Kalki Welfare Society is a local NGO in Pondicherry, South India, which aims to provide marginalised children with the opportunity to become active players in their own lives. Its project, Protection and Education for Street Children, aims to protect street and working children in Pondicherry and reintegrate them back into mainstream society. Over the course of the year, Kalki’s drop-in centre provided a warm, safe and caring environment for 147 children where they could access healthcare, nutritious meals, literacy classes, and arts activities. It also provided early childhood care for 106 children from street-living families, previously left alone on the street or in the care of older siblings while their parents worked. Forming the backbone of Kalki’s activities, its outreach team supported 367 children within the community and its Mobile Library provided recreational activities and informal education to 313 street and working children and children at risk. The project also reintegrated 14 children back with their families who are now being followed up on a regular basis, and referred 12 children, for whom family reintegration was not possible, to partner organisations who specialise in long-term care.
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International Childcare Trust has been working in partnership with Kalki Welfare Society since 2008, supporting Protection & Education of Street Children, a project that aims to protect street and working children in Pondicherry, South India and reintegrate them into mainstream society.Ten-year old Raj comes from a family that has been living on the streets of Pondicherry for generations. His mother is a sex worker and he does not know his father. For a long time he was in and out of school but since joining a gang about a year ago and taking up sniffing glue, he has dropped out of school altogether. Raj spends his days roaming the streets, committing petty crimes to pay for his drugs and getting into fights with other gangs.Raj knew of Kalki from seeing Kalki’s social workers around town and also from one of his friends who had been using the drop-in centre. Although initially sceptical, (thinking the Kalki drop-in centre would be like school), Raj decided to have a quick look around and then leave. When he arrived he saw his friend painting with one of Kalki’s volunteers. An art lover himself, Raj decided to stay and try the class. Raj now visits the drop-in centre almost daily. He is still not ready to rejoin school because he struggles to sit in one place and concentrate for long periods of time. He does, however, enjoy joining the drop-in centre art classes and has helped to paint colourful murals in the kindergarten room.He has now developed a trusting relationship with Kalki’s social workers and has gained the confidence to speak with them about his past as well as his worries for the future. He is keen to stop using drugs and through the support of the social workers is making good progress. For the first time in his young life Raj feels respected by adults and valued by those around him. He finally has the self-confidence to believe that he can achieve his dream of becoming an artist.
This important project aims to protect street and working children in Pondicherry and reintegrate them into mainstream society. During 2011 this project reached over 500 children.
Drop in Centre (DIC)Aimed at providing a safe, non-judgmental and caring place to which street and vulnerable children can come to escape the dangers and monotony of the street, the DIC has provided basic care and facilities to 147 children including healthcare, literacy classes, art and recreational activities to stimulate their minds and provide emotional care and support in dealing with the hardships of street living.Outreach ProgrammeSix outreach workers operate within the community, each responsible for a different area of the city. The backbone of Kalki’s activities, the Outreach team worked with 367 children in establishing trusting relationships with children, enabling social workers to consult with individual children in developing plans for their future with short and long-term goals. These development plans are the basis for monitoring the progress of the child. Mobile LibraryThroughout the year, the Mobile Library Programme provided recreational activities and informal education to 313 street and working children and children at risk by visiting seven areas with high concentrations of street and working children. It is equipped with educational materials and games, arts materials, sports equipment. The Mobile Library has been supported by local and overseas volunteers and is one of the most cost-effective programmes, with high impact and low costs.Early Childhood Care (ECC)One of the first programmes established by Kalki in Pondicherry, this ECC programme provides day-care facilities for babies and children under six years of age, who would otherwise be left alone on the streets, while parents go out to work. I n the past year, the ECC supported 106 children from street-living families. The outreach team identifies babies and young children left at risk on the streets and encourages the families to enrol the children in the programme. This programme has effectively removed vulnerable children from the street and provided them with care and protection. Adolescent Girls ProgrammeThe Programme for Adolescent Girls aims at ending the cycle of female discrimination, providing empowerment to adolescent girls by developing their self-confidence and self-awareness, facilitating their access to local services and resources. The programme reached a total of 166 girls, placing 96 girls (including 31 young mothers) into secure jobs after successful completion of training; and referring 35 girls to training courses, providing support to a total of 43 young mothers.ShelterKalki’s night shelter provides 24/7 shelter and protection for children most at risk of abuse and exploitation. Many of these children have been neglected or abused by their families or have been abandoned. The shelter represents an emergency, short-term solution to these threats, immediately removing the children from these dangers and offering them a safe, caring and stable environment from which they can return to school while long-term development plans are tailored with social workers. The shelter is located about 10km out of Pondicherry in 1.5 acres of farmland where the children are free to play in a clean and healthy space. In 2011 the Shelter offered protection to a total of 64 boys and girls, ranging from 18 months to 16 years, for one or more than one night.Children of school going age are taken to school each day and helped with their homework in the evenings. Younger children are cared for in Kalki’s Early Childhood Care Programme during the day. During the weekends the children are engaged in arts, sports and recreational activities. They are also encouraged to help with housework to develop their sense of responsibility.Social workers meet regularly with the children to discuss any concerns they may have. Since the Shelter is not a long-term residential institution, family reintegration is a core aspect of the work. Initially families are encouraged to see their children at weekends under monitored conditions and reasons for their disconnection and underlying issues are explored; if safe and appropriate, children are reintegrated back into their families. Alternative long-term living solutions are employed for those children for whom family reintegration is not an option. ReintegrationPlacing itself as a ‘transitional’ organisation, Kalki’s main objective remains to work with families and children so that they can be reintegrated once problems have been resolved. 14 children (10 boys and four girls) were reintegrated with their families and are being followed up on a regular basis. In the case of 12 children, family reintegration was not an option and Kalki has referred the children to partner organisations who specialise in long-term care. Additionally, Kalki helped enrol 41 children into schools.
In the past year, this project has provided care and protection to about 700 children living in Pondicherry and nearby districts. Each child is assigned a social worker who is responsible for designing a ‘development plan’, based on their specific needs and abilities, which outline the care and support they will receive. The plans are reviewed on a regular basis and help to monitor the child’s progress.
130 young girls who used to live on the streets and were exposed to all forms of abuse and exploitation have been offered protection through Kalki’s night shelter (when needed) and provided with sexual/reproductive health education, workshops on confidence building, educational support, professional training and job placement. Younger children (girls under 18 and boys under 14) who were facing similar difficulties or were simply left alone by their parents were also able to use the temporary night shelter.
The Outreach Programme and Drop-in Programme have enabled Kalki to be constantly in touch with the children (and their families) through follow-ups and the identification of new beneficiaries. The outreach team has supported families and children both on the street where they live or through Kalki’s facilities, always keeping in mind that reunification between the child and his/her family should be the final objective, if possible and appropriate. At present, the outreach team is in contact with 260 children.
The Mobile Library has brought education and recreational activities to more than 248 children each month, accessing those areas where no physical presence is possible but where there is a high concentration of children. Touring the town, the Mobile Library also provides education on health, hygiene and child protection.
The Early Childhood Programme, which includes a crèche, kindergarten and pre-school, has supported an average of 75 children under the age of six each day. As well as expert care by experienced and qualified staff, the programme offers nutritious meals, healthcare, early childhood education, and a wide range of stimulating activities for children. These children would otherwise have been left alone on the street or under the care of older siblings while parents are at work. This programme has therefore also enabled the older siblings to attend school.
Finally, with the recently started HIV programme Kalki has supported 140 children in the districts of Pondicherry and Cuddalore by providing them with nutritional food, recreational activities, health check-ups and emotional support. Visits by Kalki’s dedicated social workers have meant that the condition of the children can be continually assessed, while the support of the Mobile Library has meant that areas away from the town can be accessed.
Kalki Welfare Society supports approximately 700 children living in Pondicherry and nearby districts. Here are two of their stories.
Shelter: Subashni (5 years old)
Subashni’s mother is a sex worker and her father is a rickshaw driver and also an alcoholic. They have an extremely unstable lifestyle and because of this Kalki’s social workers encouraged the parents to enrol Subashni in Kalki’s Early Childhood Day Care Programme.
Subashni was recently diagnosed with TB after being referred to the local hospital by Kalki’s nurse. When Subashni’s mother heard of the illness she decided she could no longer care for the child and refused to go to the hospital to sign for her daughter’s medicine. Despite constant mediation from the outreach team and attempts to ease her worries, Subashni’s mother refused to assist. The girl was admitted into the Kalki night shelter to ensure that her health could be monitored, as well as providing her with nutritious food and a clean environment in which to live.
Today Subashni is healthy thanks to the conscientious work of Kalki’s nurse and carers. She is now able to play with other children at the shelter and has made many friends. Thanks to the stability and routine of shelter life, she is also developing well emotionally. The social workers are continuing to discuss Subashni’s situation with her mother and are in the process of developing a long-term developmental plan for her, to ensure that she has the best possible opportunities in life.
Outreach: Poomani (13 years old)
Poomani has been selling bags in Pondicherry since she was eight years old and has not attended school since then. She lives with her community more than 20km out of town and regularly makes the long, tiring trip into Pondicherry. Then, over three to four days, she sells bags in the heat and sleeps on the streets at night before heading home. On a number of occasions, she has been abused at night and often goes a whole day without food or water.
Kalki’s social workers met Poomani one day when she was out working. They told her about the drop-in centre and that she could visit anytime for lunch or a rest. However, she was scared that her parents would find out and she would be punished.
Therefore, the outreach team made the journey to Poomani’s community to start building a relationship with the children and adults. They took recreational activities for the children to enjoy and develop their social skills as well as informal educational materials to provide basic tuition. They began working regularly with the parents to build up their trust and inform them about Kalki’s programmes.
The next time Poomani came into Pondicherry she visited the Centre. She told the social workers that her parents had given her permission to come to Kalki for the afternoon as they knew the Centre could be trusted, that she would be fed and could rest safely.
With time, the social workers will begin to tailor a developmental plan for Poomani to ensure she has a safe and happy future. In the meantime, she has somewhere safe to visit during her days in Pondicherry.
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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.
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