• Ruby Nakka

Pleasant reunion of a child with his family

Meet Unus of 10 years of age. He was handed over to the Hope House’s Railway Children staff by the Railway Protection Force (RPF) of Katpadi railway junction (on 28th Nov, 2020) who in turn handed him over to them by a ticket conductor of a train for travelling alone without a ticket.

According to Unus, he is from West Bengal and studying in 4th grade. He was able to identify the district (Murshidabad) there but no identifiable contact information. We immediately swung into action to inform the Tamilnadu Government’s child protection mechanism at the District level and started to locate the family. Identified the child protection institutes at the district’s level there but couldn’t make much headway.

In the meantime, Unus became very aggressive for not being able to communicate (he only speaks Hindi/ Bengali) and at times violent. We approached the Mental Health Center (MHC) of Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore, immediately for help and they intervened with timely support.

In the meantime, the Superintendent of the Hope House – Mr. Subramani, took it upon himself to locate Unus’s family. He worked with the local police to see if there was any missing child’s report being filed by anyone from anywhere. There was a report filed in Bangalore and the photo displayed there matched Unus.

We contacted the number given on the report and it was Unus’s father. He is a migrant laborer from West Bengal living in Bangalore with his family. After being convinced of the identity, we asked him to make a video call. Our staff who witnessed the call stated that they both started crying. His father arrived from Bangalore which is only three hours from here with all the state documents to positively identify the relationship. According to the father, Child has a known mental illness. We handed him over to the father before the state authorities on December 19th, 2020 after being with us for nearly 22 days.

It is the increasing sensitivity towards the child protection concept among the railway employees (ticket conductor and the RPF) which helped them not to ignore this child. It is CMC that extended the timely medical help when he needed it the most helped him calm down. Lastly, our staff - Mr. Subramani who went beyond the call of his duty and took upon himself to locate the family and made this pleasant reunion possible.

I wondered, what could have happened to Unus if no one bothered? Perhaps, he would have travelled miles and miles with increasing vulnerabilities (young boy with mental illness) and ended up in the wrong hands. If we hadn’t located the family, we would have sent him to West Bengal while his family is in Bangalore and perhaps grown up without the comforts of family's love forever.

At the Hope House, we are proud of the complimentary role that we are able to play to assist the Government. We are the believers in “Every child deserves a family” concept and we’ll do everything to ensure that every child that we come in contact with, remains with their own family.

Every stakeholder of the Hope House (our staff, trustees, donors, partners, volunteers and the Governments) deserves a word of appreciation – THANK YOU.

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