Against the backdrop of Goa’s abysmal child abuse statistics, a couple works relentlessly to rehabilitate children from troubled backgrounds
A seven-year-old girl was raped in the toilet of a school in Old Goa last month. Within a few days, a 13-year-old migrant boy was kidnapped and sodomised near the old railway station at Margao. Statistics with the Goa police reveal that 68 per cent of rape cases registered in 2012 involved minors. Of the 54 cases of rape registered across the State in 2012, 31 were registered under the Goa Children’s Act.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau, Goa ranked fifth in the number of reported crimes against children in 2011. It is mostly child labour at construction sites, fishing jetties, shacks, beaches and other places who become easy victims of violence and sexual abuse. It is for such abandoned or runaway children living on streets, children from economically weak families and abused backgrounds that Prince Aoran Golden and his wife Sujatha provide a secure and homely environment where they are cared for and loved.
“Our children are vulnerable because we don’t make them aware about the risks and dangers they can be exposed to,” Prince says. It was in 2000 when Prince and Sujatha saw a child eating leftover food from a heap of garbage. The couple was appalled and wanted to talk to the child but he ran away. The couple followed him to Sangolda slum area where the child was living with his mother who worked as a part time domestic help.
Prince and Sujatha wanted to take the boy under their care but his mother was reluctant to part with Arun and even doubted their intentions. But months later, she changed her mind and approached the couple.
Arun’s arrival at their home gave birth to the idea of forming a charitable trust ‘Care and Compassion - Goa’ and taking in more children under its fold, says Prince. Today, there are 20 children — 12 girls and eight boys — living in two separate homes run by the couple. The youngest child is in the kindergarten while the eldest one, Rani, will soon graduate in nursing. All the children go to good English-medium schools and colleges. Prince says he is determined to give them quality education so that they are able to get decent jobs.
Soniya studying commerce in a junior college wants to become a banker. She recently topped the inter-college exams. Manjula wants to become a social worker.
Prince and Sujatha do not have children of their own; their life revolves around these children. Who is good in which subject, who has an aptitude for music, which school or college should be chosen, should they opt for science or arts or study something else or about their dress or the menu for the meals — these are things that keep them on the go. It is mostly Sujatha who helps the children with their homework. It is not always studies, there is a lot of fun, too, whether it is a picnic at the beach or participating in painting competitions or swimming or workshops in arts and story writing. A family friend, Nigel, gives lessons in skate boarding to boys every Sunday.
Today Arun is working in a shack at one of the beaches and has gone back to his mother. He has renovated the shanty they were living in. Another boy, Sudhir, is working as a technician at Dabolim airport.
However, most of the children have nowhere to go like Rani. So once she finishes her B.Sc. in nursing, Prince says they will try to ensure that she gets a job in a good hospital abroad and get her married.
“We are living in a very unsafe world. Together we should work to protect and safeguard the interest of all children whether they are our own or not,” says Prince.