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04 January 2011

Dalit Child Sleep Out

Dalit Child Sleep Out

By Rebekah Cunningham

If you were to visit the Testwood Baptist Church car park in mid November you sure would get a big surprise! You may not be greeted by the deserted concrete mass that could usually be seen. Instead around a dozen young people transformed the area into their slum. Testwood Baptist Church youth had decided to raise money for charity, and raise it in style. Cardboard, newspaper and tarpaulin were to be their home for the night. With restrictive clothing of simply a thin jacket, and no hats, gloves, scarves or even sleeping bags, the group battled against the elements overnight.

The young people aged between 14 and 18 have a passion to see justice and equality both locally and globally. As part of this the group sponsor a Dalit child called Neha who lives in India. Described as "untouchable" and "outcasts" Dalits suffer discrimination and abuse in their everyday lives. The Dalit community make up around one quarter of India's population and are incredibly vulnerable to human trafficking. Segregation from the other castes is common, education is limited, opportunities are minimal and their lives reflect this. 

Youth Pastor Ray King said: "We really do not appreciate what it is like to have nothing. We have education, we have so much material wealth yet these people are literally untouchable. We will have raised well in excess of £700, but my hope is that out of this exercise, one young person may take it to their heart and want to make extra efforts to assist those who are in abject poverty. It is our duty as human beings to help those with real need."

The young people hope that the money they worked hard to raise will enable Neha to have a good education as well as help Operation Mobilisation Dalit Education Centres in Northern India.