My name is Tara Teng. I am Miss British Columbia 2010-11 and the reigning Miss Canada 2011. As a citizen of this planet, I am a modern day abolitionist and a voice for justice, love and mercy worldwide.
Speaking Up for Dalits
My name is Tara Teng. I am Miss British Columbia 2010-2011 and the reigning Miss Canada 2011. I am also a Trinity Western University student and I am studying to become a teacher so that I can help to provide marginalized people groups with the practical tools of education to lift them out of oppression and protect themselves from exploitation.
India has had my heart for a number of years now. As a Canadian woman of South East Asian heritage, I feel that it is important to stand up for human rights around the world and advocate on behalf of the oppressed. The Dalit people of India suffer from one of the worst forms of racial discrimination in the world today. We have a voice to speak out against injustice and it is up to us to ensure that their story is not forgotten.
Beyond the title of Miss BC and Miss Canada, I consider myself an abolitionist and will not stop until modern day slavery and human trafficking are eradicated from the face of the earth. All people are worthy of value and deserve to live in freedom!
Please join with the Dalit Freedom Network and Speak up for the Dalit people of India.
Miss British Columbia 2010-2011/ Miss Canada 2011
- a voice for justice, freedom and mercy worldwide.
Children from The Tapestry Church make new friends in India
Children inspire me; Their compassion, resilience and sensitivity to the suffering of others brings me so much hope for the future.
I had the privilege of spending last Sunday morning with the children of The Tapestry Church in Richmond. After learning about the racial discrimination that Dalits endured in India, the children from the church wanted to be involved! They proudly showed me their stack of letters that they wrote for their new friends in India. Regardless of the fact that many of the letters were written in crayon and covered with spelling mistakes, the message of love and encouragement came through loud and clear!
One letter reads: "What is your day to day life is a nightmare to us. This ranking makes us all sad. But remember there is hope. God is with you. God will help you. God works from the bottom. Anything is possible. Though you may live in this horrifying life. Their will be great joy in the following generations. Though you may suffer now, rejoice for this hope! The following generations might become higher, the pyramid of ranking might be changed! Though people may call you names and tear you're heart, We praise your perserverance. Their is hope.
-Sophia, your encourager (age 9)"
It warms my heart! Reading this reminds me of the hope that the children bring to the future of our world. The "Send Love" campaign is bringing together Canadian children and Indian children from across the ocean. I believe in a better future and a world without racial discrimination because these children are learning to view one another as more than equals...they are viewing each other as friends.
Some of you may have heard that yesterday I launched a letter writing campaign to send love and encouragement to Dalit children in India that have been racially oppressed by the traditional Indian caste system.I have been so encouraged by the overwhelming support from people in North America who have taken the time to invest words of affirmation into the lives of precious Dalit children who are otherwise often told that they are worthless. We often hear that a kind word or a smile can brighten someone's day and change their world; I have the incredible privilege to watch as strangers from distant countries send smiles and love to precious Dalit children because they see them as valuable.I wanted to share with you one letter for a Dalit child that arrived in my email inbox this morning:Dear friend in India,How are you? I hope you are doing well! It's almost time for school to end here where I live, and everyone is excited for summer break. I'm going to be going to school during the summer though, because I like school, and learning is important. Even if I'm in school, I hope to have fun. Is there anything you like to do that's fun or makes you happy? I like to draw, and I drew a small little picture for you. I have attached it to the e-mail, so don't forget to give it a look and do what it says!Don't ever forget that no matter what happens, God loves you and is with you always. He is an invisible but invincible God, and with Him, you can do anything.With love and prayers,Your friend in North America, Michelle
I hope this brings a smile to YOUR face as well! If you'd like to send some love to a Dalit child, please email your letters to me at email@example.com or Fax it to me at: 604-535-4248Or send snail mail to:PO Box 45645, RPO SunnysideSurrey BC, V4A 9N3 Canada I will personally make sure that your special letters are sent to some very special Dalit children in India! To learn more about the plight of the Dalit people or to hear stories of hope and transformation, visit www.dalitfreedom.net
Remember the days when we were excited to get mail? You know, real mail....the letter kind, written to you from friends or family members, not from banks or credit card companies. Mail that arrived in an envelope with a stamp on it... letters that had travelled across the country or half way across the world to reach you from someone who cares about you and was thinking of you.
I miss that kind of mail. It always makes me feel so special and worthwhile when someone takes the time to hand-write me a letter and mail it to me. I imagine that everyone in the world feels the same way, especially a Dalit child that has been told that his or her life doesn't matter... it must mean the world to them if someone takes the time to speak words of love and affirmation into their lives.
Dalit children are precious, precious children who have sadly, always been told that they are less than valuable, sub-human and "untouchable" by because of the traditional chaste system in India. But with education and empowerment- by investing the time to tell each child that they are valuable, worthwhile and capable of making a positive impact on the world- we can remind each child of their immeasurable worth!
Words of encouragement can bring life to a child. Tell a child that he or she can make a difference in the world and they will.
Because of this I am organizing a letter writing campaign and I need YOUR help to do it. There are 700 Dalit children to write letters to...and only one of me. If you believe that a little bit of love and encouragement can be multiplied into eternal impact for a child, I ask you to help me by taking a little bit of time to write a letter to a Dalit child.
Not sure what to write? Here are two letters written by Dalit children to their friends in Canada...
Dear friend in Canada,
Thank you very much for your letter and wishes. I will celebrate Christmas with my family. My father has taken new dress for me. I feel very happy. I like to go to school.
By Felix, Grade One
Or this one..
I received your greetings. Happy to see the words. I continue to pray for you and your family in the coming year, you will have more peace and prosperity in this world. I pray to God.
Yours lovingly, Suganya, Grade Six
If you feel moved to write a letter of response back to these incredible Dalit children, please address the letter as "Dear friend in India" and sign it as "Your friend in Canada/North America, __________" .
You can hand-write or type your letters, put them on the back of a postcard or email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Fax it to: 604-535-4248
Snail Mail can be sent to:
P.O. Box 45645, RPO Sunnyside
Surrey BC V4A 9N3 Canada
Write a letter, draw a picture, send a photo...but most of all- send LOVE.
This morning I've been thinking about random acts of kindness. It's the little things that we do for others. Things like helping a little old lady cross the road or carrying groceries to the car for a new mom who has her hands full already. It can commonly be seen as holding the door open for the person behind you or calling up an old friend just to say "I'm thinking of you and have a great day". Random acts of kindness can also mean bringing over a meal for a family that is struggling or inviting over someone who is new to town. It can mean having a cup of coffee with the man sitting on the corner of a busy intersection or bending down to help a small child tie his or her shoe. No matter how small or insignificant our choice of kind action may be, the result will undoubtedly bring a smile to others around us and maybe even brighten someone else's day.
Yet the more I think of it, the less convinced I am that these actions are truly random. The way I see it is that we are all intimately connected together through our place in the family tree of all humanity. We all share the same basic needs of survival and we all are looking for a place of safety, security and belonging. We all want to know that our lives matter and that we were created for a purpose on this earth.
Kindness acknowledges our humanity. Kindness says that we are all the same-- created with value, in human dignity and born for a purpose.
For a Dalit that has been told their whole life that they are sub-human... less valuable than animals... acknowledgement of their human dignity is revolutionary. To a Dalit child, knowing that someone values them and believes in them enough to spend them to school....this small random act of kindness can change their whole world and the lives of their children...igniting a catalyst for generations to come.
Random acts of kindness.... it's only the practical application of "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. " (Article One, United Nations Declaration of Human Rights, 1948).
HAPPY 100TH INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY!
Let’s love, respect and cherish one another, as men and women. I am so thankful for the courageous women of the past who have stood tall in the face of oppression. Today I remember the women and girls around the world who still face discrimination, violence, and gender inequality.
I once heard a poet say, “The most exploited blessing…to be a girl”.
Human Trafficking is the worst form of violence against women around the world. It’s turns beautiful, precious lives into commodities that are raped for a profit. Let’s stand up for the millions of women and children enslaved in human trafficking around the world! Each life is precious and made for a beautiful purpose <3
Let’s make every day International Women’s Day. Let’s learn to live a life of love and respect for others as we cherish human life and value. Let’s empower the women around the world to live in the fullness of their beautiful purpose as precious lives who have been created to bring beauty, grace and peace to the world.
ABOLITIONISTS UNITED TO STOP SLAVERY
Brenda Anderson- Langley Times, March 4, 2011:
Slavery has a much different face than it did 200 years ago, but human trafficking still exists and the damage it does is just as devastating, says Langley’s Tara Teng, Miss Canada 2011.
Today, an estimated 27 million people live in forced captivity whether they have been sold into the sex trade, or labour for little no money in appalling working conditions.
The abolition of this modern day form of slavery was Teng’s platform in her bid for the title of Miss Canada, and since she was crowned in January, her efforts have redoubled, culminating next week in a series of activities intended to draw attention to the issue.
March 6 to 13 is Freedom Week, with events planned in Langley, Surrey and Coquitlam.
On Saturday, March 12, Teng, and event co-organizer Todd Hauptman, will lead a Freedom March through downtown Langley City.
“(Abolition) has been on my heart for a number of years,” Teng said. “I’m dedicated to it personally.”
It is appalling, she said, to consider that girls as young as 12 years old are being bought and sold as sex slaves.
“People would be outraged to know it’s happening (here),” she said, noting a number of micro-brothels have been discovered throughout the Lower Mainland.
“It’s not visible, but it’s everywhere,” she said.
“I think people are not a commodity, to be bought and sold. If I was in that situation, I would want someone to speak up for me,” she said.
Creating public awareness of the problem is a crucial first step, Teng believes.
“We want to educate the public. There are lots of events happening in the Fraser Valley area.”
Along with the March 12 walk, there will be a gathering in Douglas Park, where participants will hear some startling facts about modern-day slavery, both in Canada and abroad, Teng said.
Scheduled to speak from a local perspective, is Langley City mayor Peter Fassbender, MP Mark Warawa is expected to offer a national viewpoint and Jamie McIntosh, executive director of International Justice Mission Canada, to speak from a global perspective.
“A lot of Canadians and Langley residents would be surprised, but hopefully moved into action as well,” said Teng.
Teng’s co-organizer, Hauptman is completing a degree in political science and communications at UFV and has been politically active since his teens. Still, until a few years ago, the 24-year-old had no idea that modern day slavery existed in Canada.
“I thought, if I don’t know, what about other people who don’t pay attention?”
“This is the human rights issue of our time,” he said.
Hauptman happened upon the subject while reading an article about Joy Smith, an MP from Manitoba, and her efforts to introduce anti-slavery legislation in the House of Commons. The story piqued Hauptman’s curiosity and he began digging.
“The more I found out — the fact this injustice existed in my world and, more than likely, my own backyard — it forced me to do something about it,” he said.
He traveled to Ottawa in the spring of 2009 to speak to a number of MPs and urge them to support Smith’s legislation.
Not every gesture needs to be as grand, said Hauptman.
Helping could be as simple as signing a petition or supporting fundraisers for organizations that fight slavery, he suggested.
Attending a Freedom Week event is another step. Among the activities taking place will be a March 6 prayer service in Coquitlam and a dance performance at Chandos Pattison auditorium on March 10.
The next day, Limbo, a play about human trafficking, will be performed at 7:30 p.m. at Christian Life Assembly.
The main event will be the Freedom March and rally in Langley City on Saturday, March 12.
Based on the feedback she’s received, Teng expects to see as many as 2,000 people turn out.
“The beauty is it’s people of all ages, from all walks of life, banding together,” said Teng.
“We’re standing together and saying, ‘This injustice cannot happen any longer.’”
Freedom March registration begins in Douglas Park at 9:30 a.m., with the walk leaving at 11 a.m.
All Freedom Week events are free, but donations will be collected to benefit agencies fighting human trafficking. For more information, go to Facebook and search “Freedom Week: A week to end slavery” or on Twitter as @freedomweek2011.
Education. Transformation. Impact.
It's the focus behind the Freedom Week project... and also the three mission statement words of my school-Trinity Western University.
Education is the most powerful tool that we can use in the fight to end modern-day slavery. Most people are unaware that slavery is still a thriving form of oppression and exploitation today. We suspect that our consumer choices, such as what clothes, electronics, accessories or food that we buy, may have been produced through the use of slave-labour. In our minds, these unethical business practices are often labelled as "sweatshop" labour because we simply cannot comprehend the existence of true slavery in our world today.
Yet every now and then, we must ask ourselves the hard questions..."why does this t-shirt only cost me $5.00?"... "where does my favourite chocolate come from?"..."who grew my coffee beans that I use to make my morning cup of coffee each day?".
If we are honest with ourselves in the search for true answers to these questions, then we are faced with two choices:
If we choose the second option, then we are forced to transform our lives into a new lifestyle of living social justice which will ultimately, bring us to making an impact on the world around us.
Ultimately, impact is the real goal. Impact is what the world needs. Impact is life or death for 250 million Dalit people in India-right now.
I may be only one person, but my small life does matter and I can leave an impact on the world around me. Personally, I am tired of living the status quo! I'm tired of seeing labels that read "No animals were harmed in the making of this product" but never seeing labels that read "No humans were harmed in the making of this product".
What does it take to see the 250 Million Dalit people as PEOPLE and not simply as statistics. When will the value of a human life outweigh the value of our own personal comfort?
When those questions are answered we will find ourselves walking the road of Education. Transformation. Impact.
With Dr. Beryl D'Souza
This blog post in long overdue, but still holds a special place in my heart.
On October 18, 2010, I partnered with the Dalit Freedom Network to host a benefit dinner in support of the 250 Million Dalits living in racial oppression and discrimination in India. Due to the traditional Indian caste system Dalits are viewed as the lowest of the low within the social order; the creator god, Brahma, did not even want them to be part of his body and therefore, they are literally the dust of the ground that you walk upon. One would think that such an inhumane practise would be unheard of due to its violation of human rights. Yet this is not the case. Although the caste system is formally illegal within India, many of the ancient practices still thrive due to deep rooted cultural and spiritual beliefs.
Dalit women are viewed of as the “Dalits of Dalits” because they have the unfortunate circumstance of being born both Dalit and female, which means they cannot reach enlightenment until they are reborn both a man and into a higher caste system. The life of a Dalit woman is so oppressive that many women would rather kill their newborn baby girls than have them suffer the life they live.
Why does these atrocious practices still continue?? Because no one speaks out against them!
Last month we joined with 130 Canadian women and stood in solidarity with our Dalit sisters in India. We acknowledge and declare that as members of the human family, we all deserve to live free and equal, valued and cherished. It was a beautiful night of both awareness and compassion.
Dr. Beryl D’Souza, herself the daughter of a Dalit woman, gave a moving speech about the plight of the Dalit women today. I also had the honour of meeting with a very remarkable young woman, the 2010 Canadian living “Me to We” winner Julia Thicke, who was so inspired by the struggle of the Dalits that she raised enough money to build a playground for Dalit children at one of the Dalit Freedom Network’s “Good Shepherd” schools in India. The Canadian women in attendance gave generously and many young Dalit children now have sponsorships that will send them to school and education will enable them to break the cycle of poverty and oppression.
Yes- change is coming. Oppressive social norms can be reversed when good people do their part in setting things right. You too can do your part in setting Dalit children free from oppression and rising up a new generation of leaders in India. To support a child through sponsorship or fund other projects with the Dalit Freedom Network go here: http://www.dalitfreedom.net
**For more photos from the event, go to my personal blog: www.tarateng.wordpress.com
Published a post
Joined the community of Education for Dalit Children