The streets are no place for their young lives to play out
AT 13, Satender Sharma ran away from home to escape an abusive father. His father beat the entire family mercilessly and even killed his mother by hitting her head into a wall. To get away from a life of more abuse, a petrified Satender got on a train to Delhi to join the 50,000 homeless children already on the capital’s streets.
The youngster locked himself in the bathroom for the entire journey. He didn’t have any money to buy a ticket or food and went hungry for days. He managed to reach Delhi where he followed his peers, begging for food on the streets and faced constant dangers from sexual predators, child traffickers and drug addiction. He narrowly escaped an attempt into forced child labour by a tea stall worker and was lucky enough to meet someone who assured him of food, shelter and education.
Satender was also given the option of returning home if he wanted but why would he? This person took him to our NGO partner Salaam Baalak Trust’s shelter for homeless children where he was given food, clothes and more importantly a safe space. That was life-changing. Satender is an adult now and a volunteer with the trust that helps shelter street children.
The invisible children
No child wants a life without a roof over their heads and the loving care of a family. But the reality is that many children, like Satender, are forced to leave their homes, fend for themselves and fight predators every day of their lives on the streets.
Negligence, family conflict, violence, extreme poverty, are the circumstances that have pushed more than 18 million children to the streets of India. These largely forgotten homeless children beg, scavenge or work in the struggle to survive. Without documentation or proof of identity, they are often missing in the official statistics.
It is hard to imagine the fate of these ‘invisible children’ once the COVID-19 pandemic struck and the lockdown followed. They simply disappeared from the streets and from our consciousness as we tackled the new realities of a ghastly pandemic. While we wore masks and socially distanced, these children were crammed into night shelters, government institutions and some were put into quarantine centres.
The lives of these neglected children were already hard but the onset of the coronavirus made them worse. The first few days of the lockdown, the National Child Helpline was jammed with SOS calls from children asking for protection from abuse and violence – inflicted by adults.
Save a child from homelessness
These invisible children live in dangerous conditions and struggle with poverty and hunger daily. Give started its flagship mission – No Child Homeless – to support the welfare of children who find themselves at others’ mercy. Every child in our country deserves access to their basic rights. Support us to provide a protective and happy childhood to homeless children.
At Give, we make sure your donation does what it is supposed to – change lives. All it takes is ₹750 per month to care for one vulnerable homeless child. We urge you to donate online to our mission to save India’s street children from abuse and help in providing them with safe shelter, three meals of nutritious food, education to improve their lives and healthcare.
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