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In the Indian city Jaipur, Ramesh Paliwal has built a strong support network for street children and former child labourers

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by Kristin Frauenhoffer

Providing children with education is one of TAABAR´s goals.

Sometimes in our lives we experience something that changes us forever. A situation that is so distinctive that looking back on it, we can distinguish it as a turning point. Or may be even the start of a second life. This at least is what Ramesh Paliwal calls that day in 2006 when he met a young boy named Sunil at the Jaipur Railway station in India.

A little boy´s fate sets the spark for TAABAR

„Sunil had run away from his family in New-Delhi in order to earn money for him and his family.“, explains Ramesh. But instead of earning money, Sunil found himself abused by a man in a public toilet. Ramesh helped the boy by bringing him to the hospital and above all giving him psychological support to cope with the situation. Sunil was so desperate he wanted to die. It was a turning point in Ramesh´s life. And it set the spark of an idea that culmulated in the foundation of the association TAABAR one year later.

TAABAR´s mission: Give shelter, food and education to neglected and underpriviledged children

Ramesh, who has a Master´s degree in Social work and Sociology and a post graduate diploma in Counseling Psychology, started talking to the children living at that railway station in Jaipur. In India it is a very common problem that street children live at train stations and collect bottles or other items in order to resell them. These children, who are extremely vulnerable, are very often targets for sexual abuse and drug trafficking. So in 2007, Ramesh eventually founded his association called „TAABAR“. It means „little kid, who needs care“ in the local Marwari dialect. His mission is to help these children, giving them shelter, food and education. He started by providing an emergency shelter for around five children near the station. But the number of children being taken care of increased very quickly.

In the beginning, Ramesh could only provide the children with food and a few hours of education and entertainment. „But every night when we had to send the children back to the station, it broke our heart“, Ramesh recalls. So very soon he and his team organised a bigger shelter with the help of the city municipality of Jaipur, where street children could spend the night. The first emergency shelter home „Bal Basera“ was opened.

Little boys between the ages of 5 and 15 work 18 hours in factories

Today, Bal Basera is one of many child care institutions of TAABAR. But while Bal Basera is used for short term care, another one serves as a permanent home for those children whose families cannot be traced. In general TAABAR aims to reunite children with their parents. Because many of these children run away not because of violence in their families. They run because they want to create a better life for themselves and their families by earning money.

Some kids are even put into factories by their parents, because they were promised that they would receive education and work a few hours a day. They could then send the money home to the families. In reality, they neither go to school nor receive money for their work. Instead, especially little boys between the ages of 5 and 15 work 14 to 18 hours in factories. So TAABAR takes in children rescued from factories in Jaipur during police raids.

A mobile clinic, a library van and a vocational training centre

The mobile clinic is very popular.

„I want to create awareness of the situation of these children. My dream is to build a free, caring and fair society with access to opportunities and a good livelihood for everyone“, summarizes Ramesh his mission. In order to get closer to this goal, the association has extended their fields of engagement. But it is important for them to work at grass-root level. Today they provide a number of local and community-based rehabilitation programmes, not only for runaways and street children.

For instance they have a mobile clinic called „TAABAR´s medical chariot“. It visits people in slum areas who have no or limited access to medical care. In 2020 they had as many as 30.000 patients. Furthermore the association built five Day Care centres around Jaipur for pre-school education and after school support. TAABAR also runs a women training centre providing young women with vocational training in stitching and tailoring. Another one of TAABAR´s projects is the library van – a bus full of books including a mobile classroom. It goes to areas where people have no access to books and education.

Latest project: a school for girls

TAABAR´s latest project is a school for girls, providing around 200 girls with shelter and education. „My wish is to extend that project, giving girls the opportunity to get a high school degree. At the moment they can only finish the 8th grade“, explains Ramesh. „This complete education will give job opportunities to the girls and empower them as they come from poor backgrounds and untouchable castes.“ The association is now planning a new school building for these girls. In order to fund this project, TAABAR is looking for financial supporters.
What started with a little boy 15 years ago has now grown into an extensive network that catches these children and gives them hope and perspective. Ramesh concludes: „It is the most meaningful work I have ever done.“

If you want to learn more about TAABAR and support them, check out their website.

 

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