Music, Movies, To be Free to "Do Their Own Thing"
The Older Boys
Children in Holland learn about Sadak Chaaps
These Questions and Answers are part of the communications designed to help young people in Holland understand the situation of street children in India.
Questions from the Lenten Campaign of Bilance:
Carla den Hartog: Campagne Centre Bilance
Mar 8 17:08:25 1999
Date: Sun, 07 Mar 1999 16:11:43
About their families? Where do the children's parents come from? (Have they always lived in Mumbai?)
They come from different states in the country and may have migrated to the cities in their states or still in the country (village). A very small percentage of children are from Mumbai.
What kind of problems does the family have?
80% of the cases are due to families living in poverty, Their parents are mostly poor and bear the brunt of being poor in the villages. They may have a small house in the village but may not have enough money for food..They may earn in kind eg. food grains but it is not really sufficient for the family to sustain.Job options are few or non-existent, as they may be mostly working as laborers for a farmer or may be doing other menial jobs which do not fetch them much.(Job options in the village are fewer compared to the city.)
The rest of the boys leave home as a result of a combination of other social causes. Step mothers, or either parent marrying again. Unable to cope with a drunken father. Children who do not want to go to school, or failure in the school system. May have done some small crime and have no face to stay on.
All this gets compounded by the fact that the situation at home may be stressed due to having to cope with all this. The best option the child finds is to run away from all this stress. This is the way he decides try protect himself.
Children also leave home due to attraction to the cities and all the glamour the city has to offer which is not available in a small towns and villages. Eg. Films, videos, food and an income, even if it means just rag picking.
Have their parents learned to read and write and where did they learn it? - and if they haven't, why didn't they go to school?
Going thru 'formal education has never been a priority for most of these parents. As they have had to spend all their energy trying to survive and therefore they have very good survival skills but have never been thru' formal education.
Their day to day life? How many children come to the centre?
Every centre has different patterns. It is a combination of children who more or less make it like their permanent home and those for whom it is transitory in nature. Maybe while they are in the city or a in a particular job they may live in a particular center that suits them.
In each center the numbers of this combination keep changing . It is therefore difficult to maintain an attendance chart . However the Churchgate shelter has an average of 100-150 boys. There are times when it goes up to 200 . Byculla has anything from 50-100 depending on the season. (Night Shelters)
If the children work, what kind of work do they do?
Ragpicking (paper, plastic ,bottles, etc) cooks or helpers for catering companies who cater to large gatherings like marriages and so on. Begging, petty vending on local and outstation trains, boot polishing at railway stations,etc.
Solid waste management in the different communities where the Federation works this includes garbage composting
Others have trained as :
What kind of illnesses occur?
Skin infections (for those who rag pick as they mostly work out of garbage dumps and have to handle garbage).
They are accident prone as they travel ticket-less and travel recklessly on the trains.
Infectious diseases like jaundice, common colds and fever, gastro and respiratory related illnesses are common.
A typical Indian dish eaten at the Centre.
Mostly dhal (lentil) and rice with a vegetable /pulses . Once a week they have a non vegetarian meal of chicken or mutton with rice .
What kind of religious feast days do you have and how are they celebrated (special clothes, food, rituals etc.)?
All festivals that are fun get celebrated like:
Ganesh utsav(every year the boys get an image of the lord Ganesh ( the elephant god of good luck) and follow all the religious rituals for 15 days or so till the day of immersion. Holi (festival of colors) Christmas and New Year, Id, Diwali ,(Hindu festival of lights and New Year), when they burst crackers, some rituals ,good food and some more movies.
It really does not matter which religious background. Irrespective of this everyone enjoys all festivals and uses it as an reason to have a good time.
The future?. What do the children expect from the future?
These children are not used to looking at the future . Their life on the streets makes them street wise and teaches them to live one day at a time . As they grow older they begin to get more consistent with what they want to do and seek a stable kind of job and place to stay. They may want to marry and are mostly given a place by the federation or mahila milan in which any of the settlements. Our job is to create this space for them so that they have a secure transition into adult hood and use the leadership from the federation as their role models. This way they get a purpose to continue to do something meaningful and yet realistic.
What kind of work do they want to do when they grow up?
As mentioned earlier they all learn a skill or two and take up a consistent job . They mostly move out of rag-picking into managing garbage and training middle class and poor communities in composting. Others are drivers, electricians etc. They continue with the other jobs mentioned above
To what age can the children come to Sadak Chaap, and is there any kind of guidance when they're older?
Children come to Sadak Chaap from the age of 5-6 years , we have also had 4 year olds come. (The Magic Bus)
The repertoire of resources from the SlumDwellers Federation is that the children have as their assets to begin with . The leadership many times are like their role models and create the space and direction for their life All you do is increase the number of options he has to choose from and he knows very well that the back up of this team is available if he chooses.