HELP FOR CHILDREN ON THE STREETS

Radhika lives on the streets, but is full of hope: she now has the chance to attend lessons for two hours each evening and can get help when she’s ill
Tousands of children sleep unprotected on the pavements of Kolkata's redlight areas and slums
the children look forward to their lessons and their teacher every evening
Bengali and English, numbers and arithmetic – the children’s thirst for knowledge is insatiable
Radhika’s family have health cards and access to a doctor when needed
a general practitioner holds a surgery twice a week; an ophthalmologist once a month

Radhika is eight years old and lives in the slums of Kolkata.
The pavement is her bed. When night falls, she spreads out old newspapers and cardboard, lays a plastic sheet on top and is happy that she at least has a blanket to protect her and keep herself warm. During the day she scavenges the rubbish tips – she is what’s known as a rag- picker – looking for scrap metal, plastic, rags – anything that she can sell for a few rupees. It is an appalling way to live, surrounded by filth and the accompanying stench, but it’s her only way to survive.
As of a few months, the young Indian girl has something to look forward to and the hope that things may one day be a bit better. She now has the chance to learn how to read and write! A teacher, financed by the Austrian Charity ‚ZUKI- Zukunft für Kinder’ (A Future for Children) comes to the slums for two hours every evening to teach the children. Radhika is very proud; she already knows the alphabet and how to write her own name. Once a week, a doctor, also financed by ZUKI – Zukunft fuer Kinder’, sets-up a mobile surgery in the slums offering free medical care; he has helped Radhikas mother deal with her chronic respiratory problems (a symptom of poor nutrition and the highest levels of air pollution in India). All this is much needed help in the slums of Kolkata!

In 2010, the charity ‚ZUKI – Zukunft fuer Kinder’ took another important step towards helping the poorest of the poor living in the slums of Kolkata. As our children’s homes and school are currently full and the cost of land and building is very high in Kolkata, a strategic decision was taken to provide help outside of our existing projects in order to reduce the plight of those still living in the slums.



Project Streetwork:
As a result, Xavier Raj Arul, our project Manager in Kolkata embarked upon a new venture ‘Streetwork’ where help is given to the children there where they live, namely directly on the streets in the slums.
There are currently 150 children registered within Project Streetwork and each child has been issued with a registration ID featuring their name and photo. Registration helps monitor their attendance and ensures a certain level of continuity and sustainability. During the day these children work as ragpickers, scavenging the rubbish tips for anything that can be sold for a few rupees – scraps of fabric, metal, glass, plastic etc.

Mobile classrooms: In the evenings, between the hours of 8pm and 10pm, they come together (at one of three locations) on the pavement and sit on plastic sheeting – a mobile classroom – and start to learn: the ABC in English and Bengali, poems and songs in both languages, numbers and basic arithmetic, drawing…They have exercise book, pencils and crayons and will shortly receive their first books. Four teachers, working from Monday to Friday are assisted by two pupils from the Nalanda School, themselves ex-street children, now able to pass on the help and knowledge that they have received to others.
After two hours of lessons, the children are given something small to eat, a banana, a few biscuits, a piece of bread…Proper meals are deliberately not given as the aim is to encourage children wishing to learn as opposed to encouraging attendance for the sake of a meal – a hard, but necessary distinction. A previous attempt to feed the children lead to huge numbers of people arriving at the mobile classrooms all eager to be fed; lessons had to be suspended until things calmed down.

The first achievements: During our annual visit in October 2010, the pupils from one of the streetwork loccations proudly demonstrated what they had already learned. They sang the ABC, counted to 100, sang Twinkle, twinkle little star in English – and all that between the exhaust fumes and filth beside a busy road, heaving with traffic and with the constant beeping of horns a permanent accompaniment to their efforts – an oasis of hope and joy which we found extremely moving!


Medical care:
Twice a week, a doctor accompanied by a nurse travels to the slums in a second-hand ambulance and holds a surgery for those registered with the streetwork project. Medical cards are kept for each child and his/her family members. Those seeking assistance queue up and wait to be examined by the doctor before a nurse distributes the prescribed medication. Once a month an ophthalmologist also travels to the slums and sets-up a mobile clinic.
Blankets and clothes: Once a year blankets and clothing are distributed among those registered and recently additional finance has been provided for roll-up mattresses, blankets and mosquito nets.





Your support:
If you would like to support this project on an ongoing basis, then why not become a sponsor! By entering into a monthly sponsorship you can provide one or more street children with the opportunity to receive a basic education and medical care. As such, you help reduce the plight of the poorest of the poor and provide the children with the basis of a life with some hope for a better future.