“I never wanted to be in a hostel. I always felt out of place and my mother’s picture came to my mind frequently. I wanted to be with her but my father never allowed me. He made me study in a boarding school. Whenever I came home, my parents were always quarrelling as my dad is alcoholic. I escaped from my hostel twice. But I suffered a lot when I used the Bangalore railway station as shelter. Many people made me to do a lot of difficult work. After four months of it, I am with my mother now. I’m very happy and I will never runaway from her. I have promised her that I will be with her forever,” said 15-year-old Vinay (name changed).
His was among the many heart wrenching stories one could find during the ‘Home orientation and removal of substance abuse camp’ organised at the City Railway Station by NGO Saathi for those children who ran away from their homes and were later found at railway stations.
Many children were reunited with their parents at the end of the camp.
Many among the 33 children who participated in the month-long camp were from different parts of the State. Life skills were taught to them and they were given food, clothes and shelter.
Saathi organises these kinds of camps frequently in 14 different parts of the country. While the camps are organised on the outskirts of the cities, the reunion ceremonies are organised at railway stations. They find these children with the help of Child Welfare Committee, Department of Child and Women Development and even with the help of Railways.
“These children escape from their homes for different reasons and sometimes take to alcohol and substance abuse. Our work is to bring them back to the normal lifestyle where they can play, feel loved and study,” explained Basavraj Shali, deputy secretary of the Karnataka branch of the organisation.
One such boy is Deepak, who didn’t want to be separated from his home. He got into a bus in his village Avalahalli but fell asleep. As a result, he missed his bus stop and realised this when he woke up. He fell into the hands of some men who forced him to work. He was allegedly beaten up and assaulted.
Those days, he recalled, were nothing but a nightmare. Now he wants to forget all of it as he has been successfully reunited with his mother. He wants to study and make his parents feel proud about him.