INDIA: BOSCO Helps to Provide a Second Chance for At-Risk and Marginalized Youth
(MissionNewswire) The Salesian-run Bangalore Oniyavara Seva Coota (BOSCO), located in Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore) and the third-most populous city in India, serves child laborers, victims of child abuse and youth who are orphaned, abandoned or live on the streets. Nine BOSCO rehabilitation centers and six outreach hubs are spread throughout the city to assist these children in need.
Father George Kollashany, a Salesian priest working in the Bangalore province, has been working with street children most of his life. He notes that he had an early calling at the age of 16 to help street youth have a better life and access the services they need to have hope for the future. He has been providing missionary services since 1975, and believes that this mission has helped him stay productive in his missionary life. Fr. Kollashany feels inspired and reinvigorated by how young people react to challenges and risks.
“There was a young boy who was 16 and struggling to pass the 10th grade exam as a private student after leaving school in the fifth grade. In the meantime, he managed to pay off his father’s debt of 200,000 rupees (about $3,100) working as a sweeper,” says Fr. Kollashany. “With the money earned, 300 rupees a day (about $4), he was able to feed his disabled grandmother and his mother who also had a disability due to kerosene burns spilled on her by her husband in an attempt to murder her. He was even able to buy a bicycle and pay for his brother’s studies. I’m impressed by the way he has made connections between people and assisted those in need while he had so little. Today, he is building his own house.”
During its nearly 40-year history, BOSCO has helped improve the lives of more than 125,000 children and rescues and rehabilitates close to 7,000 children each year. Many children living on the streets are runaways who have left home in search of work or to escape violence or other family difficulties. According to UNICEF, more than 40,000 children are reported missing every year in India. Of these, close to 11,000 remain untraced. As many cases go unreported, it is suspected that the actual number of missing children is much higher. Many runaways come to major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru in search of work and a better life. The majority of them live on the streets and on the country’s railway platforms where they beg, steal or perform menial jobs to survive. All too often, they fall victim to child traffickers.
Once youth are identified by BOSCO and convinced to come in off the street, their basic needs are provided for such as housing, food and clothing. In addition, they receive counseling and, if appropriate, are reunited back with their families. Education is also a primary component of BOSCO and is provided to those in the rehabilitation program while those who are returned to their families have access to Salesian schools throughout India. Youth who continue their education are more likely to find and retain stable employment later in life and break the cycle of poverty.
“The street boys are shaping the future of humanity and their lives,” adds Fr. Kollashany. “Being with them and learning from them is the best way to grow, learning not to lose their childhood and adolescent passion. It is on the edges of society, among those who are on the margins that one can feel the pulse of society, that one can measure the essence of a community and purify its values as by fire.”
India is home to 25 percent of the world’s poor and more than 30 percent of the country’s population lives in poverty, according to the World Bank. With the largest number of child laborers in the world, India has made significant progress the past eight years reducing the number of out-of-school children from 25 million to 8 million. However, an estimated 11 million children live on the streets facing the daily horrors of rampant exploitation, forced labor, widespread substance abuse and physical violence. Many poor youth see little opportunity or hope for a better life.
UNICEF – State of the World’s Children 2012
World Bank – India