Jamghat is a Delhi-based organisation that brings street children into the mainstream by providing them with resources and helping them stand on their own feet.
Back in 2003, when theatre enthusiast Amit Sinha was asked by Action Aid to stage a performance on the occasion of the visit of British royal Prince Charles to India, little did he know how his life was about to change. The theme of the performance was homelessness and he had to work on the project with 14 homeless street children. The show was immensely appreciated by the Prince and, later, the group toured across India presenting their production in different cities. The tour was organised by Action Aid.
However, when the shows were over, Amit simply couldn’t let go of the deep bond he had formed with the children. That’s how Jamghat came into existence.
Amit started Jamghat with a twofold aim: to build an organisation that would find ways of bringing street children into the mainstream by taking care of them, providing them with resources and helping them stand on their own feet, while simultaneously getting society to understand and respect them.
Today, after 13 years of relentless work, Jamghat has managed to rehabilitate over 50 children, while its three residential centres are supporting another 50. The day care centre in the Jama Masjid area, Aangan, has over 50 children who are daily provided with breakfast, tiffin, bathrooms where they can clean up, tuitions, and a space to study after school. In the evening, they return to their ‘homes’, either on the sidewalks or under some bridges.
Jamghat does not just provide food, shelter and education to the homeless children. The children are also encouraged to delve into theatre and art to enrich and express themselves.
Amit has been working on theatre productions with the children and speaks about how this has been therapeutic for them, “We cannot imagine the things these children have experienced. Most of the homeless children face traumatic incidents like child labour and physical and sexual abuse. Theatre helps them in dealing with the trauma. We rehearse, we perform, we undertake several exercises, it all helps them open up and forget the scarring memories of the past.”
With a team of 20 full time volunteers now working for Jamghat, the organisation has come long way from when Amit started it.
“I have faced so many difficulties during the past 13 years. The journey hasn’t been smooth at all; it still isn’t smooth.. We have constantly struggled with problems like scarcity of funds, unavailability of space and a staggering shortage of manpower. However, I have understood one thing after all these years and that is if you do good work, you get help. There have been problems, inadequacies, but we have managed to survive. We have received help in one form or the other,” Amit’s voice shakes with emotion.
When Amit looks back on times past, there’s a mixture of satisfaction and sadness in his voice. While Jamghat has touched and changed the lives of so many children, he feels for the many more deprived of the opportunity to lead happy lives.
“In the last 13 years that I have been working for homeless street children, if there is one thing that hasn’t changed for the better, it’s the number of street children in Delhi. Every day, more and more children migrate to the cities and start living on the streets. Jamghat’s centres take care of around 100 children, of the 50,000 homeless minors in the capital. We are doing what we can but you can see there’s so much more that needs to be done.”
It is obvious that Amit wants to do much more than he is able to. He shares his dream of making Jamghat an independent entity: “The idea is for Jamghat to be sustainable without any external financial support. Currently, we are working towards that. We raise some money through our theatre performances. Soon we are going to start a venture under our vocational training program ‘Ekjut’, where we’ll be setting up an online platform to sell handicraft items made by children. For now, we sell our items through small exhibitions. We are trying to collaborate with iTokri, and eventually we would like to start an online store of our own. We are also going to open a unisex salon, which will be run by the children at Jamghat. We have received support from iPartner for the same.”
Even as Jamghat plans to take steps forward towards self-sufficiency, it needs the support of well-wishers. As the organisation’s website says: “More than anything you can materially provide, Jamghat requires your presence and positive energy.”
To know more about Jamghat’s work and support this initiative, visit the website here or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also donate to Jamghat’s fundraiser on SmallChange by clicking here.