Don Bosco Ashalayam is the only family I ever had. I grew up without parents. I do not know what happened to them. A far as I can remember, I have always been alone in the streets, working and scavenging for food. One day, a family took me to their home; not to take care of me, but to make me work as their domestic help. To my disappointment, the life of a servant is not better than life in the streets. I was abused daily and never received any money. One day, when no one was looking, I escaped from this dreadful place. I was barely 10 years old and was utterly helpless. I did not know what to do. That’s when I met an outreach worker from Don Bosco Ashalayam. Thanks to this auspicious encounter, I was placed in one of Ashalayam’s Children’s Home. For the first time in my life, I was sent to school. And for the first time in my life, I did not have to worry about food, shelter or safety. It was the beginning of a completely new life for me! And I am proud to say I took advantage of it. I studied very hard in school and always obtained good grades. I successfully completed Class XII and went on to study Electronics in Don Bosco Park Circus, in Kolkata. After getting my diploma, Ashalayam helped me to further my studies even more. They helped me get scholarship with DuPage College in Chicago. I am so excited to go study in the US. Never would I ever have imagined that a street child like me would one day board a plane to the U.S.! I feel so blessed. Ashalayam offered me a life that goes beyond my wildest dreams!
I had a difficult start in life. My mother passed away after giving birth to me. My father remarried within two months. That’s the way things work in the villages. My step-mother never accepted me, and my father stopped caring for me. He had a new life with a new family and I was a part of his past; a past that died when my mother did. He did not care when my step-mom and her family were abusing me. I felt very alone and unloved. One summer, when I was only 8 years old, I was feeling so sad and rejected that I decided to leave my home and go to my maternal uncle’s house. I took a bus all alone and tried to find my way but I was young and scared and I inevitably got lost. I ended up in Howrah station, the busiest train station of the whole country. It was very scary! Thankfully, Mr Subroto, the manager of the Childline found me and brought me to Ashalayam. It was the holidays and all the kids were gathered for Ashalayam’s Summer Camp. The staff and children invited me to join in. There were games, sports competitions, dance, music, songs, and a lot of candy and ice cream! It was wonderful! And all the children and staff were very friendly. For the first time in my life, I felt included, I felt like I belonged. After a few days, the Childline staff found my father and talked to him about my case. But I did not want to go back home. I wanted to stay in Ashalayam with my new friend, my new family. My Father did not try to change my mind. He was quite pleased to be rid of me. So I joined Ashalayam. It was very exciting! Beyond the games and all the fun, Ashalayam took care of my education. My father had never bothered sending me to school and I was completely illiterate. It was a great joy for me when they gave me a uniform and sent me to school for the first time! I know how lucky I am to go to school and that’s why I study hard. In 2015, I passed my Class X exam. I am very proud! I am now in Class 11, but I also work part-time in Ashalayam. I stay in Asha Deep, a home for very small boys (age 5 to 10) and I help the Home-in-Charge to take care of them. I love playing games with these boys. I see a lot of myself in them and I want them to be just as happy as I was on my first day of Summer Camp!
When I was a small child, I had a pretty normal life. I had a family and a home. We were very poor and owned very few things but we were happy. Then one day, when I was about 7 years old, my life got turned upside down. I was playing in the street with my elder sister, Gudia, when a man approached us. He started talking to us and somehow convinced us to follow him into his jeep. And then he drove us away. He drove us very far away from our home. We were very scared and we begged him to bring us back to our parents but he refused. Finally, after what seemed like an endless journey, he stopped the car and ordered us to get out. We had no idea where we were. Some people were there, waiting for us. They told us that, from now on, we would be working for them as servants. These people were awful…truly awful… They would often get drunk and beat us with wooden sticks. After some time living in these horrific conditions, my sister and I decided to escape. We ran away from this terrible home. We didn’t know where we were, so we were running aimlessly. We were just trying to get as far away from these people as possible. So we jumped into the first train we saw and rode it until the end of the line. The last stop was Liluah Station, in Howrah (Kolkata). My sister and I were finally safe from our kidnappers, but we had nowhere to go. Fortunately, an outreach worker from the Childline project found us roaming around helplessly in the train station. At first, the Childline tried to reunite us with our parents. But we were very young and we did not know where our parents lived. We did not even know from which state or which city we came from. And, unfortunately, no one reported us missing. So the Child Welfare Committee decided my sister and I should be placed in Children’s institutions until the authorities could find our parents. My sister was placed in Loretto School for Girls and I was placed in Ashalayam. To this day, no one has been able to locate my parents. This is sad, of course, but I am happy anyway because I was given a new family. In Ashalayam, we are all brothers and sisters and we all love and support each other. We are provided with everything we need and we are given the opportunity to build a better life for ourselves. Thanks to Ashalayam, I passed my Class X exams and I am now studying Graphic Design in New Delhi. I have come a long way and I will never forget what Ashalayam did for me.
Don Bosco Ashalayam Kolkata