Where street kids get a second chance at life

By Azera Rahman, IANS
Thursday, February 3, 2011

NEW DELHI - A 19-year-old girl pursues her passion at the Delhi College of Art, an 18-year-old boy trains in a hotel while studying in open school…It may be nothing unusual except that these youngsters were once street kids who got a second chance at life, thanks to a shelter home.

When one visits a shelter home run by NGO Udayan Care, it doesn’t take long to feel the sheer vibrancy of the children who were either orphaned or found abandoned on Delhi’s streets.

At one of the oldest of the 12 homes that the NGO runs in Sant Nagar in south Delhi, Isabel Sahni, a mentor mother, recalls the journey of Pratibha, who was adopted by the home when she was five and is now pursuing her graduation at Delhi College of Art.

“Pratibha was adopted from the streets of Delhi and had no family. When we got her to our Sant Nagar girls’ home, she was very quiet. In fact, she wouldn’t talk to me for at least eight months. Slowly she opened up and started mingling with others,” Sahni told IANS.

Enrolled in a school and provided with a homely atmosphere where 12 girls live and eat together, Pratibha flourished.

“I remember once we had taken the girls to a museum for an outing. While the others looked around, Pratibha was absorbed in her surroundings. She was very observant and I could see that she had an inclination towards art. Thereon, she was encouraged to pursue her passion and today she is studying to fulfil that,” said Sahni, who hails from Britain and is married to an Indian.

A confident young woman today, Pratibha said she enjoys spending time with her “family” in the home and assisting the younger girls in their school work.

“Usually, our homes have children between the ages of six and 18. For those above 18 and not yet independent, there is an after care home for girls in Gurgaon. But they made an exception for me and let me stay at the girls home here itself so that I can continue my studies with minimum hassle,” she smiled.

Jagdish, another Udayan kid, was rescued five years ago by a group of artists who found him starving on the capital’s streets.

Today he is training at the kitchen of the Hotel Crowne Plaza in Delhi, besides pursuing his studies from an open school.

Often with traumatic pasts, the children, once brought to the home, are counselled by child experts.

“Along with a new child, the rest of the children are also counselled when there is a new entry so that there is no rivalry between them and there is a smooth acceptance on both sides,” Sahni said.

A lot of children also suffer from tuberculosis when they first come in; so there are regular medical check-ups.

The Delhi government’s Child Welfare Committee (CWC) often refers children to Udayan Care homes which are spread across Delhi, Ghaziabad, Jaipur and Kurukshetra.

In most cases, since the rescued kids have no schooling background, they have to be tutored at home before being enrolled on scholarships in schools like Tagore International and Modern School.

Not just that, a number of girls have also been married off by Udayan.

“We have arranged three marriages for our girls and like any other family, we met the boys’ family, made all the arrangements, went on endless shopping sprees and got them married. I just came to know that one of them is expecting a baby; so we are really thrilled!” Sahni gushed.

Of course, there are everyday challenges like dealing with adolescent pangs, but spending enough time with the mentor mothers helps iron that out, she said.

“But when a seven-year-old decides to take a picture of the entire batch of 12 girls with the caretaker and mentor mothers as her family’s photograph to school, you feel it’s worth it,” she said.

(Azera Rahman can be contacted at azera.p@ians.in)

Filed under: Society

will not be displayed