The success of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) across the globe, has allowed the ordinary citizen to take responsibility for the welfare of fellow human beings
Polishing gems from the streets of MumbaiLed by the gentle and serene Father Fonseca Placido, Sneha Sadan, which translates as a house of love, provides a haven to children lost in the streets of Mumbai.
“Where is Sneha Sadan,” I asked a young man on the road trying to find the place. I was in an auto. He smiled and said he was heading there too. I asked him to get in and we begin to chat. “This is my real home,” he said, with a smile. He had come to the organisation as a young boy who ran away from his home in Andhra around 15 years back. Though he never really undertook formal studies, he trained to be a mechanic, was employed with a technical company for a while and then came back to Sneha Sadan, his first home.
Such stories abound in this haven, which provides succour to many in the streets of Mumbai.
Providing a bedrock of support
“A family is the bedrock of society and the little ones are often misled, deprived and ignored by many of us,” says Father, whose first priority is to reunite the children with their parents, if it can be done.
At the contact centre, usually the first place a child comes to, the aim is to make the children comfortable, knowing they have a place to turn to. Some of them do not really take to studies, as they have tasted freedom, and don’t realise that studying will help them in the long run.
Those who do come regularly are reunited, rehabilitated or put through formal school. They are encouraged to follow their own traditions, and when their origins or traditions are not known, they take a decision only after careful thought.
Sangeeta Punekar, a social worker at the place, explains how they try to use different models in different places, all in the best interest of the child. “Some communities are open to bringing up the child in his or her own place, and if so, we enable that,” she says.
With 16 centres all over Mumbai today, Father Placido gives full credit to the vision of Father Ricardo Frances, SJ, the founder of the institution, who was very keen on providing a haven to the underprivileged.
This is a complex issue, however, which cannot be resolved by one person alone, he realises and hopes the day arrives when all children are noticed and nourished. “Every life is precious, yours, mine and the street child’s. If we would look at them and listen to them, they would become visible again,” says Father, who is spending all his waking hours polishing these gems.
Sneha Sadan – some facts
The organisation has over 16 centres all over Mumbai. The contact centres are at Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) and Borivli and there are 15 centres all over Mumbai and one at Lonavla.
Father Fonseca Placido was also on the think tank of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) to set up the childline service. He has been on the expert committee to frame the law for children in India called Juvenile Justice Act. He has also pioneered the concept of Corporate Social Consciousness, and was part of the think tank to develop Childline in India along with TISS.
What we can do
• Childline service links to all homes in India and it is a free service,
• Call 1098 if you see children employed when they are not supposed to be. The reach has now extended to over 33 cities in India.
• Follow up on the case and get involved when possible
• If you can volunteer your time, don’t hesitate to do so.
To know more about Sneha Sadan, visit: http://www.snehasadan.org
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