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India, Voluntourism

My last day at the center

After several days of volunteering in a cramped room in 100+ degree heat, we finally had a morning with a breeze, making the temperatures tolerable enough to take the boys to the park. As we walked through the busy Nizamuddin Railway Station, it pained me to see that most of the boys walked through the filthy streets without shoes—streets that are full of trash, cow dung, oil, rotting food sraps, and all manner of sharp objects. I’m told that if I were to buy them shoes, they would simply sell them. They have little need for shoes.

We had a great time playing games at the park until it became too hot to stay outdoors. As we slowly walked back to the center, the boys raced to be the ones to hold my hands on the way back. It made me happy to know that they enjoy having me here, but I have to say, it drew a lot of curious looks from the locals. I wonder what they were thinking—like “who’s this depraved Western woman coming to steal away our street boys?”

One of our newest boys, Chonda, is a tiny munchkin of only 6 years old. He’s the smallest, angriest little guy in our center and will pick a fight with anyone, regardless of their size. He has pink scars on his face that are a stark contrast against his dark skin. Some scars are the result of abuse, some he received while living on the street (and both likely explanations for his wild behavior). Surprisingly, he’s lived on the street for a while…and remember, he’s six. He didn’t acknowledge me at all when he arrived, but yesterday he surprised me by calling to me in Hindi and asking me to play a clapping game with him. I was told that what he called me was “good one.” To Chonda, I am the “good one.” I shudder to think of how many “bad ones” he’s encountered in his short life, and what they did to earn that title. Later that day, when he flared up multiple times over some perceived wrongdoing (however innocent), he allowed me to calm him down. I discovered tickling is a good method. 🙂 There may be barriers of geography and language between people, but humanity is universal in our world. This means that regardless of who they are or where they live, all children love to play, to laugh, to have your attention, and to be loved.

Sadly, yesterday was my last day at the center. The boys made me a card and gave me their love, knowing I was departing for home soon. It hasn’t escaped my attention that the kids I’ve worked with here in Delhi are much the same as the beggar children that I’ve encountered since I arrived in India. I never doubted that all of those street kids had lives outside of begging and were typical children, but actually seeing this and engaging with them has been an invaluable experience—and also makes me feel better about giving to them in a way that is more valuable than a few rupees. I can only hope that some of the boys I’ve worked with in Delhi will be placed in schools or reunited with their families, because the streets here are much too harsh for even the strongest of adults. And they are just children. I will miss them.

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About colleen finn

Colleen Finn is a globe trotting, sight seeing, day tripping, frequent flying traveler with a penchant for voluntourism.

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