The kids of Rescue Junction
Bill Brower is a Field Program Officer with GlobalGiving who is visiting our partners’ projects throughout South and Southeast Asia. On June 4th he visited People First’s Rescue Junction in Gaya, India. His “Postcard” from the visit:
Nick Hansen of People First had the same reaction I did to seeing shabby-looking kids seemingly living at railway stations: Well, there must be someone looking out for them. Over time he came to find out that there in fact wasn’t anyone in the area where People First was working—no government program, no other NGOs and often no family for hundreds of miles. He decided to step in to fill the gap. Faced with such a daunting problem—transient kids, many orphans, many sniffing glue or doing other drugs, scraping out a living on platforms and trains—People First’s primary goal was just to meet the children’s basic needs. But the organization knows that’s only treating the symptom and so also started a campaign to increase public awareness of the problem and has an ultimate goal to work with the government to create a comprehensive program to deal with the causes and consequences of platform children.
Nick expects this process to take 20 years. Five years in and he says they are ahead of schedule. From my visit I can only speak to the meeting-basic-needs step, but this seems to be well in hand. I found Rescue Junction to be a clean, safe place that is providing dozens of these platform children with the support they need to change their lives. Obviously a big draw is food—but the kids are only eligible for meals if they stay for classes in math, English, etc. There are basic dormitories. They provide medical treatment, counseling and legal assistance. Where appropriate, “lost children” are reunited with their parents or other family members (over 100 have been thus far, according to Nick). People First also encourages a sense of responsibility; the children are free to come and go as they please. All the support they need they can get from Rescue Junction, but they need to commit to taking it.
Changed awareness in the community and government is difficult to gauge in a one-day site visit but Nick tells me they’ve also seen progress on these fronts. Their surveys indicate that the proportion of the community that’s aware of the problem of platform children has gone from 15% to 80% in the time they’ve been working. The police apparently are also seeing these children differently. Sexual abuse at the station has stopped, according to Nick. And the government is interested in promoting their program in every rail station in the district.
While there is still much to be done, People First has made good progress and seems well on their way toward meeting their goals by 2025.