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How to Help the Slumdog Street Children of India

Posted on 3 April 2010 | 4:23 am by

If you have seen the film Slum Dog Millionaire, you will be aware of the terrible poverty on the streets of Mumbai. Read on to discover the work that a UK charity is doing to help street children in India.

India is the seventh largest and second most populated country in the world with an estimated 1.1 billion people. According to the 2001 census, 78 million people are homeless in India and the country has the largest number of street children in the world.

UNICEF's estimate of 11 million street children in India is considered to be a conservative figure. The Indian Embassy has estimated that there are 314,700 street children in metros such as Bombay, Calcutta, Madras, Kanpur, Bangalore and Hyderabad and around 100,000 in Delhi alone.

India has the second largest rail network in the world. Children who run away from their homes both willingly and unwillingly use the railways to travel to other destinations. The train therefore becomes the primary mode of transportation and the railway junctions become home.

Street children move between cities in trains frequently landing at major junctions. Their high mobility makes it essential to work with a multitude of voluntary organisations across states in order to have continued contact with the children and provide support.

It is for these very reasons that Railway Children set up its first project in India in 1996. Railway Children in India addresses the complexity of these problems by primarily collaborating with local voluntary organisations.

MOHANS STORY

15 year old Mohan, was spotted at the Mumbai Central Terminus by an outreach worker. He was sitting alone and looked extremely tired. When the worker initiated a conversation with him, he realized that he could not speak or hear. Through sign language, he made it clear that he was hungry and wanted sleep. The worker immediately gave him food and asked him whether he wanted to go home. Mohan agreed and started walking with him. The worker decided to take him directly to the shelter where he was fed and slept throughout the next day.

The following day, when the counselor started to talk to him through sign language, Mohan showed a place called Nadiad on the map of India. He showed through actions that his father had beaten him, however, he wanted to go back to his family. He wrote his parents name on a sheet of paper but the police and the Gujarat Childline were unable to trace his family.

Every time Mohan expressed his desperation go home, his eyes welled up with tears. A decision was taken to escort him to Nadiad city in an attempt to find his family. They went to the nearby local train station where Mohan exchanged glances with a hawker. Sachin spotted this and approached the hawker. He mentioned that he had seen him in his village and was able to give directions. The moment they started heading towards that village, Mohan looked relaxed and began to smile. At the village, he guided Sachin to his house.

His parents were overwhelmed with joy to see Mohan. Sachin assisted his parents to admit Mohan to a special school.

Sachin was tired; however, when he saw the expression of Mohan's parents seeing their son after a long time, his tiredness disappeared.

To find out more about the railway children charity visit their website. http://www.railwaychildren.org.uk



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