Children's homes: The Children 

Before and Now: Poonam 

Through well-selected pictures from the life-circumstances of the former street child Poonam, who has started her studies at the University in autumn 2012, we want to thank our sponsors for their support which they giving us since so many years. We hope to show that an otherwise preordained destiny of a former “untouchable” child can be changed into a long lasting positive Outlook through loving care and education.

Poonam was born in 1994 and first lived with her seven siblings as homeless street children on a rubbish dump at the Dasaswamedh Ghats in Benares. Her family belonged to the caste of the “Untouchables”, without any belongings and the fought for everyday survival. The children were begging. From the alcoholic father there was no much help to be expected. Even worse, their mother and all siblings were exposed to his daily abuse. The three-year-old sister Monicka was hit hardest. As usually drunk, the father immersed the hand of the little one with force into boiling oil and deteriorated her on purpose, so she could arouse more compassion while begging on the streets.

As I met Poonam and her siblings through my leprosy-aid in Dasaswamedh they were facing the same fate at many other street children: an undignified life, plagued by diseases, exposed to indiscriminate psychological and physical abuse as well as a lifetime dependency either from the pittance of others or after an early marriage on their husbands. She would have never had a chance to learn to read and write let alone to think of a graduation.

While I was working with a team of volunteers to help the leprosy-effected people with the most needed medical treatment and therapy, I also tried to improve the life-circumstances of the street children. Poonam still remembers very well:”I think it may have been the most important moment in my life when I met Tara. I do remember specifically that she bathed me and my siblings on an everyday routine in the Ganges to wash away the dust of the streets and I do remember how much fun we always had. She also enabled me to visit a school for the first time and that even on a regularly basis.”



When Back to Life opened the first children’s home in 2003 Poonam and her siblings where under the first children to move in und they were the first ones to enjoy running water, a roof over their heads, regular meals and a safe environment. During the following years we accepted more and more children in our home and Poonam was becoming the “big sister” for everyone.

 


Poonam developed a very social and caring mind at a very early stage of life. And also her growing self-confidence which developed over the years was a leading role-model for the other children. A long time ago Poonam was once beaten by her school-teacher. She was so furious that she ran home during the school-break and printed out the children’s rights, which she knew very well since we explained these rights several times in our children’s home. She presented those to the now speechless teacher who from that moment onwards never disciplined in a physical way again. Poonam did not only fight for herself in that moment but also for all the other children in her class. And even if she was not always the best pupil, she always was a role model for the younger children because of her ambition and diligence.

 

Therefore we are very proud that she past her graduation with a lot of afford and started to study “Indian History and Literature” and the Benares-Hindu-University in autumn 2012.


In her new life as a student she seems to be very happy especially since she has not to wear a school-uniform any longer and she even found new friends in this short time. She also enjoys the respectful and friendly relationship between the professors and students. Nevertheless she also misses “her old life”:”The time in the children’s home was a time full of wonderful memories. I lived there nearly my whole life with my brothers and sisters. It is my home where I experienced that much love and affection.”


Poonam got the chance to design her future life by her own will through the long lasting support of her sponsors and she is a good example how one can change the destiny of a child by enabling children a good education and assuring a child-friendly environment and how one can help to enable a child to an independent life in dignity.