In the 1980s, the making of Mira Nair's ’Salaam Bombay’ (award winning film) revealed the dark underbelly of Mumbai's streets, where several childhoods were at stake. A combination of socio-economic exigencies, political circumstances and parent's struggle for survival created a large population of children, living and working on the streets of India.
SBT provides a comprehensive package of services through its child helpline, contact points and residential centres. Salaam Baalak Trust (SBT) started out as a day care centre for street children. Over a period of time, we realised that a safe space is the most critical need for any child to realise his/her own full potential. Thus, we started residential programmes to provide safe child friendly shelter for children rescued from street situations and any other distress situations.
Compliant with guidelines of Integrated Child Protection Scheme and Juvenile Justice Act 2015, we have two Children Home for Girls, two Children's Home for Boys and three Open Shelters for boys to provide 24*7 care and protection services.
The Trust also has a vision of ensuring access of street children to high quality services ranging from health, nutrition, education, vocational training, restoration and reuniting children with the families to job placement.
Key Activities at Apna Ghar
ApnaGhar is an open shelter for boys with a capacity of 50 children. It is located in the Paharganj area of New Delhi which has a high concentration of street children, child beggars and runaways. The home provides short stay facilities to children between the age group of 6-18 years who are rescued from difficult circumstances with a view to reunite them with their families and/ or linking them to long term care.The children living in the shelter get their own beds, clothes and hygiene kits. They spend their day according to a set routine living with other children. The following services are provided in the home-
Food and Nutrition: Besides serving the prime purpose of providing a ‘safe living space’ to children, children’s homes offer a comprehensive package of services including food and nutrition. Children at the homes are provided three hot-cooked, nutritious and well-balanced meals. Evening and special nutrition is provided to children suffering from malnutrition and under nutrition upon recommendation of the doctor.The menu is prepared in consultation with children so that the food of their choice can be
included. It is taken care that each meal has a nutritional value and is a blend of proteins, carbohydrate and fibre and at the same time is appealing to the children. During the pandemic ,many children were unable to go back to their families and in order to keep them healthy they were provided with extra nutrition to boost their immunity. The total no of children benefitedwere 80 for the specified period.
Education: Education of children is given utmost importance at all the children homes. Children whether coming for short stay or long stay are exposed to and involved in educational activities. Given the differential learning needs of children, education is imparted through formal, informal and open schooling. In-house classes are conducted by SBT teachers in a play-way and participatory manner keeping in mind the interest of the child. In a short stay home more focus is alsoto equally work on the functional life skills of children.
During the reporting period, 25 children were linked to formal school, 52 children with non-formal school and 3 with open schooling from July to December.
Efforts were made to connect children with academics virtually so that they don’t miss out on their homework and classes.The team at the centre swiftly upgraded the infrastructure and created a computer lab with good bandwidth and sufficient computers. This helped children to keep pace with their school curriculum and be engaged.
Teacher training programme was also started to help them hone their skills to adapt to the new technology process. It empowered the teachers with the first hand understanding of how online classes are conducted and how to best design online lessons for children.
Medical Care: The social medical worker organises regular check-ups and vaccination camps of children. SBT’s in-house doctors conduct these check-ups and camps. Additionally, dental, eye and ear-nose and throat (ENT) check-ups are also conducted at the centres.80 children were provided with the medical care.
During the lockdown, the doctor visited once a week for the check-up of all children. Hygiene kits comprising of sanitizers, soaps, masks were provided to all the children. Multivitamins were also provided so that children do not fall sick.The medical social workers took regular sessions with the children about maintaining hygiene.
Strict protocols were put in place to prevent any infection and the spread of virus.
Mental Health and Psychological Support: Children coming from street situations need intensive therapy as they have been exposed to all forms of abuse and have traumatic history making them more vulnerable to mental health concerns. There is a full-time appointed counsellor in the home who takes regular one on one and group sessions with all the children.
In the past 6 months, the focus was on anger issues, stress reduction as children felt irritated and anxious due to the pandemic .
The team at Apna Ghar had been staying at the home 24*7 to take care of the children as there was restriction on daily movement. Regular staff support sessions were arranged for the staff by trained Psychologists so that there were fewer instances of burnout and fear due to the scenario.
Vocational Training and Job Placement: Children who are above 16 and/or have completed Class 10 are linked to a wide range of vocational training courses. A career counsellor matches children’s skill sets and interest with suitable courses. Based on counsellor’s recommendation children join vocational courses of their choice. Children at SBTchildren’s homes often opt for computer, travel and tourism, fashion designing, beauty culture and hotel management courses. Upon completion of their vocational training courses children are also assisted in finding gainful employment. The centre teams help children in applying for jobs. 5 children were linked with vocational trainings such as baking, photography .
Restoration and Rehabilitation: Those children who are missing or run away from their homes often long for their families. The centre team makes effort to reunite the children with their families after a thorough analysis of the situation of the family. Children who can’t be sent back to their families due to various issues are transferred to a long term children home.
32 children during the reporting period wererestoredback to their family .Restoration work had been slow in the past few months as there were restrictions on the movement.
Art and Recreation-: Over the past 32 years, the approach has always been to rely on the never-say-die spirit of the children. The engagement of children in various forms of art has been important.
"Art has always been a fundamental at Salaam Baalak, whether visual, performance or cinematic”. There are numerous stories of children responding to the arts in miraculous ways, including wishing to go back home, abandoning drugs, making friends, getting encouraged to discuss their lives, finding their homes, and most of the times, finding themselves. The 'catharsis' happens here on different levels. Many of the children have gone on to become successful choreographers, photographers, puppeteers, actors, and their capacity to earn money as well as respect in the society as artists is great.
Due to the pandemic, children could not go for their creative classes as planned but efforts were made to link them with music, theatre and art classes virtually. Many volunteers took these sessions and it also helped children to cope with the lockdown stress and fear.
- NewchallengesemergedduetoCOVID-19pandemic.Movementofstaffwasrestricted for some time duringthisperiod and there was staff shortage initially.
- Due to the lockdown, many children experienced mood swings and other psychological issues which were then addressed by the counselor.
SBT team plans to start proactive work on restoration of children since many children got stuck due to the pandemic and were eager to reunite with their families.