Off on a train, away from home

On an warm summer day,11th March 2020 to be precise, our team found two friends roaming at the Salem Junction, near the 1st train gate. After initial conversations, one of the boys, Raj, admitted to have left home because his parents had scolded him,  and began a journey to Chennai with his friend as his travel companion. They even returned to Salem, and that’s when they met face to face with our team. Under stress, the boy’s father contacted our team at the Child Help Desk, suspecting that the boy might have taken a train, and informed the team about his son going missing. Based on this information, our team discovered that children on the Azhapuzha Express were the same one’s who went missing, and on the same day the child was restored to his father in the presence of the Station Master.

An unsettling home atmosphere

The children were natives of Salem district in Tamil Nadu. One of the boy’s father worked as a daily wage labourer and his  mother sold bangles on the roadside, to make a living. He was a student in 9th grade, at the time of rescue. On providing preliminary counselling to the child, the real story unravelled. The boy’s parents had scolded him for not paying much heed to school and his studies. Additionally, the child was disturbed and distracted due to his father’s excessive drinking habits, causing multiple fights at home, making it an uneasy atmosphere. The child bore the brunt of an unhappy family all by himself, as his older sister was married and settled elsewhere.

Intervention through Counselling

Our social worker at the Child Help Desk realised the need to counsel both father and son, in order to help them come to a resolution. Raj was made to understand why he needed to stop bunking school and roaming around aimlessly, emphasising the importance of an education and the long-term implications if he dropped out of school. At the same time, the father was counselled about his drinking habits having negative psychological impacts on the the mental well-being and development of his son. The father heard the team member out and agreed to address his behaviour for the sake of his son.

Psycho-social help during lockdown

During our COVID relief work and psycho-social assiatance, we found that Raj’s parents had lost their jobs and had no steady income. Additionally, the relief they received from the Public Distribution System was not enough for them to survive. Well aware of the past relationship between the father and son, we started a daily follow up with the family to ensure the mental well-being of the child during lockdown. Repeated efforts to reach the family, helped them build trust with our team members, understanding and accepting them as genuine well-wishers. This is when they started sharing their personal issues and turmoil within the home due to multiple reasons. Besides providing them with basic essentials and groceries, the mother become a mitigator between the father and son, after sessions with our e-counselling team, with the intention of reestablishing a healthy realationship between the two. We received multiple calls from the mother, on behalf of her children, whenever the father created a nuisance after drinking. Continuous conversations, and sharing, led to the father agreeing to taking on de-addiction treatemant after the lockdown was lifted.

Overall, consistent counselling sessions helped the family deal with the root problem and find solutions for the well-being of their children.