Jai was a little child when he came to the streets. He used to live in a village on South 24 Parganas (Kolkata, India) along with his mother and his brother.
He Needed A Safe Space: Jai’s Growth From A Street Child To A Street Worker.
Jai and his brother used to accompany their mother to sell vegetables on the roadside as they could not stay in their own home. They felt more safe being with their mother. Jai said, “We used to visit many places, but at the end of the day, we returned to our mother”. One day Jai ran away from home and went to Sealdah station. He was not aware of the place and was surprised to see lots of people; in particular, he was attracted by the television on the platform to the point of running away to watch the television. At Sealdah station, he made a few friends, and he started spending time with them. According to Jai, “I became so engaged with my new life with my friends that I forgot about my parents. I was having an amazing life with friends.”
While he was with his new friends, Jai noticed that some people would come to talk and spend time with them. He discovered that these people were street workers from CINI who used to visit them regularly. He became interested in the work and came to talk with the street workers on his own.
“I saw those uncles every day and I became interested. One day I talked with them and it was really a different feeling. They invited me to visit the centre nearby and I went there. We had lots of activities over there,” reports Jai.
After that encounter, Jai started visiting the safe space centre run by CINI daily. At some point, his mother became anxious about him missing, and when she started selling vegetables in Sealdah, she came to know about the centre run by CINI and found out that her son was at this centre. Jai’s mother wanted him to continue with his education. She took him back home and admitted him to a school. He was not fond of the school environment and for this reason, he again ran away from the school and came to Sealdah centre.
“I didn’t like the boarding school environment, so I ran away from that place and came back to my beloved place – Sealdah Centre.”
Jai started loving this centre a lot. His mother again came to Sealdah to take him back, feeling concerned about her son staying away from home, but Jai was sent to a residential home this time. The child expressed to the mother his desire to go back to CINI’s safe space centre and she decided to trust him, letting him stay at the platform in Sealdah.
Empowerment: the impact of Street Work on Jai’s life
Jai made a few more friends on the platform during that period, who accompanied him to CINI’s centre, where he started non-formal education. There he realised the importance of education, and he joined a residential school with the help of Street Workers, where he stayed for three years. Suddenly that school got closed and he came back to Sealdah and reaccessed the centre. At that time, he was in class VII.
Thanks to CINI, Jai got the chance to continue his classes and completed his XII exam successfully. Jai wanted to give back to the community and started working with other children from the Sealdah platform and at CINI’s safe space centre. He is loved by all the children on the platform premises, and he has become a role model among the children.
Capacity building by CINI has made Jai capable of doing street work with children and the community people professionally. He interacts with the children regularly and is very good at making instant decisions.
He has become a trustworthy adult in the life of children as well as the community people also. An older street worker shared his feeling about Jai “I have been watching Jai for a long time. I have seen him through different phases of life. He is very friendly and loving. He has a nice bond with all the other children.”
Jai has now become a part of the street play team. “I always loved the street work because it gives me the positive energy to do more for these children. The love from these children gives me a positive feeling as well”, Jai says.
About CINI, CSC network member and StreetInvest’s Regional Coordinating Partner for East Africa
CINI is a frontline organisation supporting street-connected children and young people in Kolkata since 1989 and has been StreetInvest’s partner since 2012. With StreetInvest’s support, CINI has been developing a local network of agencies and institutions to ensure the inclusion of street-connected children and young people in the government’s protection policy and programmes. In 2017, CINI formally became a member and Regional Coordinating Partner for Asia, of the Global Alliance for Street Work hosted by StreetInvest. CINI ensures the delivery of our Street Work programme at a local level through a network of adult Street Workers and Street Champions (children and young people trained to advocate for themselves and their peers).
From April 2020 to early 2021, CINI’s network of 23 trained street workers supported more than 600 street-connected children across 5 different wards in Kolkata and reached 355 new children during the Covid pandemic.
In 2022, CINI is partnering with the government welfare department, the District Task Force for Immunization and 30 network partners to provide Covid-19 vaccination services to 1454 SCCYP and other vaccines for children under 2 years on the streets of Kolkata. CINI’s reach has extended to other wards through the advocacy programmes and vaccination drive, with more than 500 new children reached in the first quarter of 2022. Through this, the government is thinking much about street-connected children and remodelling its open shelter programme to better support SCCYP in Kolkata and beyond.