Monday, December 05, 2005

Snehasadan - Bombay



Children from all over India start life anew on the platforms of Mumbai's Victoria Terminus.

Victims of abuse, or abandoned by poor migrant parents, or simply orphans, they join the 100,000 already living on the streets of Mumbai, a city of 14 million people, which draws them like a magnet.

The lucky ones are picked up by Snehasadan, the centre that has worked with children for 40 years, attempting, through regular and personal links to rescue them from a life of thievery and drugs.

Only some can be taken and not all will stay; but those who do can go to technical school and equip themselves for life.

Children under 14 are put into one of the 17 homes run by the centre, four of which are for girls. The home takes full responsibility for them and tries to recreate their lost childhood. Here they live with a family that has its own children, and are required to respect the rules of the house.

Some just walk away through the doors always left open. "To help them, you need to build your own credibility," says Placido Fonseca SJ who, after 30 years with the youngsters as director of Snehasadan, still admits that he has a lot to learn. "Most of the public see these children as 'things to be used' or cheap labour to be exploited... I am still unable to fathom the mystery behind these children. But we have given them an identity and changed their destiny."


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