By DB YaR Forum
On New Year’s Eve in Delhi, Fr. Koshy stopped at the red signal at Palam flyover on his way back from office. He saw a little girl playing with coins and then rushing with joy to the red signal. She was begging at the traffic signal of Palam. He noticed many more children joyfully rushing to the road at the turn of the red light.
Friends of street involved children, began from this point. Miss. Sonia who was working in a star hotel gave up her job to dedicate her life for these children. Sonia asked them, “Will you be friends with us?” The children with all their innocence replied with a prompt yes. It was a touching moment for Sonia who began to work for them. Sonia became a regular visitor to their slum- Hairjan-Basti, Palam fly over- Delhi.
The initial response was not welcoming from the parents. They were worried about children being stolen away. The daily visits and the friendly approach paved the way slowly. Her interest was to help the children in the education and get them out of begging. Ten year old Akaash met with scooter accident while he was rushing to fetch drinking water. The treatment was sponsored by Don Bosco YaR Forum. Vijay Kumar a slum boy touched a live electric wire with his bare hand and was seriously injured; He too was helped by the Forum. All these incidents and many more helped in building trust among the parents and the children.
Soon Sonia started giving non- formal education to children in the evenings in a park near the Health Center and continued for 8 months. But later on MCD authorities asked her to stop the activities from the park. Meanwhile DB YaR forum staff and holy family orphanage girls joined together and conducted a Mela. There were games, dance and singing and distribution of prizes. Such programs boosted their confidence and motivated the children.
After objection was raised from MCD authorities Sonia continued the education under the fly over. The place was too dirty to sit and study and was dangerous for children. The non-formal education was shifted back to the slum and continued there for two months.
She approached the pujari of the Shiv mandir for a place to give basic education to the children. He allowed her to teach the children near the mandir but the faithful did not like this act of charity. So again Sonia shifted her children to the back of the temple. Sonia’s school for slum children became a mobile school, like an oratory of Don Bosco.
A research was conducted by the Forum to get the accurate statistics of the slum. Using the report, the Fathers approached the Delhi education department. Their request was to use the school space after the school hours and to offer bridge course before admitting them into formal school. Authorities neither cared for them nor heard their voice. The effort continued by approaching various leaders of political party, but no response came from them too. Mrs Beena Tandon head of the State Education department also responded negatively. DB YaR forum managed to approach Chief Minister’s office. A positive nod came that these children will be enrolled in the government schools, but the appeal for government or public premises for the non formal education was denied. Following which Sonia along with twenty women from the slum visited Ms Bhavana Gaur, the local MLA asking for basic amenities which she had promised in her election campaign. When all the government authorities turned down the requests for the upliftment of the slum children at Palam fly over, Fr. Swanoop Choudhry SDB, the Director of Don Bosco Ashalayam agreed on providing a place for children to be taught. The Non-formal school continued by shuttling them between Ashalayam and the slum.
After some months of regular training and basic education, Forum managed to enroll 56 slum children in the MCD School, Palam Gaon, Delhi. Aadhar card was also arranged for fourteen children, to prove their identity.
Next they needed school bags, uniform and other stationery. The same was received as a donation from Bosconet, and other friends of the Forum who generously gave their support to the children. Ms Sonia led these children for an exposure programme to Rashtrapati Bhavan, Bangla Sahib Gurudwara and India Gate.
Continuous follow up programs are planned to support these children. Socio-Economic conditions led the families to move to cities and live in slums. The worst affected in such situations are the children and the young. If necessary interventions were not undertaken, they would have turned towards anti social activities. These children celebrated the “Red light begging” for survival. We are happy Don Bosco YaR Forum could turn on the Green light in their path to progress.