Samatol Foundation saves children from straying into crime and tries to send them back to their homes
Mumbai, the land of opportunities, attracts many in search of employment and glamour. Among them are innocent children, who run away from home and dream of making it big. Unfortunately, their dreams are short-lived and often, a railway station is all they find as a resting place. Often they become victims of drug trafficking and sexual abuse.
To give a fresh lease of life to these abused children, Samatol Foundation, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), was founded by Vijay Jadhav in 2006. Its objective is to rehabilitate children who are five years old and above from railway stations and unite them with their families. ‘Samatol’ means ‘balance’. Samatol tries to restore respectability and thereby create balance in the society,” explains Mr Jadhav, who gave up his job to devote time for social work. Samatol Foundation started its work by raising awareness on the importance of rescuing and rehabilitating children found on railway platforms. It required sensitising all the stakeholders, like railway police, passengers and railway’s accident helpers. “Accident hamals (helpers) were our first active volunteers as they were quick to identify newly arrived kids and those who have returned,” says Mr Jadhav.
Samatol’s activities involve rescuing newly arrived children before they become part of the other kids already settled on the platform. After a detailed background check of the new arrivals, Samatol’s volunteers convince them to return home.
The Foundation also conducts manaparivartan shibir (attitude change programme) a de-addiction and home-orientation programme for children who often work as shoeshine boys. Drug de-addiction forms an important and difficult part of the rehabilitation.
“The 45-day programme addresses about 25 kids in the 8-16 years age group. They are physically examined and also counselled against drug addiction. We try to instil discipline in them and work on their self-esteem. We try to create an interest in education and concern for family in them. If the child is ready to go back home, we send him back considering his family’s financial position. In some cases, they are rehabilitated with other NGOs and are given education and vocational training,” explains Mr Jadhav.
The Foundation conducts training programmes by experts on child psychology for police and government officials. It also conducts a survey of railway stations every two years.
Samatol also helps in rehabilitation of kids at government observation/remand homes, who are willing to go back to their homes. Accordingly, legal formalities are completed at the Foundation’s expense. Since inception, Samatol has reunited around 3,000 children with their families. It has contacted about 7,000 children in six years. It has a large volunteer base, comprising professionals like doctors, engineers and IAS officers throughout the country who assist the organisation in case of children sent back home. They follow up on the cases so that the children do not run away again.
Samatol funds its activities mainly through individual donations. Mr Jadhav says, “We seek help from individuals and thereby sensitise them to the problem. We don’t touch any foreign funding. Corporate donations are allowed partly; we never take funding from one company for an entire project. This allows us freedom to work.” One can volunteer for Samatol Foundation and also donate. All donations are eligible for tax exemption under Section 80(G) of the Income-Tax Act.
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