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INDIA: A family reunites after 18 years

Young men forced into child labor in their youth meet their mother for the first time in 18 years thanks to Don Bosco Anbu Illam


(MissionNewswire) Brothers Kumar and Rajkumar, who were abandoned when they were 3 and 4 years old, have been reunited with their mother and her relatives thanks to Don Bosco Anbu Illam, in Salem, Tamil Nadu, India. Both young men were educated at Don Bosco Anbu Illam and have spent most of their lives with the organization.

The relationship started in 2006. Salesian Childline staff, officers from the Department for Child Labor and other social workers discovered that 30 children were engaged in child labor in the production of silver anklets in Panangadu, a locality in Salem. Among these children were Kumar and Rajkumar.

As a first step in their rehabilitation, both boys were sent to Don Bosco Anbu Illam where they could have safe shelter, their basic needs met and an education. Salesian missionaries immediately started looking for information on the two siblings, but they could not remember their parents or where they were.

When the boys were older, Salesian missionaries started the search again with the owner of the anklet workshop, Mr. Selvam. They learned it was the boys’ father who had entrusted them to Selvam because he could not keep them. He was now deceased, but the boys’ mother, older sister and several uncles were still alive. Kumar and Rajkumar wanted to see them again. After 18 years of separation, Kumar and Rajkumar were reunited with their family at the Don Bosco Anbu Illam facility on Oct. 29.

Don Bosco Anbu Illam was started in 1988 to help street children, children forced into labor and marginalized youth in need of care and protection.

“Salesian missionaries in India and around the globe work with children who have been abandoned and forced into child labor,” said Father Gus Baek, director of Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. “The goal is reunification with parents if that is possible and appropriate. Many children though rely on Salesian programs like Don Bosco Anbu Illam for more long-term care. They are provided shelter and nutrition and can access early primary education and then advance on to Salesian vocational and technical training.”

India has the world’s fourth largest economy but more than 22 percent of the country lives in poverty. About 31 percent of the world’s multidimensionally poor children live in India, according to a report by the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative. A multidimensionally poor child is one who lacks at least one-third of 10 indicators, grouped into three dimensions of poverty: health, education and standard of living.

Salesian missionaries living and working in India place special emphasis on rescuing and rehabilitating children engaged in child labor. There are Salesian-run programs throughout the country that have helped hundreds of thousands of vulnerable youth through the years, and this work continues today.

Missionaries will continue to assess needs for prevention and support during this challenging time and work to support youth and their families in ways they can during the pandemic.



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