Gollapalli Israel works among the Dalit caste – the untouchables – in the slums of Chennai, India. While India technically abolished its caste system, centuries of stigma remain. Traditionally, the only occupations open to Dalits are considered impure: tanning leather, butchering, garbage collection and manual scavenging – a term used to describe cleaning human excrement from latrines, streets and sewers.
Janodaynam translates into “People Arise.” Israel, who is Baptist, leads the Janodayam Social Education Centre. Three programs define the nonprofit’s work. Night schools and tutoring have helped thousands of Dalit children pursue a better education. A regional network empowers Dalit leaders from 132 local slums to advocate for their people. Through Janodayam, 5,000 Dalit women have launched small businesses. More than 900 young adults from Dalit families have earned university degrees.