In New Delhi, the Saga Charitable Trust is working with local charity Prayas to help rescue and rehabilitate young children who are found living and working at the railway stations.
There are an estimated half a million street children in the capital, many of whom live in desperate, dangerous conditions along the railway lines. The Trust initially helped establish a drop-in shelter at Lahori Gate within the grounds of New Delhi station, creating somewhere that children could receive food, clothing and emotional support in a place of safety. The Prayas team are on hand 24 hours a day here, offering healthcare, counselling, informal education and vocational training.
Not all of the children are from Delhi: some may have travelled from much further afield, attracted by the bright lights of the city. Their stories are all carefully documented and the team work hard to reunite them with their families – if appropriate - or settle them into residential care. This has been made easier by the fact that the centre has now been registered as a shelter home, meaning the children can stay longer than 24 hours. A second shelter called Nabi Karim has also been set up.
The project has been so successful that with funding from the Trust it has been extended to include Old Delhi, Nizamuddin and Anand Vihar Railway Stations, thereby covering the main arrival points of the city. At each location there are child assistance booths manned by outreach workers from Prayas, which provide an unthreatening place for children to seek help. Prayas also encourages the station porters, staff and members of the Railway Protection Force to look out for vulnerable youngsters and guide them to the booths.
Despite the dangerous and difficult conditions for street children in Delhi, some are fearful to leave the life they know on the platforms. For them, Prayas offers a less intimidating route of emotional support in the form of regular meetings at the stations. During these meetings they’re given the chance to share their problems and talk about the circumstances that brought them there, in the hope that eventually they will be ready to accept the wider help Prayas can provide.
To date, the project has given more than 4,000 children the hope of a brighter future.