Every child should be the director of their own destiny
My visit to the Delhi-based Salaam Baalak Trust commenced in the bustling Paharganj area. This was not a usual office meeting and my visit took place in the form of a guided tour around the city by two former street children – Tariq and Sangeeta. Known as the City Walk programme, it has become a well-known way to get an insiders’ perspective on the city. The initiative was started in 2006 by John Thompson, a volunteer from the UK who wanted to create awareness for the organisation’s work as well as give the children an opportunity to learn English communication skills by interacting with visitors.
Salaam Baalak Trust was founded in 1988. Its inspiration came from an unlikely source in the form of the award winning film by Mira Nair ‘Salaam Bombay’. This film documented the life of street children and their everyday struggle for survival. The film deeply touched Mira’s mother, Praveen Nair and it was from there that she decided to set up an organisation to support street children. The Trust received the first financial donation from the proceeds of the premiere of Salaam Bombay. In 1989, Praveen moved to Delhi and the organisation began there with 3 staff members and 25 children on the balcony of a police station near New Delhi Railway station. The initial activities included education, health, recreation and issuing ID cards.
SBT receives many volunteers, as many as 150 a year, many are Indian students who are interested in social work. They prefer long term volunteers who can volunteer for minimum one month and really connect with the organisation. Most volunteers assist with teaching the children English but some also teach the children activities such as painting and dancing. Volunteers are welcomed and encouraged.
Rewards and Recognition
• In 2003, SBT won the Delhi State Award for the best work done in the field of child welfare
• In 2011, SBT received the National Award presented by the President of India for outstanding work done in the field of child welfare
• They received the UNAIDS Civil Society Award, in recognition of outstanding commitment and support to the national fight against HIV/AIDS