Sleeping on the pavements, studying on the streets: helping children in India to thrive
Begging, selling alcohol and stealing – this is how street children in India survive and provide for their families. But thanks to BMS World Mission, a school on the street in Kolkata is providing these children with an education, teaching them life skills to help them succeed.
Tens of thousands of children live day and night on the streets of Kolkata. With no access to education or healthcare, begging or selling alcohol and drugs are often the only ways they can survive. Countless families live in absolute poverty, and it can often feel like there is no way out.
This is where the street school takes place, underneath a bridge.
But lasting change sometimes starts with something small. Underneath a bridge in the bustling city of Kolkata, next to a traffic-filled road, 50 children who call the streets their home are getting to go to school. Because BMS worker Ben Francis and his team have brought school to them.
Calling themselves Street Servants, our team teaches the children reading, writing and arithmetic – important lessons from the government kindergarten syllabus. And once they’re ready, the team help get the children into a government school to earn essential certificates.
They’re also learning about Jesus. Every day, the children sing songs about God. They learn to read through parables and Bible stories, and they pray.
These children, who have only ever known life on the streets, are gaining new opportunities to learn, and new skills that will set them up for life. And it’s all because of your support for BMS.
This serious boy is Nawab. Thanks to your support, he's now in a government school along with seven other children from the street school.
Nawab was begging outside a horse racing track when the BMS-supported Street Servants met him. After meeting with his parents, the team invited Nawab to come to the street school, along with his two sisters.
Thanks to the school, Nawab’s life has changed dramatically. Along with seven other children who were taught by BMS-supported teachers in Kolkata, he’s now in a government school. Sat in a busy classroom of children in school uniform, after a life without much structure, the adjustment has not been easy.
But now, Nawab has the opportunity of a full education. A way off the streets.
All 50 children at the street school are learning the skills they need to get into government schools. As well as learning the right curriculum, they’re also being taught wider life skills.
“We’re giving them the habit of discipline,” says BMS worker Ben Francis, who helps oversee the project in Kolkata. Street school is preparing these children to sit in a classroom, to listen, and to learn to change their own futures.
And we aren’t just stopping with 50 children. We want more children like Nawab to receive a quality education, and our team is working hard to set up a second school. “We want to see more children get into government schools,” says Ben. “We want more communities changed, and more families leaving the streets.”
BMS worker Ben Francis, who helps oversee the Street Servants project in Kolkata.
And it really is all about families. The Street Servants team go and meet parents, offering counselling and advice. For many, having their child in school means a loss of income, as they often beg to help support the families.
“It’s about changing the mindset of the parents,” says Ben. “We tell them, ‘today you want 40 pence from your child. But if you let them study, some day they will bring back four thousand pounds.’” By getting the parents on board, the children can go to school and become more equipped to support their families in the future.
“I just want to say thank you to everyone in the UK,” says Ben. “You’re enabling underprivileged children to touch love, and helping us show Jesus’ love in the most tangible way that people will understand.”
Please pray for the street school, for Nawab, and his seven classmates as they continue to thrive in the government school, getting an education that any of us would want for our own children. And you can do something to help them – and people like them – right now. By donating to BMS, you will give help and hope to people who the rest of the world wants to forget. Do something small today to let them know they’re not forgotten. You really can make a difference.
As Ben Francis says, “it’s not just about supporting one child. It’s about changing generations.”
This story was originally published on the BMS World Mission website and is used with permission