Programme RAKSHYAK as the term suggests is to be a protector; those children who have run away from home, get separated from their families, are abandoned or abducted or are being trafficked for illegal activities. This Programme is currently operational in three locations of Odisha, viz. Bhubaneswar, Khurda Road Railway Stations.
Railway stations have been found to be a major transport for the runaway, missing, abandoned and trafficked children. Railway Stations, being a very sensitive and vulnerable location for the above mentioned category of children, SOCH prioritizes these locations. Trains are a very easy and convenient mode for runaway children & for the Traffickers to operate, children get separated or get lost from their parents / guardians in the due course of journey and sometimes children are also abandoned at the Station vicinity. Also many children stay on the platforms and get involved in activities like begging, stealing, sweeping, addiction, etc. Hence, it has been strategically opted for operation of Rakshyak Programme.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 63,407 children went missing in 2016. Plan of action which can be roughly translated into 174 children everyday. Each child has a complex story. At Rakshyak, as our name suggests, we intend to protect children by identifying the key locations of locomotion, secure the child and settle the child in a safe environment. The purpose of this project is to prevent and reduce the risk of violence, abuse, deprivation, neglect and exploitation. This project works in the areas of child protection and intends to reduce the ‘at risk’ child population.
Programme “RAKSHYAK”, it identifies rescues and reunites runaway, missing and abandoned children in need of help. Rescued children are provided with counselling, food, cloth and first aid support. Due efforts are made to trace the family address of the children. Children are then reunited with their families or put on institutional care with appropriate involvement of government’s juvenile justice system.
- To rescue and resettle runaway, missing, abducted and abandoned children. First priority will be given to family reunions and last option for Institutional Care.
- To rescue and resettle cases of child labour, child begging, etc…
Outreaching and Networking at Railway Stations :
This is where the project operation begins. The rescue process is cascaded into Platform Intervention (by reaching out to the children), Rescue and Network Building. The outreach process includes platform intercession, observation, handling crowd situations, first point of contact with the child, motivating the child to come to the safe place and providing the rescued child’s information to RPF and GRP. Along with this, the outreach team also organizes and conducts awareness meetings with all the stakeholders.
It is a major activity where the outreach workers cover all the platforms of the Railway Stations. This is a process of observation and identification of potential children in need of care and protection who are vulnerable to be victimized by the predators, or being trafficked by the traffickers. It starts with a general interaction with the potential victim so as to build rapport as well as to verify if the child is actually a case of a child in need of care and protection.
On confirmation about the child, if the child is actually a case of a child in need of care and protection, the outreach worker will rescue the child and coordinate with the Government Railway Police Station (GRPS) and the Railway Protection Force (RPF) for Govt. formalities followed by the child being brought to the Counseling Centre for further action.
Network Building :
A good network with the Stakeholders ensures that maximum runaway children benefit. We aim at creating “child-friendly stations” through active engagement of the Stakeholders. Networking with the key Stakeholders maximizes the reach to runaway children in the Railway Stations. Within the realm of Network Building, sensitization activities among the stakeholders are undertaken through awareness meetings and information sharing regarding the disadvantage of platform life for the vulnerable children for the Stakeholders.
Fig: Key Stakeholders 2.1
Counseling Center Activities :
Counseling Centre Activities become essential as not every child opens up on the first go. They need some time and their confidence has to be won to extract facts. It also comes handy when a child is rescued in a very precarious condition suffering from starvation and deprivation. Hence, to win over their confidence and attend to some immediate needs of the child rescued, they are brought to Counseling Centre, where they are helped with nutrition or to be engaged in Indoor games, Music, Entertainment, Drawings, Food and Fast aid before counseling. This helps them relax and ward off all the stress they have been through. Further it builds trust and leads to a friendly relationship between the rescued child and the Counselor. The following is apictorial representation of the activities undertaken by the counselling centre.
Fig: Counseling activities 2.2
- Nutrition: Children who are helped by the SOCH staff are found to have been starving since days. The counselling center provides them food all throughout their stay at SOCH Counseling Center.
- Cloth Support: Children who are found in dirty clothes are provided clothes by the SOCH team.
- First Aid: Due to the harsh lifestyle of the street life, the children are sometimes found injured. SOCH helps such children by providing First Aid to them.
- Non Formal Education: In cases when children have to stay in the counselling center for more than 6 hours, they are in Non-Formal Education.
- Recreational Activities: Play therapy is used to make the children comfortable in the temporary shelter home through the use of indoor games like; puzzles, carom, painting etc.
Childhood is supposed to lead in a carefree manner in the protective net built by the adults around where this might not be the case for many children. Children encounter many challenges by the virtue of their age and other intersectionalities. Crisis and distress situations like separation of parents, violence among parents, alcohol-use, barriers to education, and the financial restraints in the family can lead to emotional trauma among children and create hurdles to their full growth hinging their rights. Under such circumstances, children are more likely to need special attention and aid. Families play a big role in providing this support system. In case the children need more help, counseling by a professional counselor becomes important. It gives the immediate emotional care that a child requires. It is the primary and the first step when the child is rescued and brought back to a transitional home.
Family tracing is done to ensure the child can return back to the safe space of her/his/their home. At times the address tracing is undertaken with the help of Stakeholders like the local police, Railway Protection Force (RPF), help of Internet and local NGOs. Their help along with the landmarks shared by the children during conversations is one of the major works undertaken by the SOCH team to reunite the child with their family.
The authentication of the address details as given by the child might take days and sometimes months. During this period the child needs to be counseled regularly so as to get more details about their address, and to protect them from further emotional distress while in the shelter home. Since it is unfair to expect the child to give an accurate address, each input during the counseling process- phone numbers, house number, temples, nearby hospitals are taken note of. Sometimes, when the children can’t verbally express the landmarks, they are encouraged to draw landmarks or maps to get a superficial understanding of their home address at the least
No child should ever be forced to live alone and at risk on a Railway Station. Hence family reunion becomes the top priority and proper care is taken to trace the family address of the children. It is supported by parent counselling. In case, reunion is not possible, they are settled in the Institutional Care.
Parents’ counselling :
Children don’t exist in isolation. They are affected by their family as much as they affect the family as the life of children is nested in their family life. It helps in Identifying the triggers that had led to fleeing of the child, the parents are counselled about minimizing the triggers. Thus, parents’ counselling will bridge the gap between the child and the parents through reflection of the process of parenting and help the parent in giving a positive environment to the child to develop. Education of the child is of primary concern for his/her bright future. So, parents are also counselled regarding this.
Family reunion: Children have the right to lead a happy and safe life. Home restoration is the best way for ensuring safety for runaway children. We, at SOCH, believe in reintegration of the children into their family as soon as possible.
Given the context of India, where familial bonds are the threads which regulate a child’s sense of belongingness. This sense of belongingness is an integral part of the child’s sense of identity. Therefore, family reunions are the times of rejoice. They are the times when the efforts of SOCH seem to be successful. Counselling the children about their future dreams and how they are going to establish their future course with their families are of necessity before they are reunited with the family. This helps in collaboratively setting down future goals with the child and minimizes the risk of the child attempting another run-away from home.
Follow Up :
Follow-up has been carried out to ensure that the children are not facing any difficulties and are in the track of development. At Rakshyak, we usually carry out two types of follow ups; telephonic and physical follow-up.
The rescued children are a part of SOCH family. Our relationship with them doesn’t end with their reunion with family. The responsibility of the SOCH team doesn’t end with the reunion of the child with the family or settlement of the child with institutions. One-time telephonic follow up is taken from the institutions where the children are referred to.
A telephonic follow up is done after one-month and then a subsequent follow-up after three months of reuniting the child with the family is taken. In some cases, a physical follow-up visit is done to establish the reliability of the telephonic follow up information and also to provide more support if necessary.
Total Rescued Children Till 31st March 2020 Since 2012.