Salaam Balak trust are a charity that provides support to street kids in Indian cities; Mumbai and Delhi.
2013 is their 25th anniversary.
When I visited Delhi earlier this year I booked myself in to do a Salaam Balak city walk which was a fantastic eye opener. The guides on the walks are ex-street kids that work for the Salaam Balak trust. On the day that I did the walk in May it was 40 degrees. Our guide was Iqbal who was 21 and was rescued by the Salaam Balak trust when he found himself lost and alone at Delhi station at the age of six. He walked us through the streets of Paharganj a rabbit warren of grimy alleyways opposite Delhi Raliway Station, home to many of the street kids and also to the Salaam Balak Trust’s main Delhi refuge.
One thing that visitors to India find difficult to cope with is begging street kids. On the one hand, we feel charitable and compassionate but on the other hand we hear all sorts of stories about how any money that we give goes into the hands of Fagin-like characters who use the street kids to harvest money from wealthy tourists.
One of the things that Iqbal explained to us, which was a real surprise, is that street kids in India spend over 90% of the money they get on entertainment and drugs. Drugs are usually glue and entertainment is usually video games which they pay for a couple of rupees a time. They earn their money either begging, stealing or working as waste -pickers salvaging garbage and selling it for a few rupees per kilo to businesses that supply the recycling industry.
Iqbal explained that one of the reasons that the street kids were able to spend such a high proportion of their earnings on drugs and entertainment was because of charitable activities in Delhi where the poorest people are fed. He specifically referred to the Gurudwara Bangla Sahib Sikh temple. This is the largest Sikh temple in Delhi and is home to an awesome continuous dedicated act of charity. They have a huge dining hall and kitchens where they run a massive operation providing food for the poorest people in Delhi. I visited the temple and was amazed at the operation. Some of the people working there are employees but the rest are volunteers. Sitting in the huge kitchen were Sikhs from all walks of life in Delhi. Business owners, politicians and ordinary folks all feeding 5,000 people per sitting.
I was guided through the kitchens to see the industrial operation in progress. There was an industrial chapati maker churning out bread on a conveyor belt. There were two massive cauldrons being stirred with what must have been hundreds of gallons of curry. Others helped prepare the air conditioned hall, utensils and plates. I shudder to think of the washing up![metaslider id=1691]