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Rising Beyond the Past, Creating Future

There is a very thin line that distinguishes right from wrong. But when a meal a day becomes luxury, every line disappears till gnawing hunger on  the inside becomes the only painful reality. This was Veeresh’s reality.

Veeresh and his siblings grew up in abject poverty with a single-mother  who did coolie work to raise her children. Whatever was earned, always  felt short of what was needed, till there was no right or wrong before Veeresh anymore. He had to fill his stomach somehow and that was all he  knew. So he would steal food or grain from home or the neighbours and  sell it for money, all of which created a lot of trouble both inside and outside his family. He would get beaten by his family and threated to get  disowned if he didn’t change. Finally, tired of the cycle of poverty, at the age of thirteen, Veeresh ran away from the small village that was his home.

He went to Koppal where he worked in a hotel for 3-4 months and then went to Bellary, to Mysore, to Bengaluru. His money ran out as he reached Bengaluru jobless and penniless. As Veeresh walked aimlessly through Majestic he came across an auto driver who, understanding his plight, took him to BOSCO Yuvakendra.

It was in the April of 2000 that Veeresh came to BOSCO. Mr Basavaraj took charge of the young boy and gave him food and clothes and reassured him. Veeresh was counselled on the various vocational trades available at BOSCO, and was sent to Bosco Mane. Gradually Veeresh started trusting the intentions of the people around him. Sr Sheeba’s persistent efforts at gaining his confidence finally paid off and Veeresh allowed her a glimpse into is life. His mother was immediately informed about her son’s whereabouts. She was so grateful to know that he was safe. His uncle requested BOSCO to help him with his education and future.

As Veeresh did not have any documents or a school transfer certificate with him, till he could get his documents from home, he was enrolled for training in tailoring. In August 2000, almost 8 months after he had left home, Veeresh went home to his mother and his family. His family was overjoyed to see him safe and happy and to learn about his life in Bengaluru. After obtaining his transfer certificate with the determination
to make something out of his life, Veeresh came back to Bengaluru and took up his education from where he had left off. He was enrolled in the 9th grade, completed his SSLC with a first class and went on to a diploma
in mechanical engineering.

After completing his diploma, Veeresh took up a job in BHE. Later, Veeresh started his own company which manufactures equipment for pharmaceutical companies. It now has a monthly turnover of over five lakh rupees. He also runs a school through Grameena Abhivruddhi Mathu Shikshana Samsthe – an organisation formed with the involvement of  village leaders and locals – and educates 60-70 children in his hometown, the same place that had driven him away branding him as a troublemaker.
Life had brought Veeresh a long way from the young child who had stepped into BOSCO with fear and anxiety written all over him. He is married and has two children, a man of vision who has a clear goal for his future. He plans to expand his school, currently up to 5th grade, to SSLC. He is also working on expanding his company in Bengaluru.

Child labour free ward !

Sector 24, Chandigarh has seen child labour for many years. No one speaks about the issue out loud. With the sensitization and mobilization of children in these localities, the issue was highlighted.

In collaboration with the Chandigarh Labour Department, Child Line, Anti Human Trafficking Unit, NINE is Mine and Manav Vikas Samiti, a Child Labour Free Drive was carried out. Around 40 children from Diamond children’s group from Faida and Helping Hands children’s group from Sector 52 led this drive with support from the Market Welfare Association and parents caring communities.

Pledge cards were signed by around 100 the market vendors. They took an oath not to employ any child in their shops. Sunita Dhawan (Councillor – Ward 4), Anil Kumar Vohra and Ravinder Singh (Members – Chandigarh Labour Department), Shiv Charan Singh (Sector 24 Chowki in-charge) were present in the event.

Technology Can Also Save Life

Vikas (name changed) had been missing for two days about which his mother informed Don Bosco Ashalayam, Delhi on 11 December 2017. This missing complaint was registered online on the ChildMISS application.

In the next couple of days, Vikas was found near Najafgarh and was brought to Don Bosco Ashalayam, Delhi for night shelter. After being produced before the Child Welfare Committee (CWC), Vikas was placed in another children’s home.

While filling up the details of the services received by Vikas, onto the ChildMISS application, a prompt showed that Vikas already had an existing profile – under ‘missing complaint’. As soon as the details of Vikas was looked into from the ChildMISS application, Don Bosco Ashalayam informed Vikas’s mother that he had been found and was placed in another children’s home. Shortly after being reunited, Vikas was officially restored to his mother by the CWC.

Building a Future with Passion

Sandeep works as an Uber and Ola service provider. He started off by driving for Don Bosco Shelter and then worked in the mechanical department at Skoda. Today, he owns three cars and has hired two drivers.

Sandeep and his family had come to Mumbai to seek treatment for his father who was suffering from a serious ailment. He was around eight years old at that time. At Dadar Railway station Sandeep got separated from his family. Possibly, they didn’t attempt even looking for him because they were terribly poor and did not have the means for his upbringing, Sandeep was left alone, on the streets!

Sandeep used to wander the streets of Mumbai and sleep at the railway platform at Dadar. Destiny, however, had other plans for him. The outreach staff of Shelter Don Bosco, on one of their regular trips to help street kids, found him and told him about the mela that takes place in Shelter every month. Sandeep decided to attend the mela, and soon after he started living at Shelter.
When Sandeep first came to the Shelter in 2000, he felt lonely and missed the freedom and the friends that he had outside. He left Shelter after a while and went back to the streets. Two years later, longing for a secure and nurturing space, he was back! Soon, he started attending school and regular classes. He went on to complete his diploma in mechanisms and started work as a driver.
A few years ago, Fr George Miranda, helped Sandeep find his roots. He was overwhelmed when he met his mother and younger brother. “It was an emotional moment” reveals Sandeep. ‘I was seeing my mother after that fateful day when I was lost in Mumbai. I never thought I would ever be united with her every again’. Sandeep built a house for his mother to give her a roof over her head. He also takes care of this brother now. He informed them that Mumbai was now his home. His mother found a bride for him from the village and since the last three years, Sandeep is happily married and has a daughter.
Sandeep imparts driving skills to several young boys at the Shelter. He asks them to pay for the fuel and lends them his cars for practice. Now, several of them have also bought their own cars and have started working for Uber and Ola as well. He hopes that these youngsters will understand the value of hard work and pass on the kind deed to others like them in the future.

Saving the Street Children

By his own admission, Sachin was an undisciplined student who only learned the meaning and value of discipline at Don Bosco Night Study Centre (DBNSC). Born the son of a local politician he had a cushy existence for much of his life.

Sachin got to know about DBNSC when volunteers from there came to his school. Curious and intrigued about the institution, he started visiting them occasionally. He took a liking to the place because of the positive atmosphere. “They taught me the real way to live my life. Yesudas Sir is an inspiration! He pulled me and several other boys out of difficult situations and guided us. I owe everything to these people!” reveals Sachin. Finding a quiet place to study at home was not a problem for Sachin but something about DBNSC pulled him towards the institution and he found himself spending more time here with his books.

Sachin attributes his 78% score in HSLC Examinations to his association with DBNSC. He went on to earn a degree in Hospitality and Hotel Administration from IIHM, Gandhinagar. He also acquired a B.Com degree through correspondence from Delhi University.
Influenced by the good work done by the teaching faculty at DBNSC, it was not surprising that Sachin found his calling in working with street children in the area of education. He founded the Sunshine Youth Foundation, which has established its presence across four cities. In addition, he is still associated with DBNC.
He mentors those “in whom he sees himself”. Sachin says, “DBNSC is doing incredible work. Boys who do not have a place to study or access to teachers who are willing to go beyond their call of duty have found tremendous support here. I would like to do as much as possible for them”
Students from various backgrounds find a common anchor in DBNSC. According to Sachin it as an oasis in a desert, providing sustenance to whoever comes by. “There is no better description for the place. So many lives have been put on track by DBNC”, he says. For someone who started off as being undisciplined, this sure has been a fruitful journey.

Children Shouldn't Work in Fields, But on Dreams

In many of our cities we have many mechanical workshops and stores where often we see children hired as workers. Thus, there is a need to make sure that the children go to school instead of being busy working as mechanics and helpers. A sensitization programme for the Bike Mechanics at Gokavaram bus stand, Rajahmundry on the concept of Child Friendly Cities Initiative was organized.

Mr Bhaskar Rao, the President of Vijay Gowthami Motor Mechanic Welfare Association said, “We could conduct a bike rally on the day of Child Labour to show our support towards the Anti – Child Labour Campaign.” All the other members of the association unanimously agreed.

The rally inaugurated by Mr. Vikram Jain started from Kambalcheruvu to Pushkaraghart. Around 80 bikes were arranged by the Association. Jain Seva Samithi, Sun Risers Riding Club, Abdul Kalam Welfare Association, Rajamundry Raisings, Rotary Club Rajamundry River City, Raising Hands, Helping Hands, City Bike Association, World Vision, Lions Club, International Standard Organisation, For Hope, Child Line came forward to support.
A few slogans that were used: ‘Child is Meant to Learn Not to Earn’, ‘Say No to Child Labour’, ‘Say Yes to Education’, ‘Children’s Rights are Human Rights.’
20 children from Gandhi children’s club, 22 children from Nehru children’s club, 25 children from Abdul Kalam children’s club and 15 children from R&B Colony Gandhi children’s club. The Rally was led by 87 civil society members. It was followed by a signature campaign with distribution of ‘Anti – Child Labour’ stickers among the bike owners.

Child Friendly Spaces at Police Stations.

It is a known fact that working with the city administration is difficult. When approached to set up a Child Friendly Spaces within the police stations, the Police Commissioner of Vadodara denied the request. However, with time and persuassion, Ms Megha Tevar Patel and Mr Chirag Koradiya, Additional Commissioners of Poilce, Vadodara agreed to collaborate with Child Friendly Vadodara team.

Between December of 2020 and June of 2021, we were able to set up a total of 5 child friendly spaces across Vadodara city. With the help of civil society members, talented artists and children, the first child friendly space was set up in Mahila police station at Karelibaug. This was followed by spaces being set up in Harni, Bapod and Warasiya. Local funds were mobilized by the civil society members to paint the rooms and gather toys along with a few basic necessasities.

Right to Play: We Rise

Children thrive in outdoor play spaces; it is a key factor to child’s wellbeing and happiness. Without this space to ‘escape’ the effects on their physical and mental health can be damaging.

Najampatty is a slum area where there are no open spaces for children to play. The only available ground near to the settlement is under the control of a government school management. The playground was polluted with garbage and was also a den to the drunkards.

Caring community group members of the area took the initiative to find a solution to this issue. They decided to contact the government school management and discuss the possible solution. With the support of Child friendly Salem team, caring community group members, civil society members and children groups cleaned the whole playground, removed unwanted shrubs and cleaned the whole area. Caring community group members convinced the school management to renovate the gate which was broken and the walking trail of the park which was filled with debris. The school also took the responsibility of keeping the park clean and guarded for the safety of children. The caring community group submitted a proposal to sanitary inspector and the waste containers were cleaned by them every morning. They also met the Inspector of the Ammapet police station and requested to visit the playground daily as the ground was used by boozers in the evening, which caused public nuisance.

By this initiative led by the caring community group and the civil society members, with the help of children groups were able to fulfill the dream of the children in that area.

Finding Home After 13 Years.

Nagarajan Stayed in Foster Care for 2 Years Where He Completed His Education up to 6th Grade After Which He Ran Away with a Friend. He Was Traced After 4 Years and Referred to the Tumkur Child Welfare Committee. He Was Then Placed in BOSCO Yuvakendra in January 2018. He Received Vocational Training at BOSCO Life Skill Training Centre, Sumanahalli and Was Trained to Become a Motorbike Mechanic.

Nagarajan desired to reconnect with his family and with the help of Fr Joshy Puthur and Mr Bheemappa the search began. Even though Nagarajan had only blurry memories, the team was able trace the family. Mr Bheemappa soon came across Nagarajan’s relative. From her, they were able to reach out to Nagarajan’s family.

Nagarajan was accompanied by Mr Bheemappa while visiting his uncle’s home in March 2022. It was a moment of great joy and relief for Nagarajan as he was finally reunited with his family after 13 long years. He was overjoyed to see his uncle and other relatives, but at the same time, he was also saddened to know that his mother had passed away due to tuberculosis when he was only five years old. The reunion with his family was a bittersweet experience for him.

Dividends of Hard Work and Persistence

“I have a dream. A dream of representing my country in the Olympics”, says Vinod Kumar. But his dreams were not always this big, his paths not always this clear. The elder son of a family of four, Vinod’s world was separate from his parents his younger brother from a very young age. He was always overlooked in favour of his younger brother. Vinod’s mother never tried to conceal her dislike for him and considered him the cause of all the trouble in the family. He had been put in a hostel at a very young age and only got to know his parents when he was sent back home at the age of 6. Once home, Vinod had to bear the weight of his parents’ prejudice. Finally, unable to bear the treatment meted out in the house, Vinod left home and walked away from the humiliation and maltreatment. He walked aimlessly till he reached Majestic railway station which was to become his home and school for the next couple of months.

“One day when I was sitting at the bus stand, I met a person I knew and he dropped me off at a place in Gandhinagar. It was called BOSCO Yuvodaya. That was in the year 2000. There were many boys like me there. Over there we would be given food in the morning and then all the boys would part ways. Many of them would gladly take refuge in the addictive habits of the streets. Some boys would work as cobblers and shoe-shines. Soon I too started doing the same. Sometimes I would sit near temples or in front of cinema halls and beg. I would eat whatever I managed to collect. But in the evening, I would go back to BOSCO Yuvodaya, and we would all get warm food there”, he reminisces. Then one day, a question changed his entire life.

One day Fr Kuriakose from BOSCO asked little Vinod if he wanted to study. Vinod eagerly responded that he would love to study. That was his first step towards a new beginning. Vinod restarted his education in BOSCO Ajjanahalli and the years spent there changed the course and trajectory of his life. He started taking an active interest in sports. “I learnt so many things in the years I stayed there”, he says. “I learnt to speak English. I started playing football, volleyball and basketball. I would also take part in dance, drawing, athletics, and quiz competitions. While I was in high school, I used to go to district level football matches. All the fathers, brothers and staff members used to support and encourage me a lot. It was his school years that helped him discover his talent and passion for sports. He completed SSLC, and standing at the cross-road of his life he decided he wanted to go home to his parents one more time before he started the next phase of his life.

In 2014, Vinod left BOSCO and decided to try life on his own. He started playing floor ball and he instinctively knew that he had found his niche. He has been a consistent and integral part of the Karnataka Seniors Floorball team and participated in four national tournaments. Vinod was part of this team which won several championships at the national level. Vinod received a gold medal and was chosen for the best defender award at the national floorball championship 2016.

Vinod’s journey has not been without its share of hurdles and difficulties. “I started working in different places including Swiggy and Zomato to meet my expenses. I still work in ‘Dream a Dream’, an NGO as a life-skills trainer.” He says that one of the best moments of his life was when he represented India in Floorball at the Asia Cup in Bangkok. “Hard work and persistence are the keys to achieving success”, says Vinod.