Agape's mission has been to reach the street children living in Bangalore and to touch them with the love of Jesus and show them a life full of happiness that leads to eternal life.

 

Through the establishment of Agape Children Centers, the mission continues by bringing in kids where they get a permanent home to live in and forget their street life.

Why become a Rag picker or a street child?

 

Who would become a Street Child or Rag picker by choice? This was a question frequently asked by us. Several factors emerged as the provoking reasons. This life-style is forced onto these children for survival. They lack the basic needs that most of us enjoy; they come from violent and broken homes, perhaps second marriages where the mother has been burnt to death with kerosene, the father demanding further dowry from the wife’s family to feed his drunkenness. The children from the first marriage not wanted (more mouths to feed), beatings, starvation and deprivation of security and love are daily occurrences. Some are forced from a very young age to work and earn money, a few are influenced by peer pressure, and some are orphans fighting a daily battle to survive.

 

Boys unable to tolerate the daily beatings and dysfunctional family life run away and become street children. Girls are forced to look after younger family members and even have to beg for their own survival and that of the younger child. They are treated as slaves in the home and many are forced into prostitution at a very early age. Society's Attitude Towards Street Children and Rag-pickers Society, as a whole, regards these children as antisocial elements, an embarrassment to the community, and unfit to live. However their useful contribution to society and ecology is little understood & generally ignored. The waste collected by these children is recycled and produces 25% of the writing paper, the packing materials, egg trays, economical plastic and metal household items, etc., used in our homes. This benefits society and world ecology enormously by the production of cheaper household goods, and the slowing down of the destruction of the already threatened rain forests. It also helps to prevent the mountains of putrefying waste materials from building up in city centers. The rag pickers valuable contribution to society should not be ignored and taken for granted.

 

Life on the Street

 

Though the majority of the street children manage to earn or scavenge their daily food , they are denied the basics of survival, all street children and rag-pickers are: Abused and exploited. Deprived: lacking job, money, food and shelter, they are forced into begging, thieving, drug peddling, pimping, and prostitution. Regarded as juvenile delinquents and antisocial elements, they are often falsely accused of crimes and sent to secure homes of correction, or worse, put into adult prisons Engaged in gambling, a popular pastime on the street. Denied education. Cut off from parental influence and guidance. Most importantly, the children on the streets remain deprived of their basic needs of food, shelter, clothing and the security of family love and a home. With no adult to care for them, these children have no role model for guidance, surviving and fending for themselves and coping with all the problems of the local community, way before they have developed the physical and emotional maturity this demands. Most street children and rag pickers suffer from diseases like scabies; infestation of lice; chronic dysentery; worms; TB; epilepsy, lung, ear, dental, nose and throat infections; chronic cuts; unhealed abrasions and some, sexually transmitted diseases, all these are caused by extreme poverty, exploitation, malnutrition and unhygienic surroundings in which the children are forced live.

 

In a recent survey it was estimated that there are about 70,000 rag pickers in Bangalore city (50% of these Rag pickers are children) and 65,000 street children living in extreme physical and spiritual poverty. They live on the streets, railway platforms, and the unhygienic disease-infested slums in and around Bangalore city, where 750 slum areas have already been identified. These children are shunned by society as they are in rags, filthy, infested and smell badly, they are very suspicious of everyone, having known only hard knocks, and cannot believe that anyone can give them unconditional love. They are afraid of the police and give false names if arrested, when they are arrested they are put in “cooler rooms”, where many are sexually assaulted, and abused, so even if a child should have the chance to return home they would be too ashamed to do so.

Agape kids with the staff.

A Rag Picker's Daily Routine

 

As a street child, between 5 and 18 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 25 Rupees to 40 per day, while the more experienced ones earn 50 to 75 Rupees. However, these are the lucky ones. The Girls are mostly 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.

 

Anti-social Habits Among Rag pickers

 

They are involved with drugs, alcohol, smoking, gambling, and unhealthy sexual habits. Since their income is less than their expenses, due to bad habits, they are perpetual debtors to the retail scrap dealers. They participate in stealing, street-fighting, and delinquent activities. Dirty, they are unwelcome guests at weddings, social gatherings, and shopping zones. They are physically vulnerable to health problems and infectious skin diseases. They are victimized socially through poverty, illiteracy, and rejection. With no facilities available for bathing or laundry, they are forced to live in filth and squalor. Daily survival being their only immediate priority. Challenges of Working with Street Children Since they live in corrupt gangs for security and survival, they face society as gangs. It is very difficult to isolate one member, since group pressure is so strong that they are soon threatened, forced, and blackmailed to return to their old habits. They soon become dependent, both physically and mentally, on their readily available addictions, enabling them to forget for a while their pitiful existence. This is a huge problem, and expert help is needed to treat their physical and psychological dependence and addiction. There are many disappointments for the worker, as relapses are very common.

 

Integration into society is difficult, as the public has preconceived ideas about the rag picker and neither accepts nor encourages the vision to transform him. Life's struggles and hardships have made the rag picker suspicious and wary of kindness and offers of help. He is unruly and disrespectful, always suspicious and on his guard. This discourages the volunteers, who become disillusioned and loses interest in working with them. The rag picker has never learned the rules and discipline that are demanded by employers, so government employment schemes are not tolerated, and all efforts fail.

 

The rag picker cannot understand unconditional love, and needs to receive food or other incentives, for him to cooperate. However with love, time, and patience, he will respond, and the rewards to the volunteer will be tremendous. The retail scrap dealers feel threatened that their business will be ruined if the rag pickers cease dealing with them, so they constantly threaten the children and spread false rumors about us and our ministry. Requirements for those who work with rag pickers and street children Have a vision and love for slum dwellers Be adaptable to their living conditions Be able to empathize with them.

 

Why we have taken up this challenge?

 

  •     To demonstrate that in God's eyes all are equal
  •     To transform the rag picker through education and love to be accepted by society
  •     To share the gospel of Jesus Christ
  •     To minister to an unjustly victimized people
  •     To provide education and confidence to equip them for the future
  •     To provide health education and give physical and psychological medical care

Join the Agape Children Centre Facebook Group and stay connected with what the kid are doing so you can pray and be a part of their life. Click on the below link to join now.

 

Copyrights 2016. All Rights Reserved. Agape Bible Fellowship

Agape Bible Church is an independent, non-denominational Tamil Church located in the heart of Bangalore city proclaiming the gospel of Christ Jesus by all means, at any cost, without anymore delay!

 

You are welcomed to join us and share in our vision and run with us towards the goal, Christ Jesus has called us towards.

 

Email abcabfindia@gmail.com

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Cell +91 779.535.3391

 

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