Walking through the streets of Delhi, guided by Ruhi, I am shown what life is like for children living on the streets in the crowded city. Running away from desperate circumstances – be it poverty, abuse or child marriage – a child arriving alone in Delhi is left vulnerable to gangs, child labour and substance abuse.
While on the walking tour, Ruhi talks about how children often end up begging or selling items on the street, only to spend that money on substances and entertainment. Children are not taught to save, and can often find food for free at different temples across the city. Children come to Delhi to find freedom, yet the freedom they find often leads them into a vicious cycle of poverty.
When Ruhi was only a young girl her parents could no longer take care of her. They could not afford the expense of another child in the home. At this time, she was placed into the girl’s shelter home with Salaam Baalak Trust (SBT). SBT has six homes for children across Delhi where they provide children with the education, nutrition and care they could not find on the streets.
Ruhi is now in class 10 and has been working as a tour guide with SBT for the past year. Here she is able to interact with travellers from all around the world, teach them about life for street youth in Delhi, and share her own story. Through this experience she is able to build her confidence and practice her English speaking skills in a safe environment.
Part of Planeterra’s partnership with SBT sees 3,500 G Adventures travellers participate in the City Walk tour every single year. Tour guides from SBT have gone on to work with travel agencies all across Delhi and have even qualified for scholarship programs globally thanks to their improved confidence and English skills gained through the program.
As Ruhi finishes her education in the coming years, she can continue working with the City Walk program as a guide. This will help her to earn the income she needs to begin living independently from the shelter.