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
Vikram could have been a target for traffickers
Vikram could have been a target for traffickers

Vikram was 14 when our team first saw him – alone, upset and wandering aimlessly around Raipur Railway station in the early hours of the morning. Our outreach team approached him and eventually persuaded Vikram to come to the child help desk for some food and water. Here Vikram rested and began to explain how he had ended up at the station where he was at risk from trafficking and exploitation.

Vikram's father had died and his mother worked as an agricultural labourer desperately trying to provide for the family while Vikram was studying in class seven. But he did not like school and one day decied to run away from his home at Barbhouna in the Raigarh district of Chhattisgarh and headed to Ahmedabad. Once there he found work in a hotel, where he could also sleep, and stayed there working illegally for three months before deciding to leave and trying to get home to his family. He called his uncle who was delighted to hear from the boy and agreed to pick him up at Raigarh station. But exhausted from his work and confused, Vikram got off the train at Raipur thinking he was in the right place. He did not know what to do next but was a target for traffickers and those looking for children to exploit into further child labour.

Luckily our team reached him first and once they had gained Vikram's trust he gave them details of his family who we were able to contact. They had already filed reports of Vikram going missing and they were relieved and happy to be reunited with him after three months of worrying about what had happened to him. We have since followed up with the family and Vikram is back in school and working hard.

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Satish and his Mum with his kite
Satish and his Mum with his kite

Satish was 14 years old when one of our outreach workers found him wandering around the station at Trichy. He was reluctant to talk and hesitant to give much away so we took him to our shelter nearby where he was given something to eat and drink and as he relaxed he explained what had happened to him. His dad was abusive and violent, and had a problem with drugs that made him lash out at the family. One day during an argument he tried to strangle Satish’s mother and their neighbours called the police. Satish’s dad was sent to prison but while he was there he committed suicide.

The family is extremely traumatised. Neither Satish’s mother or younger brother are coping well with what they have been through and Satish got into trouble at school when other boys started teasing him about his dad killing himself. So he ran away from school and found himself at the station instead where he was at risk from trafficking, violence and abuse. After working with Satish and his family for several months we helped him realise that he would be best going back to school, but by then he had missed so much study that he couldn’t get in. Our team worked intensively with him in all subject areas until he passed his class 9 exams and was able to re-enroll at a school near his home.

Satish, his mother and his brother all need our ongoing support to make sure neither child is at risk of running away again. The relationships between them have been damaged by the trauma they have all been through and we need to help them strengthen those bonds and rebuild their lives together. Our counsellors can help them process those experiences and focus on loving and caring for each other. Satish’s mother works hard cooking and cleaning for three households so she can support her children and Satish is now working hard at school where he loves PE and has started to make friends. He loves to fly his kite and dreams of passing his technical diploma so he can be an engineer.

Satish with Railway Children Project Manager
Satish with Railway Children Project Manager
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Adnan was found on the platforms but is now safe
Adnan was found on the platforms but is now safe

Every year thousands of children across India are leaving their homes and arriving at major railway stations due to poverty, abuse, violence and neglect in their families. We know reaching a child as quickly as possible is crucial before they become entrenched in street life. We are consistently focussed therefore on early intervention trying to reach these vulnerable children before an abuser or trafficker finds them. Our outreach teams are there at stations around the clock to identify children arriving alone and at risk as soon as they step off the trains. The team works to return children home wherever possible, and support children and their families to resolve their issues and make their reunions successful and long-term.

One of these children is Adnan, a-14-year-old boy our outreach workers found at one of the stations where we work 24/7. Adnan recounted his story to our worker in an agitated and nervous manner. His memories of home were hazy and he struggled to communicate his feelings. What Adnan carried with him were the horrors he had encountered on the streets. He looked as if he had spent months on the street—his hair had become a cluster of dust and the clothes he wore barely covered his body. The events which had lead him to the streets were an accident. While cycling in his village, Adnan had swerved to avoid a speeding car. His bike was crushed into two pieces. Fearing a scolding from his brother, he decided he could only return home once he had made enough money to repair his bike. ‘I thought my brother would beat me if he saw my cycle’, said Adnan during one of his counselling sessions. He boarded a train and travelled across North India looking for work. He worked in hotels almost 18 hours a day. He was barely given any food. One day, he was badly beaten by some of the hotel employees. It was that moment that Adnan decided to go back home and boarded another train and this time arrived in Delhi. At Delhi Sarai Rohilla station, he stood at the edge of the platform not knowing which train to get on next and feeling lost and confused, silently gazing at passers-by. One of our outreach workers spotted him and gradually got him to open up and tell them his story. After a more detailed counselling session with our Social Worker, it became apparent that Adnan was a slow learner and had trouble remembering events and names. The team tried to engage him by naming various districts and states. At the mention of a particular district in Utter Pradesh, Adnan nodded. The team began to trace his family and contacted the panchayat leaders, district and police offices in that state. From there the search led to a small village from where a child was reported lost.

Adnan’s parents had lodged a missing person’s report at the police station. The team contacted the Investigating Officer who contacted his family. His family had been looking for him for the last 25 days—our team traced his family in just two hours! ‘I don’t know how your team works…we can only commend you for tracing his family in less than a day…his family was extremely worried’, said an elated Investigating Officer. The number of calls that his parents, siblings, relatives and friends made to the team when Adnan returned home just shows how pleased they were to have him home.

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Our outreach workers scour the railway stations where we work 24/7 looking for vulnerable children alone and at risk. Earlier this year our outreach workers in one of the 3 Tamil Nadu stations where we have projects saw four 16-year-old boys and knew instantly that something was wrong. The children looked frightened and when the team approached them they could see that one of them had a long scar. As they spoke it became clear the boys had been illegally employed in a food factory near Tirukovilur. The visible scar was from a beating the child had suffered while working somewhere else, but conditions at the current factory were just as bad.  The four boys were routinely exploited, abused, beaten up for not meeting expectations and made to work for over 16 hours a day. They decided to run away from the factory and return home, which is when they were found.

Our Railway Children India team made sure these children were given the care and comfort they needed at our Open Shelter while their families were traced. At the same time the terrible abuse the boys suffered at the hands of the food factory owner was reported and legal action was taken. Eventually each child has been awarded compensation of INR 10,000 for every year they had worked at the factory and all of the boys are now reunited with their families.

Follow up work has confirmed that they are all now happy and living in a safe environment. One boy is learning to become a tailor and the others are about to start their vocational training through the District Child Protection Unit with support from Railway Children.

Thanks to the support we receive from our donors every day we are able to continue funidng these projects and ensure we have enough outreach workers working in shifts around the clock to find and protect vulnerable youngsters like these four boys.,.

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Jyoti
Jyoti

Jyoti barely remembers her parents. Her first clear memories are of working in a house in Patna, Northern India, when she was five. When she was 10 the householders ‘gave’ Jyoti to a relative in Delhi. Life as a housemaid in Delhi was even worse than it had been in Patna. Her new employer was a violent bully. “I was scared every day because I knew that anyone in the house could beat me for my smallest mistakes,” Jyoti told us.

Jyoti lived in a constant state of fear and loneliness. She had no-one to love and protect her and she’d never been to school. Eventually a neighbour saw what was going on and told the police. But she had no family to go home to, so the local Child Welfare Committee sent her to live in a government-run home for girls. And that’s where Jyoti has lived for the last six years.

Jyoti had missed out on so much education that she couldn’t enrol in school. With little to do, she and her friends spent their days gossiping and sleeping. It was a depressing existence - and Jyoti’s future looked bleak. Until she met Rani. Rani is one of our key workers. She’s been working with Jyoti for over a year now. She’s taken the time to get to know her and give her the kind of caring, trustworthy adult relationship she’s been craving all her life.

Jyoti was desperate to get a proper education so Rani gave her the intensive tutoring she needed to get to a level where she could go to school for the first time in her life. Jyoti is overjoyed to be going to school every day now and she’s a bright and responsible pupil. She is finally starting to believe in herself.

Rani told us: “Jyoti has made remarkable progress in her education and now she wants to be a social worker so she can help girls like her. I believe in her and we’ll stand by her to help her achieve her ambition. I couldn’t be prouder of Jyoti.” Ever since she met her, Rani has been working hard to try to trace Jyoti’s family. She told us: "We still hope that we’ll find Jyoti’s family one day but in the meantime,  Jyoti has found her family here at the girls’ home.”

Jyoti and Rani
Jyoti and Rani
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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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