Lost, runaway street children find their way back home via cyberspace

Lost, runaway street children find their way back home via cyberspace
Mihika Basu
Posted online: Friday , November 02, 2007 at 12:00:00

Mumbai, November 1 Fifteen-year-old Rinku Sheikh ran away from his home in Orissa five months back because he thought he had made a mistake and would be severely reprimanded by his grandfather. He decided to head for Mumbai, a city he had heard a lot about. “Par hakikat kuch aur nikla (reality was totally different),” he says.

With no money to go back, he was forced to spend his days on the streets till a Don Bosco Shelter member brought him to the Wadala home for the “roofless and rootless street children” in the city.

Rinku is one among several children who run away from home everyday in search of a better life in Mumbai but ultimately end up on its streets. Thanks to the consistent efforts of the shelter, several like him are able to relocate their families though a homelink website (www.homelink.in) launched in July this year.

“I am missing my family and can’t wait to see them. Once I go back, I intend to work and study,” says Rinku as he packs his bags to leave for his hometown.

And even as the 180 residential boys and the volunteers are readying for the annual Diwali mela to be held on the grounds of Don Bosco High School (Matunga) from November 3-4, the shelter will for the first time this year introduce a homelink stall, an offshoot of the homelink website.

“We expect 5,000 children to participate in the Diwali mela and through the homelink stall we will formally register their names and details like their hometown and family background among others,” said Darshita Dedhia, counselling psychologist with the shelter.

And like Rinku, Bhola Kumar Sharma is also heading back to his family after the shelter relocated his family. The 15-year-old came from Bihar to earn a living in the city to support his family but the constant beatings of his employer forced him to run away and he eventually landed on the railway tracks. “It’s been several months and I have learnt Hindi and some English since I was brought here and now I’m looking forward to go back to my family,” he said.

The website which is specifically dedicated to ensure the restoration of children back home and assists in tracing lost or missing children has features like information of the child, photographs (if available), follow-up and caring community among others.

Subsequently, information collected through events such as the Diwali mela, monthly melas or otherwise is automatically updated on the website which is linked with 46 NGOs across the country. “The details are shared online with the NGOs and we take immediate steps when there’s a match to help the child relocate and reunite with his parents,” said Dedhia.

An integral aspect of the website is relocation of the “young at risk” that includes runaways, out-of-school kids, differently-abled children, young in conflict with law, young addicted to drugs or alcohol and child victims of exploitation and abuse among others.

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