Though just shy of seven years old at the time, Kabita was working full-time as a live-in servant for a wealthy family when she first came to the attention of just-one back in 2006. Having found her older brother living on the street some months previously, when reuniting him with his family, we discovered that the poverty stricken parents had accepted the offer rent-free accommodation in a riverside shack, in return for their daughter’s domestic service at the landlord’s 3-storied home. I recall seeing the adorable gap-toothed smile she happily shared despite her hardships and wondering how anyone could force a child so young to work such long and difficult days…
As is the way of just-one, we immediately extended our offer of assistance to Kabita as well, encouraging her parents to allow us support her education too and not merely her brother’s. We were obviously delighted when they agreed but, sadly, I can’t say any of us were hugely surprised when the landlord evicted the family within a week of us rescuing little Kabita from the life of servitude she’d lived for more than a year of her short life. Having already anticipated that this was likely to happen though (easily done when you consider the probable character of someone who’d willing exploit a child in this manner), we were prepared and successfully supported the family in finding alternative accommodation where they’ve happily raised their children since.
In the years that followed, with the continued generosity of those who kindly contribute to our important work, just-one has maintained the regular contact we’ve found to be absolutely necessary to ensure our support is of truly effective benefit for those we work with. As you might expect, there have been various problems encountered over the years by many of these children and families, which have required the careful attention of our incredibly dedicated staff to find appropriate and lasting resolutions. I doubt that many of these issues are a whole lot different from those which the average parent faces in simply doing their best to raise happy and confident children, but know too that some of them, here amidst the cruel chaos of poverty, are the stuff of nightmares that most parents would simply dread to imagine for their own children.
The particular issue I want to deal with here, highlights just how fine a line there is between the happy and secure futures we strive to help the children we work with to create for themselves, and the drastically altered lives almost completely devoid of hope we sometimes find them unwittingly flirting with…
Thankfully, the just-one social worker tasked with the monthly follow-up support visits to Kabita, her brother and their family, noticed early on that there was something amiss with the now 14 year old girl who had previously been an eager student. Her uncharacteristically poor attendance at school and some crucial snippets of information from a watchful and protective brother combined to help us quickly discover that Kabita was coming under the increasing influence of some older girls in her locality, who had been tasked with grooming her into joining their work at a local dance bar.
Despite the understandably immaturity you’d expect from someone her age, it was nevertheless frighting to witness how dangerously close Kabita’s youthful naivety and innocent passion for dance had actually brought her to the brink of a much darker future. There were more than a few scary weeks where, seduced by the deceptive generosity of these ‘friends’, Kabita spent a lot of her time at this dance bar and risked slipping totally beyond our reach. Thankfully, the close and trusting relationship our staff establish with those we work with, played a significant role in eventually allowing us to successfully counteract the negative influence of her dance bar ‘friends’ and their insidious efforts to lure an impressionable Kabita into the same dark existence in which they’d sadly become ensnared.
Now back on track, Kabita’s only a little over a month away from embarking upon her Class 8 studies and preparing for the District Level exams she’ll face at the end of the academic year. Hopefully the valuable lessons she’s learned from this whole recent episode will stand to her in and help her avoid similar dangers in the future. just-one‘s intervention in this particular case highlighted for us the benefit of having occasional access to a safe and caring environment for children we support, like Kabita, for whom the facilities at our transit home wouldn’t be quite appropriate.
In this regard, and with the very kind assistance of the fantastic house-mother who has worked with us since mid 2009, we’re now in the process of now formally developing the additional ‘safe house’ setting without which we may not have been successful in helping Kabita over these last few months. The idea is simply to be in a position to offer a low-capacity foster home type environment where we can keep up to two or three children at a time under the watchful care of our trusted house-mother – already lovingly known to dozens of children as ‘Amma’.
We’ve calculated that the initial set-up cost of such a facility is likely to be no more than €500 and will require an additional €200 to €250 per month to operate thereafter. Having already seen the life-changing difference it allowed us to make to Kabita’s life, we’re absolutely certain that it’s a worthwhile investment and hope that some of you who’ve read this far might be willing to lend us some much needed support by visiting our ‘Make a Donation’ page and choosing the method of giving that best suits your particular circumstances. Like those who have already generously empowered us to carry out this vitally important work to date, and indeed those who continue to do so on a regular basis, you can rest assured whatever support you might kindly choose to provide us with will be very much appreciated by all at just-one and will, perhaps, help further prove our motto that it doesn’t take much to make a difference.