Protect 1000 Children at India's Railway Stations

by Railway Children
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Protect 1000 Children at India's Railway Stations
Protect 1000 Children at India's Railway Stations
Protect 1000 Children at India's Railway Stations
Protect 1000 Children at India's Railway Stations
Protect 1000 Children at India's Railway Stations
Protect 1000 Children at India's Railway Stations
Protect 1000 Children at India's Railway Stations
Protect 1000 Children at India's Railway Stations
Protect 1000 Children at India's Railway Stations
Protect 1000 Children at India's Railway Stations
Protect 1000 Children at India's Railway Stations
Protect 1000 Children at India's Railway Stations
Protect 1000 Children at India's Railway Stations
Boys learning and playing in one of our shelters
Boys learning and playing in one of our shelters

As life in India gets back to normal, and train services increase again, our teams are still providing vital outreach at the stations thanks to you, and we’re keeping children safe at our shelters where they can stay.

13-year-old Ansh is one of the children currently at the Ghaziabad shelter and he told us about what it’s like to be staying there.

“The shelter is just off the side street, a few hundred yards from the main station in Ghaziabad. This is where most of the children staying here are found by the outreach team. When they first arrive here they are often scared, cold and hungry so they get some food and medical care if they need it and then get given a bed in the dormitory.

It is quite simple and just has basic necessities but it is still a lot nicer and safer than sleeping on the streets outside. The team here makes sure everyone has clean clothes to wear and knows that they are safe.

While children like me are staying here we have access to lessons every day in the school room. We are taught maths and literacy and there are always books to read but we also get the chance to do some art too. That’s my favourite subject and I would like to make it my job – I love drawing and painting. There are special sessions on every week too – at the moment I am doing a karate class every week which is great as well as dance lessons.

When it is time to eat we all come together and for a lot of children they haven’t had three hot meals a day for a while so meal times are generally loud and busy. The Railway Children team is trying to trace my family.

It’s not easy as I can’t remember the address and I wandered a long way from home before they found me at the station. But while they look for them I know I am safe here and can eat and sleep without fear. Without Railway Children I would still be alone, or even with a gang or in trouble. I’m so lucky that they found me and that I have somewhere to stay.”

Thanks to your support we’ve been able to give safety and protection to hundreds of children like Ansh and our projects will continue to do so as India recovers from the pandemic with your help, thank you.

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The names in this report have been changed to protect identities.

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All the children we work with are unique. Some of them are running away from abuse or neglect; others are simply hoping to make better lives for themselves. Whatever the reason for their presence on the Indian rail network, each and every one of them is vulnerable for reasons completely particular to them. This is why our team has to be ready for anything when they are looking to help vulnerable children and reunite them with their families wherever possible.

This was taken to the extreme in Dadar earlier this year in a dramatic story told to us by one of our Project Workers.

They spotted a 20-something man getting off a train with a baby of about six months of age. He looked nervous and his body language aroused our Project Worker's suspicions. The team approached him, took him to the Child Help Desk and asked him to identify himself. He gave his name as Raju and claimed baby Prema was his, but he became very defensive when questions were asked about the baby’s mother (who he claimed was at home in Kalyan).

The team suggested accompanying him home to the baby’s mother – little Prema was distressed by now and clearly hungry – but Raju became even more resistant and changed his previous story, now saying they lived in Nashik. At this point it was obvious something wasn’t right and we alerted the Government Police, who stepped in to interview Raju. They contacted the police at Nashik and sent a photo of Raju and the baby to them.

At Nashik police station the image was instantly recognised. Prema’s parents had reported her missing and been searching for their daughter after she was taken in the night by her uncle. They had all been travelling together when they had transport problems and were forced to sleep overnight on the streets. When they woke in the morning both little Prema and Raju - who had a criminal past and was known to the police - had vanished. While this information was being relayed to the police in Dadar, Raju asked to go to the toilet and managed to escape through the bathroom window and run away.

Having made sure baby Prema was safe the staff at the Child Help Desk did their best to comfort her until her mother - who had gone through unimaginable distress in the 24 hours prior - managed to get to the station and was reunited with her baby.

This story is not a typical Railway Children case at all, but it shows how important having our trained staff on station platforms can be for a child. Prema is now in the only place a 6-month-old baby should be - with her mother and family.

Without your continuing support, our Project Worker would not have been there to sound the alarm, and the rest of Prema's life could have looked very different.

Thank you for everything you have done for the vulnerable young children we protect.

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Raju was found sitting alone on a station platform by our one of our project workers, before the coronavirus pandemic had begun. Our outreach workers persuaded the boy to come to our Child Assistance Booth (CAB) and made him feel comfortable, giving him some snacks and water. Our chats with Raju revealed that recent traumatic experiences at home had led to him leaving home and trying to forge a new life in another city.

On the streets, however, he was at severe risk of abuse and exploitation.

With relaxation therapy and counselling, Railway Children was able to persuade Raju that he was better off going back home, and he was reunited with his family and returned to school.

Then the whole world turned upside down

Just a few months after Raju went home, COVID-19 arrived in India.

Raju's family was one of thousands that Railway Children called in on to check on their wellbeing. We knew the families we had worked with had been vulnerable before the pandemic - the crisis, we were sure, would leave many in an even worse position, and we wanted to be ready to help in any way we could.

The lockdown meant Raju couldn't continue going to school, but that wasn't the worst of the situation. Raju's mother's work - the family's sole source of income - had disappeared overnight. The family's normal life was completely devastated by this, with Raju's mother struggling to feed her children every day.

We provided Raju's family with a food parcel which provided them with enough for cooked meals for the whole family for 20 days, and we linked them with dry grocery supplies too, to ensure they wouldn't go hungry again.

When she received the groceries, Raju's mother tearfully told us:

"We have not received any support from the government and my earning was completely stopped when lockdown began, but your help in this crisis is holding our hand and we will never forget.”

Times are still hard for Raju's family, but our work will enable them to weather the storm, and Raju is looking forward to getting back to school as soon as he possibly can.

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"Chandan"
"Chandan"

Chandan is one of six children and although his father, a cot-maker, works hard there is not much money for the family to live on. Chandan decided to quit school and go out to earn a living - but there was little work available in his village. Along with a group of friends, he agreed to go with a labour contractor to a big city in order to find work.

At first, Chandan worked in a sugar cane field as a labourer. The work was exhausting and the employer didn’t give him enough food, often underpaid him, and beat him regularly. So Chandan and his friends left, but they could only get work in another sugar cane field — cutting, peeling and packing.

'Severely beaten'

The work was gruelling physically and mentally, and the man who employed them was again abusive. On one occasion he found them resting in between work and beat them so severely that Chandan and his friend decided to ran away again. It was their good luck that the two boys were spotted at a railway station by our outreach workers, who took them to our Open Shelter. They were exhausted, dirty, and visibly weak from hunger.

At first the boys were too traumatised and scared after what they had been through to talk about their homes and families. We helped them to settle into our Open Shelter where they were given food and the chance to rest properly for the first time in some weeks.

Building a relationship of trust

Gradually Chandan started to trust the team there and opened up to our counsellor, explaining that he had come looking for work. During his stay, Chandan took part in the informal education activities and was active and articulate. Eventually he gave us enough information to track down his family and his parents came to the Open Shelter to be reunited with their son.

'Starting his own business'

We spent time with the family and worked with them to understand the dangers of child labour. We signposted Chandan to a vocational course which he is very keen to do, and when we followed up with the family they have said that he no longer wanders around the village with his friends but is learning how to repair bicycles so he can start his own business instead.

Thanks to Railway Children, Chandan's future is now in his own hands.

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Children learning again
Children learning again

The railways have been in lockdown across India and are only now slowly opening up. There has therefore been very little activity at stations. Our work has instead been focussed on supporting the remaining children in our shelters and in providing emergency support to vulnerable families who we have previously reunited. Team members have continued to stay in touch with the families to identify their ongoing needs. Special focus has been given towards children and education. 

Our teams have also adapted and have quickly identified vulnerable communities close to the railway stations who are in more desperate need than ever due to COVID. We have identified volunteers from each community to work with these vulnerable families. These volunteers were trained on child rights and protection. Initiatives have been carried to set-up Child-Friendly Spaces (CFS) at each of the community areas involving children from various age groups. These children will be engaged in Non-Formal and Life Skill sessions to empower them and guide them to have a positive and successful life.

In Katpadi for example in Tamil Nadu, the team now works with nomadic communities who have settled in and around the railway station and use the railway station as their livelihood. Due to the COVID-19 lockdown, these families have lost all their earnings and partners support them with a meal every day. There are 110 children including 42 girls living with these families. Because their families travel city to city, these children have never been to school. Even though their families have now lived here for two years – the families still did not think to enrol them. Our partner has taken the initiative to enrol these children into schools. There are challenges around this including lack of documentation for the children which is needed for enrolment and the partner is supporting families to get these. Meanwhile, team members have started engaging children through various classes. 108 children were enrolled from these communities and they are doing non-formal education and Life Skills sessions.  Children are now able to read and write English alphabets and able to write and read numbers from 1 to 100. A non-formal educator teaches these children with crafts and the children have started making garlands from recycled materials. Through Life Skill sessions, self-care was taught. Children started practicing it by attending the sessions with combed hair and by dressing neatly. All children are now aware that they need to wash their hands with soap and take care of their belongings. Drawing classes were very popular and the children participated passionately. 

Thanks to these lessons, 24 children have learned to read and write English alphabets and numbers up to 100. Parents of these children have expressed their happiness to see their children learning and thanked the team.

Back to school
Back to school

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Organization Information

Railway Children

Location: Sandbach - United Kingdom
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @railwaychildren
Project Leader:
Pauline Medovnikov
Sandbach, United Kingdom

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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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