Many of the families that we help are rag pickers by profession and are often seen with suspicion by locals and rarely get the respect they deserve. People don't realise that these families spend day after day sifting through the rubbish that the average Indian throws away in the street. Many locals and probably more so Indian tourists have very little interest in the environment. It is heart breaking to see people through down paper, plastic bags, bottles and rubbish as they walk down the street or drive their bikes. One of the worst things is people driving over bridges and throwing their rubbish into the rivers, perhaps they think it is magically washed away never to be seen again.
One of the girls was collecting scrap and walking down the road when a local resident stopped her and called the police who then took her to the police station. She hadn't actually done anything wrong, but as she was a 'rag picker' and was walking down a road where a house had been broken into a couple of times before, they decided that was suspicion enough to harass her and take her in for questioning. We found out later that evening when the children called us and Robert went to the police station with her brother and friend to ask what had happened. Even though she had done nothing wrong, the police after questioning her and seeing that she was a minor, admitted her into the government detention centre for children in conflict with the law, Apna Ghar.As it was late evening and the child welfare committee wouldn't be there we would have to wait till morning to visit the centre.
Monday morning Robert went to Apna Ghar with the girls older brother with the hope of bringing her home the same day, but sadly that was not possible. The child welfare committee still hadn't received the police statement which was required for her to be released. We were told they would come later that day. Unfortunately that was not the case. We went time and again and even 10 days later we were still being told that the police still hadn't given their statement to the child welfare committee, which is required before they release the child back to their family. I don't quite understand how the welfare of the child is being protected when she is being forced apart from her family especially when the family is dependent on the income that she provides as a rag picker. As her and her brothers are orphans it is even more harrowing for her and her siblings.
Thankfully, this week, eleven days after being admitted to Apna Ghar, her cousin called Robert who met them at Apna Ghar. The committee spoke to the cousin and Robert and finally the cousin again and the child was finally released. It ended as quite a surprise as they still maintained that they hadn't received the statement from the police and earlier that day one of the child welfare committee members even suggested that the girl would be sent back to her 'home' state (Karnataka), which really confused us as the child had lived her whole life in Goa and, the rest of her family is in Goa. However, she is now safely home and we do thank the child welfare committee for permitting this.
June saw the start of the new school year with a number of children, of varying ages being enrolled in schools, many for the first time. As well as helping the parents complete the paper work associated with enrolment, we also helped several children change schools which meant getting leaving certificates from their old school, which in theory should be a simple process, although in reality due to the poor administration at one school in particular, it ended up being a battle. In the end though, with a little bit of pressure they complied with our request.
We happily supplied, bags, books, stationary, uniforms and shoes to the children. One lucky child even received a bicycle to help him get to school as he lived off the school bus route. The children are spread across four different schools and a nursery and we hope that this year will bring great success and achievement. For a few of the children it will be their first year in school having only been taught informally before so it's a big change.
As well as providing them with the items required for school we will also be providing incentives to keep them in school in the form of rice packs and of course health packs and other goodies. Thank you to everyone for their support especially Raj of Joy Home and Tytti and Esa for funding their school requirements and Incentive packs.
Earlier this year Declan and his amazingly talented friends raised money at Ash in Arambol to support the street and slum kids in Mapusa. Since Declan and his group comprise of a cast of dancers, musicians and entertainers, Declan is always driven to supporting children in the arts. We are glad to say that several children are now taking part in dance classes twice a week. The children love participating and being the centre of attention. I have to admit that they are pretty good too.
During May the whole dance group from Mapusa took part in a dance competition (Dance Goa Dance) at Don Bosco's School in Panjim. There were groups of dancers from lots of different areas throughout Goa and each group had the chance to perform in front of hundreds of spectators. Giving children who love to dance a chance to perform and do something they enjoy is great for their self esteem and confidence, they did a great job and showed everyone what they had learnt.
The children are continuing their dance lessons, although as holidays have finished they also have to concentrate on their studies. Hopefully they will excel at both. Thank you to everyone who supported Declan and his group of entertainers enabling these children a chance to do something they love.
During the school holidays several of the older children like to enjoy their independence and look for a part time job so they can earn a little extra pocket money. Many children head to the local car wash centres, spend the day rag picking or work in restaurants and hotels. Sunil, one of the older boys had been told about a job in a hotel all the way down in south Goa. Unfortunately, after a day or two Sunil realised that it wasn't what he expected and at the end of the day he handed in his notice. Sunil then realised he had no idea about how to get home, or exactly where he was. It was half past midnight, there was no one around and he felt a little apprehensive.
Most of the children have Roberts telephone number for emergencies and this seemed to be one of those emergencies. As you can imagine, as it was gone midnight Robert was fast asleep but after hearing that Sunil was stranded he hopped on his bike and headed down to South Goa. The resort was about an hour and a half hours drive away. Robert had been to the same hotel earlier in the season to pick up some donations so thankfully knew the way, although driving at night in India isn't the most relaxing way to travel. The highway was pretty straight forward and well lit but the back roads to the resort a little less inviting as you never know when sleeping cows, dogs or those policemen (the sleeping kind) might be lurking in the darkness.
Robert arrived just as Sunil was ringing to see how long he would be and Sunil was relieved to say the least. After a 5 minute break (motorbike seats aren't the most comfortable of things), they headed straight home and Sunil was dropped off safe and sound. Hopefully, if there is a next time it will be somewhere a little nearer to home and maybe not so late.