SBT aims to provide a sensitive and caring environment to the street and working children and other children on the margins of society. It seeks to dissolve the barriers that rob these children of the opportunity to realize their rights.
In the 1980s, the making of Mira Nair’s ‘Salaam Bombay’ (award winning film) revealed the dark underbelly of Mumbai’s streets, where several childhoods were at stake. A combination of socio-economic exigencies, political circumstances and parents’ struggle for survival created a large population of children, living and working on the streets of India. All across the country, the street children, an invisible section of the society, continued an invisible struggle on the streets of Delhi too.
In the day time, children grapple with the challenges of street life. When night falls, they curl up in crevices - at the end of the platform, under a staircase, in the subway - where the possibility of security exists. Ms Praveen Nair, Chairperson and Trustee at Salaam Baalak Trust testifies: “It took us quite a while to break the ice with the boys. Sanjoy (Roy) and myself would scout the railway platforms every day, chat with the boys, however they had been cheated time and again, and we weren’t the first to propose help. So, they would laugh off our intentions but we never gave up. Finally, when we answered their urgent call for help to care for a terribly sick boy, a friend of theirs, began the never-ending bond.”
Having spent quality time with these children, the founding members of the Trust realised that while most of these children were forced into these circumstances, many of them had chosen this life. What set them apart, was their chutzpah, their spirit. Ms Nair adds: “We started with the idea of donating blankets to the children in the bitter winter cold. We started at the very place where GRP centre now stands. However, we were naive about their actual needs. The children told us that sleeping under a blanket invited sexual attentions from older children. They stuffed newspapers and wore layers of clothing (all the clothes they possessed, actually) which not only kept them warm but also kept the clothes from being stolen! That’s when we realised that these children needed a roof over their heads and safe spaces.”
From three staff and 25 children on a balcony of the Ground Reserve Police at the New Delhi Railway station more than 32 years ago, we have now grown to over 250 staff, providing support services for approximately 10000 children a year in Delhi and the NCR region through our 7 shelter homes and 10 contact points.
Over the years, Salaam Baalak Trust has successfully worked with over 1 lakh children; out of which significant numbers have been restored to their families. Every year almost 10-11 children across SBT pursue higher education. We have children who grew up to become lawyers, fashion designers, photographers, puppeteers and engineers. This year, three of our children have got more than 80 percent in their 12th board exams.