Friends of Salaam Baalak Trust
About FoSBT (UK)
Up to 176 million Indian children are estimated to lack adequate care and protection, as they struggle to survive on the fringes of India's economic explosion - a number equivalent to well over twice the total population of the UK. Literally millions of children lead desperately difficult lives in appalling conditions, reminiscent of the poverty of Victorian London but on a subcontinental scale.
Friends of Salaam Baalak Trust UK (FoSBT) was founded in the belief that children in the 21st century should not suffer from such a gross lack of opportunity, and, in partnership with Salaam Baalak Trust Delhi (SBT) and other organisations, works towards easing the pain, leveling the playing field and igniting the potential of as many as possible of these modern-day Oliver Twists.
This website aims to educate those who are new to the story of Indian street children, to facilitate the ongoing support of those who have already witnessed and been inspired by the spirit of these young outcasts, and to martial in Britain the generosity of volunteers and donors who are the reason why, for the past 21 years, SBT has been able to help revolutionise the lives of thousands of youngsters.
The Real Slumdog Equation
To understand the raison d'etre of FoSBT, multiply the statistics by these individual stories... which will give you a feel for both the sheer scale of the issues and the human, emotional impact they have on the young lives that they affect.
Children may be on the streets for various reasons, but most of them are escaping one or more of the problems described in the links above. The classic example is the runaway, like the characters in 'Salaam Bombay', the Mira Nair film whose cast of real-life street kids inspired the launch of SBT's predecessor in 1989. More recently, think of the real stories of the children who starred in the Hollywood blockbuster 'Slumdog Millionaire'.
SBT's particular expertise is in dealing with runaway children. Many have fled violent, abusive or alcoholic parents. Some fled in the hope of gaining an education. Some were beaten by school teachers. Others were passed like an unwanted pet from one relative to another as the result of family break-ups or deaths, and ended up without anyone who really cared.
Amongst these are those who carry what Sanjoy Roy (founding trustee of SBT Delhi) calls the 'runaway gene': an inherently greater desire for freedom, a greater curiosity, determination and bravery.
The Runaway Gene
This means that many people prefer to ignore street children: uninformed and ill-thought through prejudice speaks of a sense that the slumdogs have "brought it on themselves", they are often seen as unwelcome aberrations from normal society. It is true that many of the former runaways taken in by SBT have siblings who stayed at home. It is nonetheless the terrible weight of 21st century poverty that activates the runaway gene prematurely. In more affluent societies, where children grow up slowly and with love and opportunity, the runaway gene eventually translates into the curiosity and motivation that are the hallmarks of success in adult life. You might also call it the 'winning gene'.
In any case, there are thousands of other children on the streets besides runaways. Some of the SBT kids are orphans; some were born in or around the station to mothers who themselves were on the streets, and some simply got lost or separated from their parents at an early stage.
Whatever the myriad individual stories of these children's destitution, their lonely homelessness is a reality. FoSBT, in partnership with SBT, aims to address this truth by replacing a dangerous struggle to survive with a safe and caring environment in which to grow, develop, study and avoid the waste of a human life.
By operating entirely using volunteers in the UK, by selecting specific projects as the destination of donations, and by tapping into the existing infrastructure of SBT and other organisations in Delhi, FoSBT's formula ensures that donors' generosity is not wasted on administration, salaries or other overheads. FoSBT is committed to ensuring that all donations are spent directly on the children's well-being, a commitment to which the charity can hold itself with confidence.