Thomas Cook Children’s Charity: transforming the lives of children rescued from India’s train stations

A project set up to find and protect the thousands of children who arrive every year at India busiest and most dangerous train stations has significantly benefited from funding by Thomas Cook Children’s Charity, which is committed to improving children’s lives and the communities in which they live.

Thomas Cook Children's Charity

The project’s outreach workers operate on the front line at Itarsi train Station in Madhya Pradesh, India, where from morning to night they look out for vulnerable children arriving alone at the station, who are often as young as four years old.

The Thomas Cook funding was used specifically to support girls found at the station and the Chirag girls shelter, which is also based at the station. As well as giving them somewhere safe to go for protection, food, medical care, showers and some informal education are also provided.

Each girl in the shelter is then given an individual care plan, helping our team to work out how best to get them back to their family where appropriate or else into one of the two government homes where Railway Children works with staff to make sure they are safe and child-friendly. In each case, a ‘back to school’ plan is included.

Pauline Medovnikov, Trusts and Grants Manager at Railway Children, said: “For those girls returning to their families, the priority is to give them a safe and stable place to live and we followed up each girl at least twice, some of them every month. In some cases, our team met with their teachers and parents together to help build that relationship. For the girls moving into a government home, we helped them get back into mainstream education.”

Railway Children has also helped to transform Itarsi Railway Station into a child friendly space. This included an awareness programme and training railway police, railway staff, vendors, coolies, rickshaw drivers, as well as former street children to work on the platforms and look out for vulnerable younger ones, who are then taken to Railway Children’s on-site child protection booth, where the charity is able to identify and provide the specific support each child needs.

Pauline said: “The generous grant from Thomas Cook Children’s Charity has been amazing and has had a real impact on the lives of some of the most vulnerable children in India. It has enabled Railway Children to maintain a long-term shelter uniquely set up to give temporary respite specifically to vulnerable girls from the dangers of the streets, making it possible to not only meet their basic and immediate needs but also to find practical long-term and life-saving solutions.”