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TFN member Malcolm visits Friends of the Children of Orissa

Last month, TFN member Malcolm Harper was in India for a visit to Friends of the Children of Orissa, an organisation that pitched at TFN London in 2015. Malcolm was there to work on a number of different projects that support children in Odisha, and we asked him to provide an update on the project that was funded by TFN members:

"The Puri railway children rescue team was able to start its work thanks to the generosity of the TFN audience. Between then and March 2018 the five-person team has rescued 317 children. Puri is a famous temple city on the Bay of Bengal in the state of Odisha. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims visit the temples there during the annual festivals and there is a constant stream of tourists who are there to enjoy the beaches. Most visitors arrive by train from all over India as well as other countries, and the Puri station terminus is always busy. It was an obvious location for the third rescue team to add to the others that were already operating in Odisha. 

Every child supported by the rescue team has a different story; some come from places as far away as Bangladesh, and others come from nearby places in Odisha. Some have become separated from their families in the crowds and others have run away from their homes or workplaces for all manner of reasons ranging from family arguments, serious abuse or even they just wanted to see the bright lights of Puri. 

The resuce team organises awareness-raising sessions for porters, police and other people in the neighbourhood. These workshops support members of the community to recognise children who appear to be in danger and encourage them make the rescue team aware so they can help them. This has helped the team to support more children. In September 2017 a local rickshaw driver noticed a lost 15 year-old girl, and the Puri rescue team were able to place her in a children's home in Khurdha, a nearby town.

The team is made up of three outreach workers who stay on station platforms identifying children in need. In October 2017 they spotted a 12 year-old boy who had run away from home because his father had beaten him after seeing him buying cigarettes. The team counsellor supported him while the local Child Welfare Committee traced his address. His parents came to Puri and counsellors worked with the family to help them to better manage their behaviours and to build a happier family life. Six weeks later, they visited the family to follow up, and they were also able to support them by providing books so the children could conintue their education."

Thanks Malcolm for the update! We love hearing about our members' experiences visiting our funded projects - please let us know if you go on any visits! 

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