Children are the backbone of tomorrow’s society. Every child has the right to live a fruitful, purposeful life. Yet, millions are denied this right every single day.
This article delves into my experience working with distressed children. And I hope it inspires you to take more concrete action the next time you come across a child in need of your help.
Working with BOSCO
Way back in 2007, when I was still interning with various organisations in the social sector, I had the chance to intern at Bangalore Oniyavara Seva Coota (BOSCO). The NGO had several centres for children and youth in distress across cities in India.
I was placed in BOSCO Mane, who worked closely with street children. Their building was a protected environment, receiving kids under 16 every day from various places in India. These children were either runaway, missing, labourers, ragpickers, abused or abandoned.
BOSCO had projects such as Rescue and Outreach to save kids from different areas of Bangalore, mainly bus stands and railway stations where they’d usually live. The NGO put the rescued children under its care, counselled them and made extensive efforts to unite them back with their families (home placement). BOSCO also arranged for alternatives like vocational training and education or sent them to the Government’s Child Welfare Center if this wasn’t possible.
On average, there were 30 children from remote areas of different cities and states. Some had good exposure on the streets, earning themselves some smarts although they were school dropouts. However, some kids fell down the wrong ditch. They habitually lied, were addicted to solutions and drugs, and were involved in thefts, among other things.
These children were unaware of the importance of education and the vast opportunities available to them. They were unfit to decide for themselves, and when left on their own, they would jeopardise their future and their families, alongside manipulating other children around them. Counselling such kids was a huge challenge, even for professionals.
SJPU and BOSCO
The Juvenile Justice Act was passed in 2000 to set up child-friendly law procedures and avoid police brutality against them. This law gave care and protection to children via the Special Juvenile Police Unit (SJPU). In addition, it monitored the Juvenile Justice System and trained the police to adopt a friendly approach while handling young persons. The SJPU in BOSCO assisted the Juvenile Justice System to help out with registering complaints and acquitting juveniles.
I was placed in the SJPU project, filing reports for the unit. During this time, I had the experience of seeing legal procedures in acquitting four young boys who were involved in thefts. The SJPU’s role was to assist the concerned families and the police.
Childline and BOSCO
I remember that one particular day, during my work in the Documentation Office, I saw a one-month-old baby brought in by the staff. The baby had been abandoned on a railway track. A good samaritan who saw an approaching train saved the baby by jeopardising his own life.
Having gone through the ordeal himself, he wanted to adopt the baby. However, while he was ready to go through all the legal procedures, adoption laws rendered him unfit to adopt. The SJPU then stepped in, seeing the case through.
Childline is a project undertaken by BOSCO for missing children, street children or child labourers. It covers nearly 81% of the Indian landscape. The toll-free number to contact is 1098. Once a complaint is received, the Childline team takes action to rescue the child/children. Childline networks with Government hospitals, police stations, orphanages, Childlines in other cities and several other NGOs to participate in the rescue of children.
Any citizen on a regular day can come across such issues: child rights, child abuse (physical, verbal or sexual), missing children, child labourers, children in distress, orphans, destitute children, street children, children in conflict with the law, runaway children. Then, the person can call 1098 for help, and Childline will help rescue them.
BOSCO in Present Time
BOSCO continues to pursue child welfare relentlessly. In 2014, it was awarded the National Award for Child Welfare by the Government of India for its efforts.
Established in 1960, BOSCO Mane today houses about 80 boys aged below 15 years. The centre still provides primary services: child and family counselling, formal education enrollment, Childline, SJPU, home integration and repatriation, among others.
They’ve also added two significant services:
After completing vocational training with BOSCO, the NGO then places the youth in different job settings based on their expertise. In this way, the institution takes care of education and vocational training and gives these children jobs, helping them build their futures.
The stigma and unawareness surrounding HIV/AIDS are still rampant today. BOSCO wants to change that, starting with children. They’re made aware of the viral infection, its causes and effects, and how to avoid transmitting it.
Besides the above, BOSCO also conducts regular workshops around Value Education, Life Skills, Child Safety, Public Awareness, Child Labour and more.
The institution remains involved in finding missing children through the Missing Child Bureau (MCB). With technology and a deep understanding of the missing children landscape, the NGO has united several kids with their parents or rehabilitated them.
During the lockdown, many children running away from their homes shot up unnaturally. But BOSCO helped find some of them in Bengaluru. They also provided the government with valuable data to understand the depth of this issue.
Save our Children
BOSCO’s unwavering efforts have borne fruit but the issue of child labour, abuse, trafficking and the like are still widespread in India.
Children are more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. As those with the resources to stop this, we must help them reach out to the right platforms. They’re the future and deserve a shot at more qualitative lives. Your one call can change their life, taking them out of a hellhole.
The next time you come across children in need anywhere, remember to call BOSCO or 1098 at Childline. Two minutes of your time is worth an innocent life.
This article is authored by Deepa Sai and edited by Ayesha Tari