Street Children

The Prevalence, Abuse & Exploitation of Street Children

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The early years of the 21st Century                                                                         

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A Video Playlist from a Global perspective

There are an increasing number of street children videos now available that constitute a supplementary source of information for researchers, especially for those who may not have experienced the reality of street children. -- Playlist developed by Brian Horne of &

Children who work in the street in Izmir, Turkey

Hatice Bal Yilmaz and Şeyda Dülgerler, Ege University, Izmir Turkey -- SOCIAL BEHAVIOR AND PERSONALITY, February 2011, 39(1), 129-144 © Society for Personality Research (Inc.) DOI0.2224/sbp.2011.39.1.129

[accessed 28 October 2017]

Using Izmir, Turkey as a case study the risk factors leading children to work in the streets were identified. Participants in the study were 226 children working in the streets, average age 10.35±2.21 who worked 6.8±2.11 hours per day. The great majority of the children were boys (90.2%), 77.9% were of primary school age; two-thirds of the children were working to provide an economic contribution to the family; 86.6% were from a large family; 78.8% were from a family that migrated to a big city. Almost all did not find working in the street safe; and nearly half were not hopeful about the future. It was established that frequent problems in the children’s families include poverty, unemployment, poor education, having a large family, poor family functioning, migration, limited possibilities of shelter, and domestic violence, including the beating of wives and children. Although nearly all the children still lived with their families, a small percentage of the children (5.8%) had begun living permanently on the streets and then cut ties with their families. A significant relationship was found between living on the streets and the age of the child, the father’s education, and the father’s use of alcohol.

And Now My Soul Is Hardened - Abandoned Children in Soviet Russia, 1918-1930

Ball, Alan M. And Now My Soul Is Hardened: Abandoned Children in Soviet Russia, 1918-1930. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c1994 1994

[accessed 23 August 2011]

PREFACE - No spectacle in Soviet cities more troubled Russian and foreign observers during the first postrevolutionary decade than the millions of orphaned and abandoned children known as besprizornye.  Whether portrayed as pitiable victims of war and famine or as devious wolf-children preying on the surrounding population to support cocaine and gambling habits, they haunted the works of journalists, travelers, and Party members alike. “Every visitor sees it first,” noted an American correspondent, “and is so shocked by the sight that the most widely known Russian youth are the…homeless children flapping along the main streets of cities and the main routes of travel like ragged flocks of animated scarecrows.”

Brian Horne of suggests this book because so much of what we have on street children is very recent in historical terms and this book gives a fascinating account of Russian street children of seventy or eighty years ago.

XVII. The Street Arab

Jacob A. Riis.  How the Other Half Lives.  1890

[accessed 23 August 2011]

The Street Arab has all the faults and all the virtues of the lawless life he leads. Vagabond that he is, acknowledging no authority and owing no allegiance to anybody or anything, with his grimy fist raised against society whenever it tries to coerce him, he is as bright and sharp as the weasel, which, among all the predatory beasts, he most resembles. His sturdy independence, love of freedom and absolute self-reliance, together with his rude sense of justice that enables him to govern his little community, not always in accordance with municipal law or city ordinances, but often a good deal closer to the saving line of “doing to others as one would be done by”.

Brian Horne of also recommends this book to us, commenting that “aside from its period style, [it] reads like something that could have been written yesterday”.

Starting a new life in the New World

David Charters, Liverpool Daily Post, Apr 8 2008

[accessed 23 August 2011]

Most judgments about how life should be for other people depend on where you are sitting at the time. Then up spring two writers with a book about an extraordinary period in our history and how it affected poor children.  Yet, despite all the facts and statistics, it is difficult to know now whether what happened to those children was good or bad.

This is the almost forgotten story about thousands of children sent to the British colonies of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Rhodesia.  Christians called them “the bricks of the British Empire”. Well, that was a positive name. At home, they had been known as gutter children, urchins, waifs and strays, whose ragged clothes and haunted faces were an embarrassment to the authorities.

[NEW Lives for Old: The Story of Britain’s Child Migrants, by Roger Kershaw and Janet Sacks]

What does it mean to be a street kid?

Shine a Light SAL

[accessed 3 March 2015]


Imagine you are eight years old. Maybe your parents beat you, and you ran away. Maybe they didn't have the money to support you, or maybe it just seemed that way, so you decided to leave home so there would be more food for your little sister. If you live in Colombia, Peru, or southern Mexico, maybe the army or the guerrillas killed your parents, and you could never find the aunt they had always told you lived in the city. In the end, you are eight years old. The reason doesn't matter. What matters is that you are alone.

Shine a Light Annual Report [PDF]

Shine a Light SAL, 2010

[accessed 23 August 2011]

SHINE A LIGHT ACHIEVEMENTS, 2010 - Shine a Light’s model depends on two major components: direct work with marginalized children to help them document the best ways to change the world, and publishing this information so that people and organizations can use it. In 2010, we advanced in both of these fields, developing important new projects while publishing important Digital workshops, websites, books, and academic papers.

Uphold Children's Dignity

Philani Nyatsanza, The Herald, Harare, 8 April 2009

[partially accessed 18 August 2011 - access restricted]

It has become common parlance, so much that we have ignored the consequences of such labels as "street children" and "Aids orphans".   In simple terms, this is not just naming, but naming and shaming in the same breathe. The power of life and death is in the tongue (Proverbs 18:21).   Why should a child be made to pay the price of something over which they had neither power, say, like losing a parent to an HIV-related illness?   The tragedy is that such shaming has a very high price because, whether we see it or not, it will always haunt the child, looming over them like some spectre of evil.

Every time you call them "street children" or "Aids orphans" you are prophesying into their lives (words are carriers of spiritual power) and at the end of the day, they act and behave in a manner consistent with what you have labelled them.   So, instead of getting answers to the problem of children making a "home" in the streets, we exacerbate this socio-economic ill by condemnation through labelling.

"Street children" seems to have become almost like a trade name, because it is drawn directly from the disadvantaged children's characteristically grimy lifestyles in the streets.   But whether they live and work in streets, in families and communities, they are just children.

Kids struggle to survive - Prefer homelessness to cruel treatment in shelters

Douglas Birch, Baltimore Sun, Moscow, January 20, 2002

[accessed 17 May 2012]

They flutter through the Kursky railway station like flocks of dirt-smudged pigeons, sniffing glue fumes out of plastic bags, begging for money from strangers and scattering as police approach waving nightsticks.  These are Russia's lost children, part of an army of millions of homeless boys and girls who have fled unhappy homes or escaped from the harsh discipline in state orphanages. Mobs of them, some as young as 5, haunt the capital's subway stations, highway underpasses and railroad terminals.

Neglecting a massive problem: drug abuse among street children

Indo-Asian News Service IANS, New Delhi, June 23, 2007

[accessed 23 August 2011]

Very little data is available on street children living with HIV/AIDS in South Asia. The latest HIV/AIDS estimates prepared by Unicef indicate that in 2005 there were 36,000 new infections among the children in South Asia less than 14 years old.  Street children are vulnerable to HIV and other sexually transmitted infections primarily due to sexual contacts with multiple partners, forced sex, drug abuse, related risky behaviour and injecting drug use.  Intravenous drug users (IDUs) are at risk of contracting HIV and can pass it on to their sexual partners. Drug users are also more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviour.  Street children spend a lot of time in settings where casual sexual encounters occur. They run more risk of being infected because they often have sex with persons who practice risky behaviour themselves, like having multiple sexual partners or sharing injecting equipment.  Any intervention by anybody trying to help street children is a challenge.

Background Information on Street Children [PDF]

Arms of love Nicaragua Missions Guide

[accessed 23 August 2011]

Street children live in abandoned buildings, back alleys, parks, garbage dumps, cemeteries, and other public places.  During the day, they will tend to congregate in places with significant pedestrian traffic, such as street corners, markets, bus terminals, and ferry buildings.  When they are young, street children are often able to survive by begging or selling trinkets.  As they grow older, however, people tend to have less compassion on them, and they will typically resort to petty theft and prostitution to survive.

When kids end up on the street

Jen Banbury, UNICEF USA, 10 July 2008

[accessed 3 March 2015]

Children end up on the street for a whole host of reasons. They may have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS or by war. They may be fleeing abusive households or homes where there’s not enough food for the whole family. Maybe it’s something simple: in Karachi, Pakistan, the number of street children is on the rise because it’s off-season for fishing and there are few other ways for their parents to earn a living. Sometimes it’s a reason that, for us, is unimaginable: in Angola, families abandon children because they’ve been accused of being witches.

V. Family Environment And Alternative Care [DOC]

Committee on the Rights of the Child CRC -- NGO Commentaries to the Initial Report of the Kyrgyz Republic on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, January 03, 2000

[accessed 12 June 2011]

[page 13]

g) CHILDREN DEPRIVED OF FAMILY ENVIRONMENT - There are 600-800 street children in Bishkek.  The main reasons are alcoholism of parents, poverty, abuse and home violence.  Street children are excluded from education.  They work at bazaars, petrol stations or commit petty theft, pocket stealing, car robbery, quite often they are doing it under leadership of adults.  They are often arrested by militia, beaten and humiliated, have to give bribes to get free.  Many street children live in the town heating systems, abandoned buildings, etc.  In some towns (Bishkek, Kara-Balta) the shelters run by NGOs for such children can accept only a limited number of children.

Preamble To The Problematic Of Street Children

Extracts from the "Little treaty to the teachers" written for the teachers of "Enfants du Soleil" (Children of the Sun) in Madagascar

[accessed 24 August 2011]

THE STREET CHILD - Children can be seen everywhere, at all times.  Thus, we tend somewhat hastily to apply the label of "street children" to these children that invade the streets.  Not all of them should be considered as street children.  Although most of these children go back home at night, some of them do not have any contact with their family, with the adults.  They are the real street children.

Backward and forward linkages that strengthen primary education

Vimala Ramachandran, 17 August 2006 -- This is an overview of a collection of 10 case studies.  ‘Getting Children Back to School: Case Studies in Primary Education’ will be published by Sage Publications India in 2003

[accessed 23 August 2011]

IV CHILDREN, WORK AND EDUCATION - Primary education in India is not compulsory; nor is child labour illegal. The result is that a large proportion of our children between ages six and 14 are not in school. They stay at home to care for younger siblings, tend cattle, collect firewood, and work in the fields. They find employment in cottage industries, tea-stalls, restaurants, or as domestics in middle class homes. They become prostitutes or live as street children, begging or picking rags and bottles from trash for resale. Many are bonded labourers, tending cattle and working as agricultural labourers for local landowners.’3

There is, formally, a widespread consensus about ending child labour and establishing compulsory universal primary education for all children up to the age of 14, a commitment that can be traced back to Gopal Krishna Gokhale’s efforts at the turn of the last century. Yet, numerous commissions, reports, plans and experiments notwithstanding, more than five decades after independence, the situation remains dismal. Not only do many children never enter school, there are many of those who do drop out before completing basic education. And scores of children from the most deprived strata are or become part of the workforce.

The Children On Our Streets - Part I: The Problem

Prof. Michael Bourdillon, University of Zimbabwe, The International Child And Youth Care (CYC) Network, Issue 35, December 2001

[accessed 24 August 2011]

For the children and their families, being on the street is not a problem. It is their solution to a number of problems.

The Children On Our Streets - Part II The Situation

Prof. Michael Bourdillon, University of Zimbabwe, The International Child And Youth Care (CYC) Network, Issue 36, January 2002

[accessed 24 August 2011]

When we try to understand the problems faced by street children, we quickly find that we need to know something about the home background of the children.  We need to look at their families and what they are leaving in order to be on the streets.

Street Children, Human Rights, And Public Health: A Critique And Future Directions

Catherine Panter-Brick, Department of Anthropology, University of Durham, Durham, UK

[accessed 24 August 2011]

INTRODUCTION: A SHIFT OF PERSPECTIVE - What has been called the global or "worldwide phenomenon of street children" (le Roux 1996) has neither vanished from sight nor effectively been solved. However, current perspectives tend not to demarcate street children so radically from other poor children in urban centers or to conceptualize the homeless in isolation from other groups of children facing adversity. Welfare agencies now talk of "urban children at risk" (Kapadia 1997), which conceptualizes street children as one of a number of groups most at risk and requiring urgent attention.

Violence against Children

Women's Information Center WIC-Georgia

[accessed 24 August 2011]

Street children are especially easy targets.  They may be beaten by police who extort money from them or forced to provide sex to avoid arrest or be released from police custody.  Seen as vagrants or criminals, street children have been tortured, mutilated, and subjected to death threats and extrajudicial execution.

Children’s Rights

Human Rights Watch World Report 2000

[accessed 24 August 2011]

Every country in the world except for the United States and the collapsed state Somali has ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child and pledged to uphold its protections for children. In 1999, the convention stood as the single most widely ratified treaty in existence. Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on November 20, 1989, the promises of this historic document included children's rights to life; to be free from discrimination; to be free from military recruitment and to be protected in armed conflicts; to be protected from torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; to be free from arbitrary deprivation of liberty; to special treatment within the justice system; and the rights to education, health care, an adequate standard of living, and freedom from economic exploitation and other abuse.

Assessment Mission To St Petersburg [DOC] -- Time frame: February 7th -12th 2001, Locations: Central St Petersburg, Northern, Southern and Western peripheries.

Hugh Griffiths, Médecins du Monde Sweden, February 2001

[accessed 27 September 2011]

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly also be accessible [here]

St. Petersburg has approximately 5 million registered citizens within the municipal boundaries. There are an estimated 5000 to 7000 street children in St. Petersburg, with a greater number sleeping at home most of the nights but avoiding school and living on the street during the day. The general trend appears to substantiate the proposition that those sleeping at home but living on the street tend to graduate to sleeping outside the family residence within a period of 18 months.

HUMAN RIGHTS, LEGAL ISSUES & LAW ENFORCEMENT - One of the principle barriers standing in the way of street children accessing their right under the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child to medical care is the fact that many of them lack the correct documentation. The "Propiska" is the stamp in the internal Russian passport which notifies doctors, nurses, police and the health authorities that the holder of the stamp is registered in a certain city, town or village. If the person seeks state medical care in a region outside his or her "Propiska" area, then he or she will be denied it.

An ever increasing number of the children living on the streets of St Petersburg are not registered with the local authorities of that city. This makes state primary health and secondary care impossible for them.

Similarly, both street children and heroin users are subject to beatings and illegal detentions by certain police officers. Heroin users are often actively persecuted by police officers. Such persecution can be lawful when heroin users break Russian legal codes. However, drug users are subject to arbitrary arrest, police break new syringes and females are often exposed to sexual misconduct on the part of the police.

Children for whom the street more than their family has become their real home

Human Rights Watch

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly also be accessible [here]

[accessed 24 August 2011]

Street children throughout the world are subjected to physical abuse by police or have been murdered outright, as governments treat them as a blight to be eradicated-rather than as children to be nurtured and protected. They are frequently detained arbitrarily by police simply because they are homeless, or criminally charged with vague offenses such as loitering, vagrancy, or petty theft. They are tortured or beaten by police and often held for long periods in poor conditions. Girls are sometimes sexually abused, coerced into sexual acts, or raped by police. Street children also make up a large proportion of the children who enter criminal justice systems and are committed finally to correctional institutions (prisons) that are euphemistically called schools, often without due process. Few advocates speak up for these children, and few street children have family members or concerned individuals willing and able to intervene on their behalf.

Severe Chill - As winter deepens in the valley, street children find their daily life deteriorating

Niraj Poudyal, Nepal News, Vol. 23, No. 01, Jan 10 - Jan 16 2003

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly also be accessible [here]

[accessed 24 August 2011]

As winter deepens in the valley, street children find their daily life deteriorating.  One in the group planned to beg and another thought of stealing from the shop nearby. "We don't have any other way of getting food and clothing. And we cannot return to our village because it would add to the burden of our poor family," says one boy who has been roaming the streets of Kathmandu for the last three years

Countering a Culture of Death

Michael Johnstone (Pastoral Assistant at St George’s, Norwich), Salesians of Don Bosco UK

[accessed 3 March 2015]

How do they eat? Why, they pilfer, they shoplift. They become muggers. These are no angels these boys. They are filthy dirty. They are foul mouthed. They are aggressive, with one another no less than with those they meet. They smell. They are not popular. City worthies want to get rid of them. There are campaigns to 'street cleanse' them. They are the victims of violence. They disappear. Hooligans shoot them

Ricardo: ‘The only thing I hate in the world is the police’

Jenny Smith, New Internationalist Magazine, Issue 366, April 1, 2004

[accessed 24 August 2011]

Ricardo’s scarred hands are always busy – wiping the faces of smaller children, opening doors for others, picking up dropped items and returning them. He is desperately trying to give to others that which he has never had on Montevideo’s unwelcoming streets – comfort, pleasure and the security of knowing that there is a helping hand when you need one.

Changing Paradigms for Working with Street Youth: The Experience of Street Kids International [PDF]

Sauvé, Stephanie, Children, Youth and Environments 13(1), Spring 2003

[accessed 3 March 2015]

ABSTRACT - The United Nations estimates 100 million street youth across the globe. They are products of poverty, war, urbanization, political instability, family breakdown, and HIV/AIDS, among others. Many are not homeless, but primary income earners for their extended families.  Many participate in the sex and drug trade because of limited income generation alternatives. How can we support these youth and increase their opportunities while respecting them as independent actors in their own lives?  Street Kids International suggests a critical paradigm shift as the basis for being responsive and effective and describes its approaches for working with street youth as participants and assets within their present communities

Police Abuse And Arbitrary Detention Of Street Children

Human Rights Watch, PROMISES BROKEN: An Assessment of Children's Rights on the 10th Anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, November 1999

[accessed 24 August 2011]

Attention to street children has focused largely on their pressing economic and social plight – poverty, lack of shelter, denial of education, AIDS, prostitution, and substance abuse. But with the exception of killings of street children in Brazil and Colombia, little attention has been paid to the constant police violence and abuse inflicted on these children, or their treatment within the justice system through which they regularly pass

Street Outreach

Stand Up for Kids

[accessed 24 August 2011]

In the U.S., national statistics report the number of homeless kids at more than 1.5 million. More than 500 thousand are still under the age of 15, and some are as young as nine

An Outside Chance: Street Children And Juvenile Justice

Marie Wernham, Consortium for Street Children CSC,  May 2004

[accessed 3 March 2015]

The document entitled, "An Outside Chance: Street Children and Juvenile Justice - An International Perspective", was published by the Consortium for Street Children (CSC), in 2004. It aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the causes and consequences of street children’s involvement in criminal justice systems in a wide range of countries. This report, is based on the findings from a two-year research and advocacy project run by CSC with partners in Kenya, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines and Romania, along with information and case studies from other countries: PDF, 3 parts.

Street Children - Community Children Worldwide Resource Library

Pangaea, 6 January 2010

[accessed 24 August 2011]

The United Nations has been attributed as estimating the population of street children worldwide at 150 million, with the number rising daily. These young people are more appropriately known as community children, as they are the offspring of our communal world. Ranging in age from three to eighteen, about 40 percent of those are homeless--as a percentage of world population, unprecedented in the history of civilization.

Demand & the child sex trade

Presenter: Denise Ritchie, New Zealand, Stop Demand Foundation, Post-Yokohama Mid-Term Review of the East Asia and Pacific Regional Commitment and Action Plan against CSEC,  8-10 November 2004

[accessed 24 August 2011]

The child sex trade, like all trades, exists not because there is poverty but because there is demand and supply. The demand for sex comes from adults, overwhelmingly men. The supply is that of children, in particular their bodies and sexual parts. The goods taken and destroyed however are much more than children’s bodies, but also their minds, their hearts, their spirits, their hopes, their futures and frequently their lives.

Forced Labor: The Prostitution of Children [PDF]

Papers from a symposium held on September 29, 1995 at the U.S. Department of Labor in Washington DC

[accessed 24 August 2011]

[Part I: Overviews on Child Prostitution]  [2. “Child Prostitution In Latin America” by Dorianne Beyer]

Many of the girls who end up as child prostitutes in Latin American countries have chosen a sexually exploitative life on the streets, rather than suffer continued family violence and male incest in their own homes. Again, this type of society supports and condones such behavior as absolutely indigenous to the aggressive, predatory nature of men and the passive and compliant nature of women.

This is not only because of the strong machismo culture in those societies, but is also due to the worldwide trends of oppression of women. But the additional layer of machismo in Latin America does create exaggerated forms of oppressive violence towards girls and women as well as traditional societal and familial pressure to produce large numbers of girl child prostitutes. The pervasive occurrence of extreme cases of violence emerges as both a cause and a condition of girl child prostitution.

Child Soldiers

Ethics, Editor: John K. Roth, Samem Press, December 2004 · ISBN: 978-1-58765-170-0

[accessed 24 August 2011]

In 2003, an estimated 500,000 children under eighteen years of age served in the government armed forces, paramilitary forces, civil militia, and armed groups of more than eighty-five nations, and another 300,000 children were active in armed combat in more than thirty countries. Some of the children were as young as seven years of age

ANGOLA: Children victims of witchcraft accusations

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks IRIN, Mbanza Congo, 27 January 2004

[accessed 10 March 2015]

In some areas of Angola the belief in witchcraft is strong, and an accusation of sorcery can lead to violent and sometimes lethal retribution by the community.  In M'Banza Congo, the provincial capital of Zaire in northern Angola, at least 23 young boys are forced to live in an orphanage run by the Catholic Church. They were thrown out of their homes for allegedly possessing supernatural powers.

"My parents died during the war. I moved to my sister's for a while, but they did not want me to stay there. They threw me out on the street. I lived there a long time before I came here," 12-year-old Manus told IRIN.

He did not want to say why he was forced onto the streets, but he knows that he and the other boys in the orphanage are accused of being "wizards".

Several of the boys, like Manus, slept rough at the market or in derelict houses before being collected by the orphanage. Most of them had also been abandoned by relatives after their parents died.

The Killings Escalate In Brazil - Street Children: More and More Killed Everyday

Caius Brandao, International Child Resource Institute ICRI Brazil Project Coordinator, 24 April 1995

[accessed 24 August 2011]

Clearly, there is a perceived benefit to killing destitute children, not only to those who directly profit from it, i.e., the hit-men. When street children die it also 'benefit' the people who paid the professional killers to clean up the streets in the first place.

In 1994, 1221 minors were killed in the State of Rio de Janeiro, an average of more then three kids everyday; 570 died from gunshot wounds, and a total of 344 were under the age of 11.

A Lamp That Sheds No Light

Willy E. Gutman, Honduras Weekly, 31 July 2010

This article has been archived by World Street Children News and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 9 Aug  2013]

Fiction also trivializes fact. There is no romance in the life of street children, only pain and hopelessness, hunger and fear, disease and death. Real street children do not sport beguiling smiles. They are prone to misbehave. They often stink. All could use a bath.

But under the grime, the air of defiance or the crushing indifference their feverish eyes convey, there is a child, scared, vulnerable, far too young to taste life's bitter medicine, yet incurably old before his time.

In the ghostly twilight world of street children, there are no magic lamps to rub, no benevolent, turbaned genies, no flying carpets, no protective amulets, no healing philters; only evil spirits lurking, stalking easy prey. Unlike Aladdin, street children do not amass fame and fortune, and no fairy prince or princess will marry them in the end. Most never leave the streets. Many don't reach adulthood. Disease, hunger, drugs and bullets often cut their lives short.

Ex–street kids thrive in doc

Pieta Woolley, Vancouver Free Press, April 27, 2006

[accessed 24 August 2011]

The film, Metamorphosis: The Lives of Former Street Kids, has no distributor or broadcaster. Mervyn created it for a few thousand bucks on credit card, with a volunteer sound editor and cameraman Ben Hoskyn, a BCIT film grad. Too much research has focused on why youth stay on the streets, she said. Her work looks at why some youth successfully launch themselves off the streets.

American musician takes on the system

Nina Harvey, People's Post, 05/12/2007

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 22 July 2011]

"A lot of organisations aimed at helping these kids simply come in and try and get them to conform without first discovering what their needs are. But in order to really help them you need to build a foundation first and not just go in and tell them what to do.

"People seem to either think they are delinquents, or they pity them, thinking they must have come from an abusive background. Yes, many of their previous circumstances may have been tough, but what people don't realise is that the street life is addictive. These kids have the freedom to move around as they please. Many of them will choose to stay where they are, living by their own rules."

And that, Brown says, is the greatest problem. "The structure in this country is flawed. Children here are making decisions for themselves they are too young to make."

Why Become a Rag-Picker or Street Child?

Street Children Ministry

[accessed 24 August 2011]

THE RAGPICKER'S DAILY ROUTINE - As a street child, between five and eighteen years of age, these children earn their livelihood by polishing shoes, washing cars, finding parking spaces, rag picking (recycling garbage), selling lottery tickets and news papers, etc. They also work as coolies and helpers in automobile repair shops, construction sites, and hotels. Their average earnings vary between 15 Rupees to 20 per day, while the more experienced ones earn 25 to 40 Rupees. However, these are the lucky ones. The Girls are forced into prostitution at an early age.

Arising at dawn, the rag picker children start their rounds. With feet bare and backs aching, they carry the heavy gunny bags that contain the day's pickings. Sometimes on foot they travel over 20 kilometers each day for the best pickings. Their clothing is filthy, tattered, ill fitting, and wholly inadequate for protection especially, when the weather is wet and cold.

Life is very hard as they rummage (competing and fighting with stray dogs and cattle) through every filthy garbage heap in the city and railway stations. All recyclable garbage is collected and sorted: paper, plastic, bottles, bones, metals and rotting discarded food thrown out by households and railway passengers. With this they fill their bags and often their starving bellies. If the day's collection is bad, they resort to stealing for survival. If good, they rush to the nearest wayside shop to ease their hunger.

All have regular scrap dealers to buy their loot. They receive a meager pittance, and sometimes this pittance is withheld to repay a previous enforced loan. Some days they starve. If a better price is negotiated by another dealer, the child is frequently beaten and tied up.

However the issue of greater concern is related to their pattern of spending, where a major part of their income is spent on drugs, alcohol, solvent abuse (sniffing solvents), and gambling. They frequently become involved in street fights. With little money and too much freedom, they are vulnerable and fall prey to any number of situations that threaten life and soul.

Late in the afternoon they resume their second round of collection. Then after sorting and selling their loot, they spend their nights on the streets or in graveyards, where they are exploited and abused. Older rag pickers and perverted people give them drugs or threaten them for sexual purposes, thus exposing them to A.I.D.S, and many more sexual and life threatening diseases.

A rag picker is not a beggar. He works hard and considers rag picking a profession of choice. It enables him to earn money, daily, and offers him ample amounts of free time. They are very loyal and protective of each other, sharing food and money. The rag picker is proud and feels that he is master of his own life.