3,359 children reunited with their families, 4,722 of kids were rescued, and 446 of them received referrals from their stakeholders, as of January 2019. This NGO is changing the cruel fate of abandoned children in India through their project Rakshyak, which was started 7 years back.
The interesting part is the children who are rescued by the NGO are not only the ones who are trafficked or sold into flesh trade. While some are abandoned by their parents and others run away willingly because they are unable to handle the parental pressure inflicted upon them.
Speaking to Life Beyond Numbers, Manoj Kumar Swain, the founder director of Society For Children (SOCH) tells us why strong conditioning of a child’s mind can lead to disaster and only through liberal upbringing and proper counseling, one can change the fate of these kids.
What SOCH does
According to UNICEF report, India is home to 31 million orphaned children but, today many children in the country have been also abandoned by their living parents and some run away from their home willingly because they are not able to handle the parental pressure.
With the motto “Saving Lives…Building Future” SOCH was started in 2012. It is a non-profit organization, which works at Bhubaneswar, Berhampur and Puri Railway Stations to rescue children who are lost, missing and have run away from their homes.
Children are trafficked not only for sexual abuse but, forced labor, benefit fraud, forced marriage and also for criminal activities.
“The remote pockets of Bengal, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa are the source as well as the destination area of trafficking. At times it is difficult to deal with children who are a victim of substance abuse or have acquired a taste for wrong behavior. So we counsel them and bring them on the right track,” says Manoj.
The organization was divided into two groups- one for rescued children in stress, who need care and protection and others who don’t need special attention. The NGO also has their two flagship initiatives- Puranjivan and Pankh, through which they effectively take care of the children.
Project Punarjivan, which is a one-month Behaviour Modification Camp, aims to counter the hard behavior of children, who have a habit of running away regularly. Another project, Pankh was started to support mainstreaming those who have come out of the Institutional care and are set free to explore the career.
To sum it up, The NGO rescues and resettle working and begging children, rehabilitate addicted and hard behavior street children through de-addiction and behavioral modification camps. The NGO also provides health care service for children and gives safe and nurturing the environment for the orphan as well as physically and mentally challenged children. Further, it encourages foster parenting and alternative care for children in need of care and protection.
Why no room for children?
Manoj recalls a case, how his team found a girl in Puri railway station, who was raped a day back. “She was 14 years old and was identified by a local auto driver. She was so traumatized by the unfortunate incident that she asked the auto driver whether he will do the same with her. We immediately took her to CWC and proper shelter and counseling was provided to her”
Before parents educate their children, they need to first educate themselves when it comes to parenting. “Some children are conditioned so strongly that they cannot fight their way back from a difficult situation, even if something wrong is done to them, the kids blame themselves for that. That is the main issue,” says Manoj.
“Over the years we have seen that usually, children who are aged between 3-4 years fall prey of abduction. It is 6-7-year-olds who run away from their home and in case of kids who are 8 to 15 year-olds, the rate is much higher.” After rescuing the runaway, missing, abducted and abandoned children, the NGO’s first priority is to unite them with their families and the last option is providing them with institutional care.
“We also take the help of the government and put all efforts to reunite the children with their family. When we see that the children have fully recovered and are not in stress anymore, we call their parents and check whether they are fit to take them home and if not, the children are referred to various children’s home for long term care,” he adds.
Little changes can create a Big Shift
Born in a small village in Odisha’s Ganjam district, Manoj says that he was beautifully raised by his parents and grandparents. “My father was in the Army so, I have spent the majority of my childhood with my mommy and grandparent. A proper environment is very essential for a child to grow up, and I am blessed that I had that in my childhood”
To parents, he says, “if your child is sharing a problem, listen to them, because they speak from their heart. They cannot fake their emotions.”
While pursuing Post Graduate Diploma in Child Rights from Tata Institute of Social Science, Mumbai, Manoj got sensitized with the issue of child exploitation and decided to work for them. Before, starting SOCH, he also worked with SATHI, a national level NGO working for street children, managing their projects at various locations for three years.
“SOCH is a ray of hope for these abandoned kids and it has also allowed me to look at life from a different perspective and I believe no child needs to experience the abuses of abandonment,” concludes Manoj.
Entire Board at SOCH are professionals from different sectors and no one draws any remuneration from SOCH for their living and all contribute their time voluntarily. If you like to volunteer with SOCH or would like to contribute, please visit their website.
Just for your information, child abandonment is a punishable act under section 317 of India’s Penal Code.
In life, all we have to do is decide what to do with the time given to us. Instead of pointing fingers at others, why not become the change we want to see in this world and make it a better and safer place for children? Why not make ourselves useful for a good cause?