Archive for the tag “children at risk”

Fighting exploitation of street boys in West Africa

street boysEvelyn Adamson writes at AfricaStories:

WEST AFRICA – Jean Malick,* approaching adolescence, hauls a sloshing yellow bucket to a sunny spot on the concrete. Fluffy bubbles threaten to escape over the side of the bucket as he rubs his ripped and worn T-shirt with the soapy water. Wringing out the clean shirt, he spreads it out to dry on the hot pavement. Every day nearly 100 boys like Malick flock to the shelter Christian worker Ibrahim Ndiaye* manages.

Since 2000, Ndiaye has ministered to street boys and Talibe boys (boys who study at special Quranic schools) in West Africa, aiming to improve their quality of life by feeding and clothing any who come to the center for help. For Ndiaye, working with the boys is more than just a ministry; it is what he has given his life to, because he used to live on the streets.

“My parents decided I should go to the Quranic school,” Ndiaye says about his childhood. “I stayed at school for one year, [and] after a year I wanted to leave.”

His desire to leave the Quranic school is not hard to imagine when Ndiaye explains the boys are required to beg on the streets every day and collect a certain amount of money before returning to the school. Only boys are accepted to the Quranic schools in West Africa.

“We were required to bring in between $0.80 and $1 each day. If you did not there would be a [punishment from] the teacher,” he says.

Quranic school punishments range from withholding meals to beating any boys who do not bring back the mandated amount of money.

Ndiaye ran away, but his parents refused to let him come home. He says, “If I would have gone home, they would have made me go back to the Quranic school. So I preferred to stay in [the city] and take care of myself.”

After living on the streets for a while, Ndiaye met a pastor who helped him learn to read, write and speak French, one of the official trade languages in West Africa.

Now Ndiaye dedicates his life to helping other boys gain the same advantages he was given. At the center, street boys are given a meal, treated for minor medical needs, taught to do their laundry and have the opportunity to pick up basic French in their conversations with Ndiaye.

Ndiaye grasps that to really impact change for these boys, it takes more than one encounter with them.

He says, “It takes time to change a life.”

Day in and day out, Ndiaye can be found building relationships and shaping the lives of the street boys and Talibes in West Africa through the activities he offers at the center.

In the fight against human exploitation, Ndiaye takes it one day at a time, one boy at a time.

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*Name changed. Evelyn Adamson is writer living and working in Europe.

This continues the CommissionStories.com emphasis on the problem of human exploitation — forced labor, children at risk, and sex trafficking. Find more stories, videos, photo galleries, and other resources at www.commissionstories.com.

Refugee’s dream for better life … shattered

Click the image for animated video, "Speak up!"

Click the image for animated video, “Speak up!”

In a smoke-filled café in Istanbul, my friend took a long drag on his cigarette and began to exhale regret and sorrow.  He confessed to those of us around the table about a decision that would eventually kill his marriage and estrange him from his children.

He left Iran by himself, agreeing that his wife, Bahar* and their young sons would later join him.  The veiled promise of a better life was quickly tattered with the harsh realities of the life of a refugee.  He found himself living in a seedy hotel which doubled as a brothel for the many prostitutes who themselves had been lured away from their homes by the lies of human traffickers.

Ali* struck up a friendship with the hotel manager and one night after drinking with him, went up to his room.  A short time later, the manager sent a prostitute to Ali’s room.  Lonely and drunk, Ali had sex with the prostitute.  Filled with guilt and remorse Ali found himself in a place that wasn’t on his itinerary.  He turned to his only friend, the hotel manager, who used Ali’s shame to extort menial labor from him.

When Ali’s family joined him, they crammed into his dingy room.  Ali lied to his wife and told her that he was working at the hotel.  After a few weeks, his wife asked Ali when he would get paid.  When it became apparent that Ali wasn’t getting paid for his work, Bahar, marched downstairs with Ali in tow and demanded that the manager pay her husband.  The confrontation escalated and Bahar began yelling at the manager.  The manager reached out and slapped Bahar hard across the face.  Shocked, Bahar looked at Ali for support—he stood by in silence, anchored in place by the weight of his shame.

Bahar turned her wrath on Ali as she screamed, “What kind of a man allows this to happen to his wife!”

As he recalled the incident, Ali turned to me with tears running down his face and said in a whisper, “I am not a man anymore.”

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Our ministry partner, CommissionStories.com, has launched a major emphasis on the problem of human exploitation — forced labor, children at risk, and sex trafficking — that includes a series of stories, videos, photo galleries, and other resources. You can follow the series over the next several months at www.commissionstories.com.

‘Railway boys’ find a home

Caroline Anderson reports for Baptist Press:

INDIA (BP) — Life for boys living in India’s railway stations is a real-life “Hunger Games.” If they don’t fight, they’ll be killed. If they don’t find food and survive in this arena, they’ll starve on the train tracks.

Railway boys are those who have run away from home and joined gangs who live in India’s train stations. They travel the country, jumping from train to train and stealing from passengers. Nine boys have left this life behind and found earthly and heavenly family.

The boys sitting at this breakfast table survived the war. The glue sniffing, the razor blade scars, the rape and the murders have knit them together.

“This is my family,” Shad Khalil* says, gesturing to the eight other boys in the hostel kitchen. He slings his arm around the youngest boy, pulling him close.

At 16, Khalil is the oldest boy living in this Christian hostel. His smile seems innocent, but he lost his innocence a long time ago.

LIFE ON THE RAILWAY

Khalil, like most of the other boys in the hostel, ran away from home. Khalil left his home in Delhi at age 10. His mother came from a Catholic background but married a Muslim.

“There was no unity,” Khalil says. “They were not like family at all.”

Khalil’s father spent many days drunk, beat Khalil’s mother and forced himself on her. He beat Khalil too, throwing household items at him. When Khalil tried to protect his mother, he was nearly beaten to death.

“My grandfather was a very dirty man.” Khalil says, looking out the window. Tears begin to well in his eyes. “I have a sister. I feel my grandfather is spoiling her life.”

Guilt consumes his face. “I was young and wouldn’t express myself,” Khalil says, fixing his gaze on the breakfast table.

“I miss my sister. Pray for me and my family.”

Khalil ran away and jumped on a train headed out of town. He eventually landed in a train station on the other side of the country, where he collected water bottles to sell, begged and stole from passengers. He gave a portion of the profits to his gang leader for protection.

Gang leaders are boys in their late teens or early 20s who manipulate new railway boys by introducing glue-sniffing, creating a cycle of dependency and control.

Gang leaders in Khalil’s train station were notorious for throwing boys in front of moving trains. Khalil was thrown onto the tracks and hit his head. He remembers that a man dressed in white helped him off of the tracks. He has no idea who this man was and has never seen him since.

Not long after that, Khalil met Prabal Dey,* who offered Khalil a life outside the railway.

CHANGED BY PRAYER

Prabal and Debjani* Dey have opened a Christ-centered hostel for railway boys like Khalil.

Glue withdrawals hit Khalil and his new brothers the first couple of weeks after they left the railway. The Deys substituted food, sports and television for glue. Yelling, fighting and cursing were commonplace in the hostel.

“Satan was working so much, I couldn’t come out of those addictions,” Khalil says, shaking his head at the memory.

Dey said it took some time for the boys to obey adults who didn’t threaten to kill them as punishment for disobedience. Now, though it’s been several years, the boys still act out, Dey says, since so much in their life needs redeeming.

“Good food, good things can’t change them,” Dey says. “One thing can change them: Jesus.”

The Deys teach God’s Truth to Khalil and his hostel brothers throughout the day and in devotional times.

“They are completely changed because of prayer,” Dey says. “They can’t sleep if they don’t have prayer.”

The Deys and the railway boys are active members of the house church that Gary and Cynthia Follen,* International Mission Board representatives, lead. Follen mentors the railway boys and helps them work through emotional scarring.

Follen played a pivotal role in Khalil’s journey to Christ. “When he came to a Christian worship place, he [Khalil] was very different,” Dey says. “He was anti-Christian.”

Khalil came to the hostel timid and emotionally scarred. But now, more than two years later, he’s quietly confident, and his smile illuminates his face. When visitors come, he’s the first to engage them in conversation.

Khalil talks about God’s provision in his life in almost every sentence. “God healed my broken heart,” Khalil says.

STRUGGLING TO PERSEVERE

During a nightly tutoring session, Khalil’s brow furrows – the English words swim around the page. He’s not following.

Khalil is 16 years old in the fifth grade. His years of sniffing glue hinder his memory and learning abilities, and a lack of nutrients in his formative years has made him small for his age.

“He has a lot of hurt in his life,” Dey says. Khalil puts himself down because of the years lost on the railway.

Though he has trouble studying, Khalil’s cappuccino-colored eyes and olive skin make him popular among the girls at school.

“I’m not interested,” he says, blushing. He’s got more on his mind, he explains. He wants to focus on his relationship with God. When he grows up, he wants to open a hostel just like this one.

But some days in the hostel are still hard.

The railway is freedom, Dey explains. The boys can jump from train to train and journey anywhere in India. Coming to the hostel means a life of structure and schedules. There’s no glue or alcohol, and misbehaving has consequences – a difficult adjustment.

Four of the boys who were the first to come to the hostel have returned to the railway, making Khalil the oldest.

“I’ve been here since I was little and I’ve never left,” Khalil says wistfully.

Lost in thought, Khalil gazes down the road that leads to the neighborhood’s exit. Today, he’s thinking about leaving the hostel.

He isn’t sure where he would go – but never back to the railway. “That’s a bad place,” he says.

A NEW FAMILY

Khalil perseveres. Though he doesn’t make high scores on his report card, his spoken English is the best in the hostel.

“He knows by heart the word of God.” Dey says. Khalil was also the first boy to give his testimony in church and has plans to be baptized.

Unlike gang leaders in train stations, Khalil tries to protect the younger hostel boys. “These are my brothers, I must watch out for them,” Khalil says. “This is a beautiful family — there’s love here.”

The redeemed railway boys are the family he never had.

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