At railway stations across Delhi, young children spend their lives begging on the platforms. There are around 60,000 beggars on the streets of the Indian capital, Delhi. A third of them are under 18 years of age. Children escaping poverty from other parts of the country often come to Delhi and end up begging. Some of them run away from their homes while others live with their families and beg to help support their family.
At the age of 5, Ashida lived in a makeshift shelter made from blankets. Born to heroin addicted parents, she earned a living begging on a railway platform in Delhi. All day she would follow strangers, hoping to receive a few coins or wait for her parents to appear and take her back to their shelter, though sometimes she would spend the night in the station, too.
During a routine patrol, the Delhi Child Welfare Committee found Ashida on her own at the station. The team swung into action, identifying her parents and counselling them repeatedly to ensure that Ashida received the care and support she needed. Eventually, her parents agreed to place her in a shelter for children living in difficult circumstances supported by Plan India.
A New Life
Ashida, now 9, is one of 47 children living at the shelter, most of whom are between 5 and 14 years of age. She attends school, has learnt to read and write and even helps teach the younger children.
She enjoys art and boasts an enviable collection of papier mâché flowers that she has made. Her artistic talent blossomed when she had the opportunity to be part of the ‘Social Art for Behavioural Change’ workshop. From puppetry to mask making and dance performance, Ashida’s smile was constant throughout the five day event. As a young child, this was everything that she hoped her childhood would be, colourful and full of adventures.
Now Ashida is barely recognisable as the 5 year old girl begging at the train stations, and she has a bright future ahead of her. "When I grow up, I will be a lawyer”, she says confidently. “That way, I can fight for the rights of children like me and make the world a better place.”
Thanks to the support she received during her earlier years, Ashida is able to live her life with joy, wisdom and determination beyond her years. With a little help, who can say what mountains she’ll move and the roads she will travel.