Neeraj* was just seven when he took a wrong turn on the way to a nearby shop to get groceries.
Panicking, he kept walking, taking the wrong route further and further away from home until he was completely lost. Exhausted and distressed, he spent the next few days desperately searching for his home – hungry, thirsty and getting further away from his family.
Eventually he reached Old Delhi railway station where he hoped to find safety or at least some rest. This was before we established our Child Help Desks in this part of India’s rail network.
Sadly, instead of finding the comfort and support he would find there today, Neeraj found chaos and crowds at the station, along with noise, confusion and plenty of other desperate children begging or stealing as a way of surviving life on the edge of the railways.
He was quickly befriended by an older boy, who had been living on the streets for some time. Neeraj had no choice but to go with him when he offered food and shelter. They ended up working in a hotel for 18 hours a day in return for scraps of food and a floor to sleep on.
Neeraj survived this way for seven years – constantly dreaming of finding his family again.
Finally, aged 14, he escaped from the hotel and found his way to Ghaziabad station where our teams were working to protect children just like him. Neeraj was desperate to find his family but remembered very little about them.
Our teams persisted, circulating his photo and details to the local villages until they were contacted by the local police force who had heard about a family who had lost their son seven years earlier. Neraj’s brother, Yogesh, travelled to Ghaziabad to see if the boy that had been found could be his brother. As soon as he arrived at the shelter it was obvious we had found the right family.
The two boys looked identical and both broke down crying the minute they were reunited.
Our teams got all the necessary papers in place and returned Neeraj to his family at long last.
Since Neeraj was lost, we have established Child Help Desks in this part of India’s rail network. Today children like Neeraj will find help and support when they need it most.
Help us reach more children like Neeraj
£56 could pay for a training event in India to teach passengers, staff and the whole rail community in looking out for children like Neeraj at risk on the railways.
*Name and identity has been changed.