PT, Mon., April. 28, 2008
Tammy Hotsenpiller, while teaching a Pilates class at her
church in Yorba Linda, inspired her students to a higher cause.
She was leading a class of stretching and low impact
exercises when she brought up the Dalits, members of India’s lowest caste who
have been dubbed "untouchables." The Yorba Linda Friends Church had funded
construction of primary schools in India for them since at least 2004, but
Hotsenpiller thought something should be done for women, especially women with
The Pilates class morphed into a how-can-we-help
discussion. They hit on the idea of a women’s 5K run/walk to raise money for
vocational schools for Dalit women.
So on Sunday, despite the 95-degree heat, more than 500
women walked or ran in the second annual event organized by the church, hoping
to raise about $80,000. Last year, the church raised $42,000, which helped fund
the construction of two vocational schools and operations for two more and also
other services, said Jay Hoff, a pastor with Friends.
Hotsenpiller, 50, of Anaheim Hills, is the wife of one of
the pastors and a self-described life coach. She said Indian society has
historically blocked access to education for Dalit women, who sometimes have to
resort to extreme methods to survive, including selling their own children for
"I think it’s the greatest social injustice in our world
today," Hotsenpiller said.
Today India’s constitution provides for equal rights for
all, but critics say Dalits remain social outcasts and are generally poor with
access to only the most menial jobs. They are numerous, with population
estimates ranging from 150 million to 250 million people, or approaching 25
percent of India’s total population.
At the new vocational schools, Dalit women spend four to
six months learning how to sew and then get to keep a sewing machine,
"The women now have a vocation. We are making
entrepreneurs," she said.
The training and income have made a big difference in the
lives of some Indian women, she said.
Members of her church have made trips to India.
"We have literally seen women who have not had to sell
children into slavery for food," Hotsenpiller said.
Elizabeth Gonzales, 39, of Yorba Linda said it was hard
running in the heat, but "I was thinking of these kids, seeing those little eyes
and hunger on their faces."
Friends Church partners with Dalit Freedom Network in
Greenwood Village, Colo., and Operation Mercy Charitable Company in India to
fund and build the schools, said pastor Hoff.
This Sunday, Friends Church will hold a golf tournament
in Fullerton to raise money for a boys boarding school in India. That will the
14th primary school in India funded by the church, Hoff said. The other 13
schools are coed.
For information on Sunday’s golf tournament, visit
http://www.ylfc.org and click on "events."