It’s been a few weeks since we been able to visit another charity project; between a week’s worth of food poisoning, Christmas, New Year and 30th birthday celebrations with visiting family (hopefully all good enough excuses!), we were really eager to find another a local project to support when we arrived in Delhi to round off our first three months of the trip.

I’ve been to Delhi twice before, but never quite seen it like I did this time. It’s home to 25 million people, double that of London which I find slightly mind blowing considering how overwhelmingly crowded I find my own capital. London’s like a walk in the park compared to its Indian counterpart though, not just for its relative space, cleanliness and lack of spitting, rubbish and stray dogs, but because Delhi is also home to 2 million people who survive on less than $1.25 a day.

Working in International Development, I use stats likes these on a daily basis in funding proposals. However big the number though, sometimes there’s nothing more powerful than getting off your desk and seeing the reality with your own eyes (and ears and nose!).

I got my taste of reality last week as we pulled in on the train from Jaipur. I was amazed at how close families were living to the tracks. So close, in fact that the train lines were basically just an extension of their surprisingly colourful homes. I saw people washing themselves, their children, their clothes, going to the bathroom, taking out their rubbish. It all happened on the tracks and I still can’t quite believe it.

Despite this level of poverty, these people did at least have a roof over their heads which can’t be said for the 51,000 children who live on Delhi’s streets, something which I cannot imagine putting a child through at all. Seeing a barefoot toddler crying next to his big brother in a chilly station in Agra recently is the reason I’m so pleased organisations like the Salaam Baalak Trust exist. Created in 1988 by three friends who were inspired by a film about slum children, the trust works to give children their childhoods back. They do this through:

  • helping them reunite with their families
  • placing them in their shelter homes for 6 months – 1 year
  • housing them permanently until they’re 18
  • providing them drug rehabilitation, education, health care and counselling.
  • they even provided funding for post 18 year olds who are pursuing higher education.

The Trust is currently looking after 7,000 street children and has received awards from Obama Administration and is funded by world renowned donors (USAID, Comic Relief etc). Happily, the Indian Government is also funding them (albeit only to 10% of their annual budget) and they make up their short falls through individual donations and a innovative programme where ex-street children give tours to tourists (i.e. us!) to show them the realities of life on the streets.

It was a really inspiring morning we spent with our guide, 19 year old Vishal whose family was forced to move to Delhi due to poverty from the northern state of Bihar when he was just 5. Thanks to the Trust, Vishal is happily now off the streets, studying Tourism at University, working as a guide and looking forward to working for one of the big Indian tour companies when he finishes studying. We heard about so many other success stories of former street children now working as engineers, teachers, actors and photographers in India and all over the world. It really did give me hope. All it takes is someone to believe in you.

We fully support the work of the Salaam Baalak Trust and happily gave them £75 from the money YOU helped us raise. Thank you!

Check them out here: www.salaambaalaktrust.com

Are you heading to India and want to spend a few hours learning about an organisation like Salam Balaack Trust? Get in touch and we´ll find an NGO you´ll love to support!