Amit Kumar, 15, has no doubt he would be working as a child labourer without the support of PHIA Foundation partner Aashray Adhikar Abhiyan.
Instead, during seven years of coming to the A-Block Children’s Shelter, run by Aashray Adhikar Abhiyan in the Motia Khan area of central Delhi, he has been able to continue his education and develop hobbies, including painting and yoga, for which he has won several awards.
‘Yoga is good for health. My friends used to do yoga so I learned from them,’ says Amit.
‘If I hadn’t come here I would have had to work all through my childhood. My parents can’t afford my education. I’m continuing my education – otherwise I would work as a child labourer.’
‘I find this place interesting. They provide schooling materials. We also go on visits to places.’
Most of the children in the A-Block shelter come from homeless families who have migrated to Delhi – from states such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra – to find jobs as construction workers, labourers, street vendors. Amit’s father is a cart-puller.
Vivek Deacon, a student volunteer who works as careworker at A-Block Shelter, explains that children of Amit’s age can end up in trouble without the proper support.
‘Many children are homeless and don’t have families. Many end up using drugs and alcohol, stealing from shops or pickpocketing,’ Vivek adds.
‘We are supporting them to become something – we are giving them some hope.’
Senior staff member Sanjay Kumar has worked for Aashray Adhikar Abhiyan for 15 years. ‘If we want them to not go into homelessness, the time to get them is now, when they are children,’ he says.M
Mamta Kapoor teaches maths and English at the shelter for two hours every evening. She is one of two teachers at the shelter. ‘I love to teach,’ she says. ‘They can be a little bit naughty, as all children are, but they are very happy and they are very smart.’
Aashray Adhikar Abhiyan started working with Delhi’s huge homeless population in 2000.
Since then, it has provided 12 million beds and a million health service appointments for homeless people, with dedicated services for children, women, the elderly and people from tribal communities. It works in partnership with government and other organisations like PHIA Foundation to provide vital services.