India – Don Bosco Ashalayam: a safe haven for the night

18 July 2017

(ANS – Kolkata) – When the night comes, street children become particularly vulnerable. Every evening, Don Bosco Ashalayam in Kolkata opens its doors to all children in need of a safe place to sleep. Children and young people come stay the night but have the freedom to leave if they wish. However, the Night Shelters are close to the homes, and their positive experience at the Night Shelter means that some vulnerable young people elect to move to this more stable environment. They can eat healthy meals, wash, receive medical care and enjoy a safe place to study and socialize with friends.

Don Bosco Ashalayam manages two Night Shelters: one for girls and one for boys. The two shelters are located within the vicinity of the Salesian main office in Howrah.

At the end of every month, Ashalayam organizes a “Mela” (festival) at the Night Shelter where street children can enjoy a welcome bath and haircut, and change into new clothes. They play games, watch movies and eat. Come evening, everyone goes to sleep at the night shelter. These melas can also give children the opportunity to discover life in Ashalayam, and to elect to remain in a safe, supportive environment. Deciding to come to a shelter home is a big decision for a young person. Events and outreach programs such as these help build trust. Even for those children who choose to remain on the streets, the Mela is a day of festivities, and a break from the constant anxiety of life on the streets.

Sadly, many street children turn to substance abuse as a coping mechanism. Ashalayam provides regular rehabilitation camps to help break the cycle of addiction and poverty. These five-day camps are held in the beautiful local of Kalyani, where children and young people can rediscover themselves away from the daily challenges of life on the streets. As they fight their addictions, the children enjoy the simple pleasures of childhood by playing and dancing in the clean environment. Life skills classes (on hygiene, sexual health, confidence, fear, addictions) provide them with tools for the future, while yoga engages their bodies and minds. Many of the participants chose to remain with Ashalayam after the camp.

Recognizing that play and learning is vital to healthy development, the children and young people are treated to outings several times a year. Past trips included the Victoria Memorial, Kolkata Zoo, Botanical Garden, Indian Museum and Nico Theme Park.

Available on Youtube, a video: Street Children's Mela.



ANS - “Agenzia iNfo Salesiana” is a on-line almost daily publication, the communication agency of the Salesian Congregation enrolled in the Press Register of the Tibunal of Rome as n 153/2007.

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