On 15th November 2019, a 14-year-boy named Bhibhu (name changed) was found alone in the middle of Ghaziabad Railway Station platform. He was scared and looking for some help. When our outreach worker approached the child, he was bit hesitant to talk, but once he spoke about the Child Assistance Booth (CAB) and how it supports children in need of care and protection, Bhibhu warmed up. Our team also realised that the child was unable to speak and communicate, hence they found it challenging to speak to him and get details on his family.

On the same day, the child was produced before the Child Welfare Committee (CWC) of Ghaziabad and brought to our Open Shelter (OS).  On his arrival, he was welcomed by the caregiver in charge and also introduced to the other children living at the OS.  Slowly, the child oriented to the OS routine and the next day, he was provided with counselling.

On further interaction with the child, the counsellor discovered that the child was suffering from a speech disorder and struggling with both understanding and speaking. The child had difficulty with forming specific words and sounds correctly and his speech was partly incoherent. Therefore, neither was he was able to share his home address nor recall the phone number of his parents.  After multiple attempts, the child was still unable to express his address and phone number.  However, the counsellor slowly started engaging him through non-formal activities and facilitated his interaction with other children to make him comfortable and happy at the Open Shelter.  The child was also connected with the psychiatrist and speech therapist of Salaam Balak Trust to help his overall development.  The speech therapist used various techniques to assist with swallowing, including facial massage and lip, tongue and jaw exercises. Therapy helped strengthen the face and jaw muscles used for eating, drinking and swallowing, and increases perceptive abilities too.

The child spent approximately 6 months at the Open Shelter and within this time, he started to express his emotions and also learnt how to write. Bhibhu also developed an interest in drawing and started interacting with other children at the shelter. Earlier the child used to find it difficult to communicate, but with the help of a counsellor, his speech started getting better everyday. The counsellor involved the child in each and every group activity which helped to enhance his social skills considerably. The non-formal educator also provided ample amount of attention to the child, which helped him to gain confidence and overcome his communication difficulties.

During counselling, the child shared with the OS counsellor that he had run away from his home in search of his mother who left home due to a bitter fight with his father. While he was searching his mother, he met one of his friends who assured him that he would help him in finding his mother but he left him mid-way. The child reached Ghaziabad railway station during this search of.  He also shared the address of his parents and expressed his desire to go back home. “It took six months for me to enable Bibhu to speak and share his home address, and now he can return home happily”, said the counsellor.

In the month of April, the team traced the family of the child with the help of the Police. It was confirmed that the child was from Fazilka district in Punjab.  His parents are daily wage labourers. When they heard their child was safe at an Open Shelter, they wanted to come immediately to take him! But due to the non-availability of transportation, they could not come.  Today, the child is at the Open Shelter and actively participating in all regular activities. The child also speaks to his parents on a regular basis through teleconference calls organised by the Counsellor and Care Giver.  It was decided, that the child would be restored back to his parents, once the covid situation normalized.