Shahnaaz Begum is a 39 yr. old mother of 7 children and a ragpicker by profession. In the year 2017, her husband died after being bed ridden for a year.
As she copes with the loss of her partner, Shahnaaz and her children ( 3 daughters and 4 sons) have to come to terms with living on the streets. Living without a safe haven, attracts its share of mishaps too. One of Shahnaaz’s sons is suffering from burn injuries on his stomach as he had firecrackers thrown at him. None of the 7 children have received formal education. After the family came in contact with SBT, the children have been attending non-formal education at the Parveen Contact Point situated at Paharganj.
Shahnaaz recalls the horror of hunger as her family was on the verge of starvation on the unfamiliar streets, until she received rations. Her youngest son, who is 4 years old has undergone a successful heart surgery at AIIMS. As he recuperates, constant medical assistance and medication is still needed. At SBT, we are reaching out to our pool of supporters to once again come forward and help us help this young life.
No. of Families supported- 1234
My battle against COVID - 19 (By a child living in one of our residential programmes)
When I first heard about Coronavirus spreading in Delhi, I wasn’t really scared that much as I thought it was just for a few months. I believed that everything will be alright soon but the virus soon spread all over India, and taking lives of so many people. The thought of catching the virus scared me but I kept taking care of myself. The other older girls in our children’s home helped take care of not only themselves but they also helped us in this difficult situation. They showed the news on TV every day so that we understood about the dangers of the virus. The daily increase in number of people affected by the virus made us aware about the immense suffering due to the pandemic.
One day, I felt sick and told the medical social worker, who immediately took me to the doctor. I told the doctor about my condition and he asked me to undergo a Covid-19 test. I was very nervous, but luckily the result was negative. I was fine for a few days but then I started feeling sick again. I was asked to undergo another Covid-19 test and again it was negative. But the fever came back again and this time the report was positive. I started crying when I came to know that I was Covid positive, I felt really scared and my head was full of weird thoughts. When the staff admitted me into a COVID speciality hospital, I refused to stay alone, and insisted that they take me back home with her. She patiently explained that there were so many other children in the home who could be at risk because of me. I also knew that the other children would want to meet me and they would not listen even if they were asked to stay away from me. My sister gave me a mobile phone to call her or the SBT staff in case I needed something.
I felt really helpless and my head was full of weird and scary thoughts. The thing that upset me the most was the fact that I was the first one in the shelter home to get this deadly virus. I didn't feel like eating anything and just kept sobbing all the time and waited for the next morning. I kept thinking I wouldn’t be alive by the next morning. I had no idea what was going to happen to me the only thought that came to my mind was that I might die like all the other people who I had heard of or seen on TV.
At some point I fell asleep and woke up the next morning, I was given the breakfast first then the ‘kadha’ and later some medicine. I felt a little better and then all the children from the home called to ask about my health and whether I had had my medicine and lunch. They kept asking me to take good care of myself and to not take any unnecessary tension. Their chatter cheered me up and I felt more positive. They told me that whenever I needed something I could call them and they would send it to me. I looked forward to these calls.
A week passed and everything was going smoothly I had fallen into a pattern. The hospital staff was taking good care of me and the other patients. Then suddenly my situation worsened but I didn’t tell the doctor because I wanted to go home. I kept calling my sister and told her that I wanted to come back to home but she told me that I could not be allowed home before I had recovered fully so I used to start crying and beg her to just come and take me back home. I felt like no one cared for me and I was all alone.
I was ill but I would not tell the doctor because I desperately wanted to go home. The doctor realized that I was not okay when she checked my parameters and she scolded me for hiding it from her. She said that if I didn't take care of myself, eat the food and medicines timely then she would not allow me to go home. Suddenly I don't know how I just decided that I was going to get ok! And it was like I started feeling a bit better from that minute, the doctor used to make sure that I was taking my medicines and food on time. She took extra care of me since I was the youngest patient in the hospital at the moment and no one was there to take care of me.
No. of Covid Positive Children- 87 No. of Covid Positive Staff- 51
Off to the US !
Ejaz, who is originally from Bihar, ran away from his home because his father wanted him to become a Maulvi (priest in a mosque), just like him. Ejaz wasn’t interested in such a life. Tired of his father's beatings, he hopped onto a train which landed him at New Delhi Railway Station. Ejaz survived by working in a shop selling locks, near the Station. One day he met a man who told him about an NGO, Don Bosco Ashalayam. He went there and felt very happy. His father came to know where he was and he took him back home after staying there for 4 years. He was again forced to follow his father’s footsteps. It was only a matter of time when he left his home again and was back on the streets of New Delhi.
In 2012, Ejaz met a social worker of Salaam Baalak Trust, who told him about the organization and the facilities provided. He started living at Apna Ghar Open Shelter and actively participated in all the activities there. He made many new friends and started liking the place. He joined the City Walk programme in 2013 because he wanted to improve his English communication skills. Ejaz quickly learned the ropes and became a confident young boy. He also interned in a travel agency and completed his graduation. Ejaz had keen interest in Graphic Designing and wished to make a career in the same field. As they say hard work pays off – Ejaz has just been accepted to participate with full scholarship in the US Department of States’ Community College Initiative (CCI) Program. Under this wonderful opportunity, Ejaz will study graphic design in Snow College, Utah. As we send this letter to you, we are busy fitting him out with appropriate clothes and suitcase and the many exciting things needed to help him start a big chapter of his life!
Increase in Child Rescues
The pandemic has had an adverse economic effect on those already on the margins of eking out a sustainable livelihood. As a result, more and more children are falling into the pit of child and bonded labour. Ever since the easing of lock down norms and the starting of trains, our teams have seen an obvious increase in the number of children reaching railway stations and bus stops. Some of them are herded by child traffickers while others have simply run away to try and find some food or employment.
The Central Childline (1098, a national child toll free helpline) services run by SBT recued 30 children between the age of 8-16 years of age from Kashmiri gate bus stop after they received a tip off that these children were being taken to Punjab from Bihar to be employed at factories.
Sunil (name changed), 15, shared with the Childline team that it was not by choice that he was going to work in Punjab but just that his family was in dire need of money as at the moment the situation was such that they could not afford even 2 meals a day.
All the rescued children were sent to children’s home and are being counselled. The staff is trying to contact their parents. The process of compensation from the concerned authority has been started.
World Autism Awareness Day- 2nd April 2021
Have you ever found somebody’s way of looking at things so unique, you almost want to enter their minds? For us at SBT, while each child is special, children with special needs are the most endearing. They share their world with us with such honesty that it is difficult not to be a part of their adventures. We believe that children must grow in an inclusive environment where the environment accommodates all differences.
For example, a fish is in perfect harmony in water and cannot survive on land- it is considered normal for a fish to swim; in fact, anyone who swims effortlessly is compared to a fish. But we cannot judge or discriminate the fish if we do not provide the adequate aquatic environment. Thus, through trainings and sensitization workshops, we strive consciously to ensure that no child is marginalized on basis of development milestones.
Autism is one such lifelong condition, where the child’s perspective and journey do not collide with set normative standards of development. It is commonly associated with high sensitivity to touch, light or noise. It is interesting to note that the definition of autism has evolved with the society- from extreme autistic aloneness in 1943 to childhood schizophrenia in 1960s when even mothers were held responsible for being cold and unemotional themselves, to pervasive developmental disorder in the 70s. It was only in 1980s that things began to change and by early 2000s we had discovered autism as a wide range of characteristics very different from each other. That’s when the word ‘spectrum’ was coined to fully acknowledge and understand its diversity.
This Autism week we made our children at SBT aware that the autistic condition by its nature is not one of incapacity or disability but simply one of profound sensitivity in the most positive sense which given an encouraging environment could lead to a flourishing life.
No. of Children with
Environment Day at our girls shelter home
from the diary of Shweta Pathak, Teacher/ SBT
Its 10:00, and like always I look forward to a busy day at Udaan. Dealing with a bunch of curious, inquisitive girls is always challenging and exciting. Today was a special date which dictated the theme for the day -Environment Day.
As my girls finally settled down, I choose the topic of ‘water conservation’ over everything else. My choice was of course met with some bored, disinterested looks. This was a topic they had often discussed right from their sixth grade, be it talking of water harvesting techniques in geography, water conservation in science or sustainable living in economics they had had a fair idea of it all. But the idea was to see how much of what was in books was actually put to practice. More than just celebrating World Environment Day, we needed to see our application. To start with, we as a class identified some situations around us where we or our friends were wasting water and the alternatives, we had to stop it.
Discussion on its implementation within SBT
We could use the kitchen water for watering plants. We have started this. Our water storage tank overflows so we have started storing that water and use for washing or bathing. Instead of using a pipe to clean the open area we mop it and a pipe wash is restricted to once a month. Taking long showers is again avoided by fixing bathing time for each child
Story session -precious water and its uses This discussion was followed by a small story on the preciousness of water and they unanimously agreed on the importance of it, especially remembering occasions when in the middle of their bath the water runs out!
Activity Finally, we wrapped up our session with a small activity of ‘leak hunt’, wherein all the girls were given a task to find the taps leaking in the home and everyone who turned off a tap properly was rewarded. This proved an interesting and fun activity.
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