“I don’t want to live with my father!”

Sixteen year old Aarav (name changed) was found at the crowded Ghaziabad railway station one hot afternoon in the month of March. The child was wandering on the platform, and our team member approached him and brought him to the Child Help Desk.

During the counselling session with the team, Aarav shared that he had run away from home because he wanted to meet his maternal grandfather. Aarav lived in Kanpur and was studying in the 9th grade, and had run away from home because he did not want to live with his father. He wanted to go to his grandfather to escape his life and live where he was more comfortable. Aarav’s family was well-off. His father is a farmer, and his grandfather is a retired army professional who supported their income financially. The child shared that he had withdrawn four thousand rupees from his father’s bank account before running away from home. From Kanpur, he took a train to his grandfather’s home in Ghaziabad.

Aarav had decided to run away after his father had scolded and beaten him. He said, “Jab mein train mai chadha toh mujhe dar nahi lag raha tha, par mujhe ye yakeen tha ki mai yaha pitaji ke saath toh nahin rahunga. Mujhe gau mein bilkul aacha nahin lagta tha isliye maine paise churaye or idhar ghaziabad aa gaya.” (When I took the train I wasn’t scared but I knew that I will not live here with Father anymore. I really do not like it in our village, and so I stole the money and took the train here in Ghaziabad.)

When Aarav reached Ghaziabad, he took an auto rickshaw to reach Indirapuram, where his grandfather lived, but when he reached there he saw that the house was locked up and there was no one home. “Vo waha the nahi aur ghar par koi nahi tha, baki society walo ne childline ko call kiya or ek bhaiya aaye or mujhe idhar leke aa gaye.” The other society members who saw Aarav called the child helpline, and one man dropped him at the station where RCI operated.

From extreme anger to promising to go back to school

The child was received by the Open Shelter team after the GD (General Diary) entry, medical examination and other formalities were completed. On his arrival at the shelter, the child was introduced to the other children who were also living there. The basic amenities of food, clothing, and other facilities were provided to the child at the Open Shelter.  The caregiver facilitated the child to feel comfortable and safe while at the shelter.

For Aarav’s education, he was constructively engaged through non-formal, activity-based learning. As per the functioning of the open shelters, he was also engaged in group activities conducted by the counsellors to enhance his social learning.  Individual counselling given to the child, to understand his issues and help with his overall development. As per the RCI counsellor’s observation of Aarav, the child had been experiencing and displaying a lot of anger and anxiety. He was unable to concentrate on tasks and was argumentative with staff members. It was with the continued efforts of the counsellor and the caregiver that Aarav began to perform better and learned how to deal with his stressors in an effective way.

Aarav lived in the Uday Open Shelter for around four months. During this time, the team had identified the learning interests and hobbies of the child.  He had a wonderful affinity for computer skills, and we provided him online classes to understand the skills. These helped him learn the basic computer skills like switching on the computer, and using applications like Microsoft Excel, PowerPoint and Word. Towards the end, Aarav’s typing speed also increased, and he learnt to use the internet. The child had developed his interests which would help him in the future and when Aarav expressed his desire to be with his parents, we contacted the child’s parents.

Initially, Aarav had not been willing to give any contact details of his family except that of his grandfather. It was after the counselling sessions and comfort of the child, that we were able to contact the family. His maternal grandfather and his father came to Ghaziabad, and the Child Welfare Officer arranged an interaction between the family and the child, along with regular counseling sessions during their stay at the OS. The CWO also conducted an assessment to understand the care and protection system existing in the child’s family.  In the family counselling session, the counsellor mentioned that the child was sensitive and had anger and anxiety issues, which Aarav was then able to control with relaxation therapy. For the long term, the counsellor suggested that the family, on the basis of the child’s interest, admit him to a vocational training center.  His worried family was extremely grateful, “Bhaiyya Aapne mere Bacche ki Zindagi Bacha li.” (Brother, you saved my child’s life!)

After the session, the guardians vowed to pay more attention to the needs of their child, and Aarav promised that he would study in school. He planned to then pursue the computer learning course to make a career in that vocation. Aarav was brought home soon after, equipped with skills that would help him plan a future. RCI also helped him gain re-admission at his school to continue his studies.

Post-Restoration follow Up

The Child Welfare Officer conducted the first follow up of the child and his parents and learned that Aarav was doing well and practicing what he learned in the computer classes. His school classes would begin in a few months. The CWO also ensured that Aarav has access to proper counseling sessions in the future.

In the recent pandemic lockdown, the follow-up of the child made sure that the wheels were in motion to re-admit Aarav into school after the pandemic period. Financially, the family is able to sustain themselves. The Child Welfare Officer also spoke to the child that afternoon, and the child shared, “Sir hum theek hai or mujhe acha lag raha hai idhr ghar aakr, jaise he lockdown khulega mei school admission ke liye jaunga.” (Sir I am doing well, and I feel good being back home and as soon as the lockdown lifts, I want to go back to school!)