Tiny Shoulders, Big Burdens

The day of the community cultural programme was a busy day for all the kids in the Sonari slum area of Jamshedpur. But, the busiest of them all was the lanky teenage boy- Ganesh, who’d masterminded the whole event.

Ever since Adarsh Seva Sansthan (ASES), a grassroots level non-profit supported by CRY had started work in this slum adjoining the city’s airport; things have been taking a turn for the better. ASES aims to provide a fair, healthy world to the underprivileged children and to bring them to the mainstream where they could have a happy childhood. And, the project’s impact on this colony is actually visible, with there being a real difference in the way the community comes together and takes on responsibilities.

Ganesh’s is a story of a slumdog finding his redemption; it’s a story of hope and determination, of dreams that are kept alive even in the darkest of places.

When Ganesh was 11, he had the responsibilities of a breadwinner thrust onto his bony shoulders. No, he hadn’t been orphaned, his parents were quite alive, it’s just that they had no interest in Ganesh or his siblings (an older sister and a younger brother) – since, they were chronic alcoholics. All the money they earned from their menial construction job was spent on cheap liquor, and child rearing was no concern of theirs.

His sister had been working ever since he could remember, so Ganesh decided, at the age of 11, that it was high time he started working as well. He got a job at a cycle repair shop for a paltry Rs. 20 a day. It was during his time at the repairing shop, that the hardpressed Ganesh that ASES found him.

Ganesh came across as a wise, big-hearted kid, with a genuine thirst for education. The only roadblock to a possibly bright future was his family’s dire straits – he couldn’t shrug off that responsibility, after all. The field workers were impressed by Ganesh’s familial devotion, but the right place for a child was a school, not a cycle repair shop, so they decided to talk to Ganesh’s employer. The shop owner agreed to let Ganesh go, because the only reason he’d hired Ganesh, even though he knew it was a blatant violation of child rights, was because he knew the boy desperately needed the job for survival.

Ganesh was immediately registered under CHILDLINE, and ASES simultaneously liaised with (Tata Steel and Tinplate Company run) camp schools for marginal children to ensure that Ganesh could be brought to speed on the curriculum when he got rescued. Finally, he was rescued by the Ministry of Home Affairs initiative – Operation Muskan, which rescues/rehabilitates children from their vulnerable situations.

When Ganesh had been enrolled into camp school, his parents initially displayed unwillingness to send him. With ASES setting up counselling sessions, and Ganesh begging to be back in school, his parents eventually gave in to the pressure.

The bridge course at the camp school changed Ganesh completely- he was more confident, vocal and disciplined. He was soon enrolled into a local school and his academic performance improved in leaps and bounds. He was even chosen to be part of the Bal Sansad (student parliament) because of his social skills and agile mind.

Ganesh is now a happy school student.

He says: “I feel great when I see my friends value my opinion. I know what it is like to live a life without a dream. Hence, now that I am given a chance, I attend  school regularly and encourage them to come to school too.”

 

You can help us bring more child labourers back to school at bit.ly/LearnNotEarn

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