Personal experience of the devastating effects of addiction on young people and families inspired SUJITA MALLICK to act. Now the former sponsored child is using the education she gained through Global Care to help addicts in the slums of Kolkata turn their own lives around.
As a young girl, Sujita expected little from life.
She explains: “Our caste belongs to the down-trodden low strata of society called the ‘Harijans’ which comprises the sweepers, the beggars and the ‘Madaris’, a type of people who earn their living by doing road shows using animals such as monkeys, goats and even bears. According to our caste, religion and social status, the girl child is not given due importance and is only allowed to study till she reaches the age of puberty, if at all.”
However, Sujita was lucky enough to be enrolled into the Pavement Club, an initiative supported by Global Care in Kolkata to give uneducated slum children the chance of schooling.
In the early days, classes were delivered quite literally on the pavement to just a handful of children, but the Club now operates from its own buildings, providing more than 350 children with education in reading, writing, maths, health and hygiene, as well as play time, washing facilities and a healthy meal.
Sujita says; “During my initial days with the Pavement Club, I showed tremendous progress in the education programme and the staff felt that I should be given the opportunity to go to a regular school. I became the beneficiary of Global Care sponsorship in 1997, at the age of ten. This was through the direct intervention of Emmanuel Ministries, who saw the impoverished condition of my family and put me forward for the privilege for sponsorship.”
Now aged 31, Sujita says that being accepted onto the sponsorship programme quite literally changed her life. She continued to receive sponsorship throughout her secondary education, and this gave her the springboard to train for the kind of work she had always dreamed of.
She says: “I was a keen learner and had a strong determination to scale the heights of my education. I made the best use of my time, effort and energy to excel in my studies. Since leaving school, I have been privileged to complete numerous training courses to equip myself as a children’s worker, including training through UNICEF and Save the Children. But the training of my choice that really challenged me was my training in addiction counselling.”
Sujita’s older brother is an addict, and she knows first-hand the trouble and pain addictions cause.
After a period working for Karizma, an organisation devoted to empowering slum children through education, Sujita is working in the de-addiction programme unit run by the Kolkata Samaritans. She has also recently joined the staff of Arunoday Midway Home, a new rehabilitation unit being set up by Emmanuel Ministries to target girls living in desperate conditions on the Sealdah Railway Platform.
Sujita explains: “I am already working as a peer motivator for the Sealdah Project, which is a programme for abandoned and runaway children living on the platforms of the railway station. My role is to befriend the children and help them feel wanted and accepted.
“I start the day by locating the children on the station and arranging a meal for them. Then the children are brought to the Centre at Creek Row to do fun-filled activities such as singing, dancing, arts and crafts and storytelling, and for counselling work with the child addicts.
“The Girls’ Rehab Centre, which is currently being set up, will aim to rehabilitate girls from the railway platform who cannot adjust to the formal Ladies’ Rehab. The programme will follow the same addiction principles but will be specifically designed for girls under the age of 18.”
Sujita says she is very excited by her new role. And she is keen to use Global Care’s 35th anniversary as an opportunity to pay tribute to the impact the charity has made on her life.
She says: “Global Care’s involvement with communities at grassroots level has been stupendous. I am truly indebted for the support of the charity which has made me the person I am today.
“Children are a gift from the Lord and every child affected by drug addiction, the vulnerable, the lonely and the despairing need love and attention. Through the Pavement Club and Global Care, godly values were instilled within me and my ultimate dream is to be an addiction counsellor and work with every child for Jesus.”
Children's names are changed and their photographs obscured for reasons of protection.