A new future for streetchildren

A street child in the red-light district, Kalighat
Ankita and her sister Parmita, new arrivals at ZUKI
Firoj, Saruk and Saiarun, pupils of our English speaking Nalanda School in their school uniform
Sunita, year 1, primary school attending a Bengali lesson
Samrat loves his vegetable curry with rice
Our plantations of vegetables, mangos, bananas and coconuts

Background and care: The charitable organisation Missionaries of the Word has devoted itself to caring for children and orphans from the red-light districts of Kolkata. Unable to get out of this milieu without help, these children are often the victims of child labour, violence and sexual abuse. There are currently an estimated 300.000 street children living in Kolkata today.
Xavier Raj Arul who worked together with Mother Theresa for many years has dedicated himself to looking after such children. Together with social workers ands teachers, he cares for  children from the red- light districts of Kalighat, Tollygunge and Kidipur, from Sealdah and Hazra and from the impoverished rural areas surrounding Kolkata.

Initially housing 29 children in two small clay huts gave Xavier Raj Arul the inspiration to one day set-up a proper children’s home for these slum kids. A chance encounter with Dr. Gerhild Tanew and the subsequent founding of Zukunft für Kinder – ZUKI resulted in an increasing number of sponsorships being raised enabling an increasing number of children to be supported. In the meantime, a total of 250 children are living in safety and security in three purpose built homes – “project Kolkata”.
The funds raised through sponsorships are shared equally amongst all children to provide them with a home, food, medical care, psychological support, schooling and vocational training or further education depending on their ability.

Admission: Children handed in by the police or who are found alone and abandoned on the streets are almost certainly admitted into the project. As there are however a finite number of places, mothers unable to care for their children and who would like them to be taken in by Xavier must make an application. The first step requires them to register the birth of the child and to obtain a birth certificate before submitting their application. Social workers then assess the living conditions of each child before deciding together with Xavier Raj Arul upon which children are the most needy. These children are then admitted in the following January.

Language: All carers in the children’s homes speak Bengali, the local language of Eastern India and the mother tongue of most of the children. This is important as it is vital that the children settle in quickly and as easily as possible and that they soon start to feel at home.
Each home also has an English speaking carer to help them to become familiar with the language that they will be taught in the Nalanda School. The children are already taught in English in kindergarten as the ability to speak English significantly improves the chances of training and employment in the future.

Religion: The religious denominations of the children in the project by and large reflect that which can be seen across India. The majority are Hindus, there are some Muslims and currently only two of the children are Christians. Religious tolerance is something that is very important to Xavier, himself a Christian. He celebrates all the main religious festivals with all of the children and explains their background and meaning to them. As there is always cake at a celebration, the ‘benefit’ of being open is immediately apparent and has much appeal. It is hoped that this understanding and tolerance at a young age will lead to a greater understanding of others throughout the children’s lives.

Daily routine: as the children entering the project have previously lived in poverty on the streets, without any structure to their lives, it is initially important to introduce clear guidelines and a daily routine so that they learn to feel safe and secure within a structured environment and gain an understanding of living in a society. Being orderly, acting independently and being helpful to others are key values that are practised on a daily basis. Everyone who has visited the project has been impressed with the social skills and good behaviour of the children and has been touched by their warmth and hospitality.

Food and diet: Many of the children taken in by Xavier are under-nourished or malnourished when they arrive. A balanced, healthy diet is very important to Xavier and all of us at Zukunft für Kinder – ZUKI. We have dairy cows that provide the children with fresh milk daily and organic fruit and vegetable plantations that are tended to by the older children in their free time or as part of their education. Since giving the children a glass of fresh fruit juice twice a week, the incidence of infectious illnesses has decreased significantly.
At mealtimes, children queue with their plates – the older children often helping the cooks to serve the food. After each meal, each child is responsible for washing-up their own dishes.

Please help by taking on the sponsorship of a child and give them a chance of a brighter future!