LIFE IN SNEHALAYA
I was placed for about a month in Snehalaya, Guwahati, an organisation working for the street children. This is the first time that I had ever worked with an organisation working with the street children. During this field work I realize that the saying, ‘Spare the rod and bring back the child’ has its own magical power in it.
The organisation had the least rules for the children in Snehalaya which makes the organization special. The organisation focuses more on making the child take up the responsibilities for himself rather than following the rules. It was amazing to see that the children in the Shelter home, especially ones who had stayed long in the Shelter home, were very well mannered. It was also seen that the older children are taking responsibility for the younger ones as well as the new ones. The children in the Shelter Home, though had some petty fights among themselves every now and then, had a feeling of oneness is seen among them. They also displayed a sense of ownership for the place in the fact that though they had no cook or a gate keeper, the children manage it all by themselves and guess…..no one in the shelter home are left hungry. It is least expected from children of shelter home who were from the street where ‘survival of the fittest’ is the only principle being followed.
Shelter home is the first stage where the children are brought directly from the street and experience the Snehalaya life. The organisation was creative enough to practice the stage wise policy which means a child had to be qualified in the first stage that is Shelter home for entering into the next stage with more comforts in Snehalaya. But….no comfort is achieved without a price. The children had to meet some conditions of the organization which are not much… they just had to settle down themselves and give up the habit of substance abuse, running away from place to place and above all have the interest to study. It was followed as a preventive measure for the children who are already settled down in Snehalaya as well as helping the new children to be stable in their stay. The policy of least rules on the children teaches the lesson of trusting each other – trust among the children themselves as well as between the children and the organization in the Shelter home.
The organisation helped me in understanding the life of the children in the street, the risk the children had to undergo daily in the street, the reasons for them to run away from their homes, but above all helped me in understanding the policies needed while dealing with the children who are on the street. It was mostly found that the children run away due to the harsh treatment they get at home. The organisation was wise enough to have the policy of least rules in the Snehalaya life and gave them the freedom to live their life on their own in Snehalaya by making them comfortable in the organization. It at least gave the runaway children a space to live on their own and at the same time prepare themselves for the future life by admitting them in schools or to some vocational training. Lastly it could be said that Snehalaya serves as a resort for the children in the street where they can breathe and live life to the fullest and at same time mould their career too. Snehalaya offers them a home because it was observed that the children mostly run away due to unbearable family circumstances. (Christina)