Karunalaya, an NGO in Chennai, has been rescuing street children, sending them to school and engaging them in cricket and football.

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Delve Child Rights Monday, July 01, 2019 - 17:35

“If you respect us you will listen to us. If you listen to us, you will protect us,” stressed Monisha as she stood on the podium and spoke at a congress of street children from across the globe, in England. Monisha, Nagalakshmi, Paulraj and Suryaprakash from Chennai, along with four other children from the streets of Mumbai, represented India at Street Child Cricket World Cup 2019 and won the championship title, too. This cricket world cup set the stage for street children from different countries to speak about their issues and put forward their demands.  

Monisha, Nagalakshmi, Paulraj, Suryaprakash and other children were picked up from the streets and given a second chance at life, thanks to NGOs such as Karunalaya in Chennai, which have been rescuing children wandering and lost on roads and railway stations.

Since 1995, N Paul Sunder Singh, the Karunalaya founder, has been identifying children from the streets, enrolling them in schools, giving them food and shelter at hostels, and most importantly, engaging them in football and cricket.

According to Paul, many street children he has rescued were abused, exploited, abandoned and even subjected to inhumane treatment. Suryaprakash, for example, was working as a child labourer in Punjab and Chennai for years. He escaped from his abusive employer and was rescued from the Chennai railway station.

Some children are deprived of opportunities and basic rights. Monisha uses public toilets to bathe and relieve herself. She faces discrimination and abuse from the police as well.

“Many of them are traumatised when we meet them; they don’t trust adults. So we give them a calm and easy environment to help them forget the bad experiences and give them hope in their life,” says Paul.

For many street children, such opportunities have changed their lives and have instilled new ambitions in them.  

“There are no welfare schemes specific for street children,” says Paul, who has been educating families on streets on how and where to go to redress their grievances, where to find the duty bearers, about the schemes available to them, to file an RTI. He also educates the street children about where they can escalate their grievances and ensure their rights are protected.

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