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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Karuna windfall gratefully received

The FWBO's Karuna Trust have received an anonymous donation of US $97,000 for the SAATHI Street children's project in Mumbai (Bombay). Saathi is one of Karuna’s non-Buddhist partners, but one with whom they have a long-standing and positive relationship. As part of this they have for some time been funding Saathi’s ‘Invisible Girl’ project. This is a response to the widespread phenomenon in India of ‘railway children’. The windfall donation coincided with a visit to Mumbai and the railway projects by London's mayor Ken Livingston, click here for some press reports.

The following is taken from a report by Adarsha, one of Karuna’s fundraisers, on a visit there last year.

“In Bombay we visited Saathi. We went to Bombay Central station where the young people and girls turn up in the city. The task of the project workers is to get to them before the agents of the brothels and the domestic work networks do. Impressively they have done a lot of outreach work with station staff, police, stall holders, platform kids and groups who live in the station, explaining the situation facing the children who turn up alone at the station, and getting them to help. Whereas before the police were completely unhelpful they have now had trainings about their responsibilities under the Juvenile Justice Act 2000, and whilst the relationship is variable the police are more supportive than they were. The other groups mentioned used to prey on the girls themselves, and the awareness work has helped to encourage them to bring the girls to Saathi.

“We also visited the day centre Saathi runs where the girls get education and vocational skills. I was very impressed by their confidence and articulacy - the dedicated efforts of the team, including a psychotherapist, who have been focusing on building the girls' confidence seems to be working. It surprised me how clear the girls were about what they wanted to be - doctor, soldier, social worker - and more so that it didn't seem to be just pipe-dreams, but they realised some of what they needed to do to get there. I subsequently found out that this is an area the Saathi team particularly focus upon.

“As my Hindi has just about reached a semi-fluent level I could talk to the girls directly - as I could with the platform kids and station police and staff in Bihar (where Karuna fund a similar project called Gaya Rescue Junction, run by People First) . This has made such a huge difference to getting a felt sense of the work and building a connection and rapport with the project staff and beneficiaries. And also means that I can tell whether the translator is doing a spin - for example in Bihar when we talked to the station staff several of them clearly didn't know anything about the project, which we might have missed if I hadn't been talking to them directly!”

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