Kalki Drop-in Centre for street children

Every year, due to domestic violence, neglect and the need to supplement the family income, thousands of children migrate to the streets of Pondicherry, one of the most densely populated cities in South India. Despite low wages and exploitation, these children forgo their education for informal work such as street hawking and rag picking, while others resort to theft, drug trafficking and begging.

Street children experience extreme social exclusion from mainstream society; children born to ‘unknown fathers’ and low caste families are often denied their basic rights to formal education and basic healthcare. Among those who are able to enrol in school, dropout rates are extremely high.

The majority of street children will join gangs, especially those without a family, turning to a life of crime, prostitution and drug abuse. These children may end up living and working on the streets for the rest of their lives, which are often cut tragically short by HIV/AIDS and violence. Approximately 200 children and adolescent girls live on the streets of central Pondicherry and over 1,000 children live in the city’s poorest slums and in camps near the city’s rubbish dumps.

Kalki is a local grassroots NGO based in Pondicherry. It was founded in 2008 by members of the local civil society, business community and academic sector in response to rising numbers of street children in the city. Kalki set up a daily drop-in centre for street children in Pondicherry with the aim of taking children off the streets and meeting their most basic needs. Now that the centre is fully established, Kalki has expanded its work by developing its outreach and reintegration work in the community.

Kalki’s strategy is to act as a short-term, emergency solution. It identifies children at risk, provides immediate care and stability and puts them in contact with local organisations that focus on longer-term solutions. Kalki strives to develop networks throughout the local area to ensure children have the best possible access to the highest quality of care. It aims to fill any gaps in these services to ensure that every child is protected from harm and is offered a chance for a better future.

ERSF has given a grant of £20,000 to the Kalki Drop-in Centre which is in easy reach of children working and begging on the streets of central Pondicherry. They can drop in at anytime between 10am and 5pm for a shower, a meal, medical care, to play, or simply rest in safety. Once children start attending the centre on a regular basis, they are encouraged to participate in more structured activities such as non-formal education and counselling. The main aim of the centre is to take children off the street, away from danger, and provide a certain level of stability in preparation for work with their families to find a long-term solution.

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