries-USA Tyrone, GA
Melody Divine, J.D. Former Judiciary Counsel and Foreign Policy Advisor, Rep. Trent Franks, Rep-AZ Littleton, CO
Joseph D’Souza President, All Indian Christian Council Secunderabad, Andhra Pradesh INDIA
Ken Heulitt Chief Financial Officer, Moody Bible Institute Chicago, IL
Gene Kissinger –Chairman of the Board Outreach Pastor, Cherry Hills Community Church Highlands Ranch, CO
Nanci Ricks –Secretary of the Board Executive Director, Dalit Freedom Network Greenwood Village, CO
Kumar Swamy South India Regional Director, Operation Mobilization- India Bengaluru, Karnataka INDIA
Rich Sweeney –Treasurer of the Board Director of Operations, Dalit Freedom Network Greenwood Village, CO
Cliff Young Lead Singer, Caedmon’s Call Houston, TX
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Phone: (303) 221-1333
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