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.
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