Color Photos by Neil Brander, www.neilbrander.com
Black and White Photos by Nadia Wikborg
18 million children. That’s the estimated number of children who either live or spend their days on the streets in India. Many spend 24 hours a day wandering the streets, begging, picking trash, playing at construction sites and sleeping on the footpaths, in concrete culverts, or at railway stations. Some have homes in the slums and only spend their days on the streets. They may be unable to attend school because their parents cannot afford the uniform and book fees, or their parents may send them to the streets to help raise money for the family to live on.
What is it like for children on the streets?
Sometimes they feel tired; tired of fending for themselves, tired of supporting their drunkard parents, tired of bribing policemen who would shun them from one place to another and snatch their money… and, then they surrender. They resort to drugs, alcohol. Spirit, a type of paint thinner is a common addiction among the Street Children in India. It is easily available, is cheap and harms them beyond their imagination (Source:Hitesh, J., 18 Million Question Marks!: The Street Children of India, 2008, p. 16. Used with permission.)
At the age of 10, Babu has learnt to find what is useful from the heaps of trash. Once the bag is full, he will go to a “kabaadi’ and collect his days earnings. Two rounds, one in the early morning and one in the evening bring about 150 rupees. Babu will buy some candies for his two little sisters and give the rest of the money to his mother for buying food (Source: Hitesh, J., p. 15. Used with permission.) Note from NICF: 150 rupees equals a little more than $3.00.
These are the children that NICF is committed to reaching through our partnership with Vatsalya (www.vatsalya.org). Orphaned and abandoned children can find a home at Vatsalya’s Udayan where they will receive love, guidance, cousenling, education and vocational training. Those children unwilling to leave the streets, or that have parents and a dwelling, are the recipients of Vatsalya’s outreach programs which include a medical/health care program for Street Children which provides, among many things, health camps for children living in the slums. Vocational training is also provided as well as scholarships for schooling.
Quotes from Street Children
Deshraj – 5 years old, when asked what he dreams of for his future: “I have no dream. I must eat today… that’s all.” (source: Clark, R. Shane, When I Grow Up: Street Children of India, Positive Press International, p 43.)
Javed – 17 years old, when asked what he would do if given three wishes: “I would wish for every Indian to be educated. I would wish that every child receives a lot of love from their parents. And in the future I want more organisations to take care of boys and girls without parents, to never let them feel the loss. I want them to help these children build a future for themselves.” (Source: If I Were Rain: Celebrating the Spirit of India’s Disadvantaged Urban Child, A Youthreach Initiative. Ed,. Singh, N. 2003. Youth Reach Publishing, p. 279.)