Monday, June 9, 2008

Bare Bones Bank for the Boys

By conservative estimates, there are 10 million street children in India, home of the world's largest population of kids struggling to survive in the concrete jungles of its cities. About 100 thousand of them are believed to live in the streets of New Delhi. These boys' lives are detached from the country's image as an emerging economic giant powered by technology savvy software engineers who give western countries stiff competition, nor the glamor of their heavily decorated cinematic stars. Theirs is a darker side of this dream world where teen-age anxiety is about where to find the next meal, make it through the night unmolested, on a hard slab of pavement.

There are young boys, ranging in ages from 9 to 18, who make a living by hawking wares and street food, darting in and out of railway tracks or heavily trafficked city streets. They fend for themselves after leaving their poverty stricken homes to lessen the parental burden of too many mouths to feed, the misery of their surroundings, or the beatings from their parents. Many are harassed or beaten by the police; or sexually abused by adult predators. A fair number resort to sniffing glue, while others beg or steal.

A small percentage of these children however, about 2000 of them, have banded together to run their own bank - a street children's bank - where they are learning the habit of saving whatever small amount from the money they made during each day's effort, for a better future than the hopelessness they face each day. And this bank, together with the growth of their savings, has given them the courage and the strength to endure, because they have realized that there is a way out and a better life for them. That their current hardships are not eternal, and they can see beyond the present misery into a brighter fate that rests in their own hands.

A local charity called Butterflies set up the Children's Development Bank in 2001 as a way for these children to rise up from a bleak existence. They have 12 branches within New Delhi all operated by the children, located at sites where the charity runs classes and activities for homeless youth. They elect 2 volunteer managers from the group every 6 months, and have made decisions not to allow deposits of money made from stealing, drugs, or sales of pornography. Adult staffers of Butterflies are always present to ensure safety and to collect the day's take for deposit in a dedicated account in a private bank. The branch looks more like a makeshift food stand than a financial entity, but the seriousness with which the bank managers pursue their business is genuine. The added benefit of depositing earnings is that it eliminates the possibility of their money being stolen, or to be tempted to buy drugs.

Older youths, from 15 up are allowed to borrow to continue their schooling or set up their own businesses. Their ties to the bank and the member depositors have been nurtured by years of bonding in the unforgiving and harsh life in the streets of the city, which strengthens their resolve to pay the loans on time. The Children's Development Bank through Butterflies, continues to expand this facility in other parts of India in cooperation with the Hongkong and Shanghai Bank.

The boys are learning the value of savings and are focused on a better future. They also experience depositing, withdrawing, and earning interest at an early age where no real bank would entertain their money nor their personality as a depositor or customer. They are also learning responsibility and discernment in terms of accepting clean money and honest practices. In a lot of respects, they are more admirable than most kids who are better off and truly more privileged, who squander their opportunities and waste resources that get them no learning nor education nor good values; except the ignorance of self imposed illiteracy.

These very young boys from India still wake up every morning with hunger, pass the day with misery, yet go to bed with hope; because they are armed with much wisdom and even more fortitude.


Reference:Henry Chu, A Bank for Street Children, Los Angeles Times


Zhu said...

It is hard to imagine these kids' life, especially considering they don't know anything else. I know streets kids is a problem in many Latin American countries, and in Eastern Europe.

Tough issue... these kids are so smart, surviving in the streets of megalopolis, they deserve a future. I hope adults can help.

Kids are a nation's future.

Kim said...

a really inspiring post Durano !!
these kids will make it through with perseverance and well as a whole lot of iniative!!!!
They and the Butterflies should be commended !!!

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Zhu,

Children are indeed the hope and future of a country. But what kind of future will a country have if it turns its back on the kids? This is so prevalent globally.

When I was in El Salvador in the 70's, soldiers and militia men would roam the streets at night in military vehicles and shoot down children. It was horrible. They were considered a nuisance and a blight to the country's image. Isn't that just moronic?

The kids learn a lot about life and can discern certain types of people. But these kids in India who run this bank are smarter. The coverage should be expanded to reach as many as possible since the current membership is only 2% of those in New Delhi alone.

India's expanding middle class should provide assistance to these kids and the organizations that support them. :-) --Durano, done!

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hello Kim,

I was being chided today by some colleagues who said that this was a paid post.

No way would this ever be a paid post, and even if I was requested to write this post I would not charge a dime for it.

I was inspired by an item in the LA Times about it and sought out their website. I am attempting to get in touch with them to help them in this endeavor, to strengthen the support that would allow them to make it.

We have sent our commendations to Butterflies on this project and we also want to learn from them how they were able to get the kids to cooperate in this undertaking. It's a worthwhile project for some kids who may have a valuable contribution to make, but only need the means to do it. Thanks for your comment. :-) --Durano, done!

SheR. said...

What a touching story. I really hope those poor boys will not be exploited by putting money in those banks and the banks have genuine interest in helping the boys! Let us hope for a better future for these boys!

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Sher,

The money is actually deposited by the Butterflies organization in a dedicated account in a private bank.

They're in good hands as far as we know. The Children's bank is there to facilitate the collection and issue their respective passbooks. The adults of the charity make representations for them in the bank.

I have already made contact with the organization and we will see what help we can provide. We also need to learn how they did it so we can replicate it in some other areas. There are street kids all over the world. Giving a little hope would do some good. :-) --Durano, done!

The Fitness Diva said...

Wow. What a wonderful program. That's very inspiring, and it gives them a goal that's tangible, real, and one they can put their hands on.
I wish them all well. Life on the streets of India must be hell for children.

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Fitness Diva,

It is a wonderful program and we want to study it and replicate it in other parts of the world where street children are.

Life in the streets of any city in any country is hell for any child, even adults for that matter.:-) --Durano, done!

SheR. said...

Good on you Durano!! I wish I could help out too. It's sad to see children having to work and no proper education.

In Croatia, the children are lucky enough to receive free education all the way to 16 or 17. :) They shouldn't be complaining about how poor they are or how corrupt the government is from what I see.

It's the poor elderly in Croatia that are left penniless and digging the bins for bottles to earn some extra cash. Sigh.. what a sad sight. Breaks my heart.

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hi Sher,

Thanks. It's part of what we do, and we could get international aid agencies to provide funding, even if partially.

Oh the poor old folks in Croatia. They must not have saved for retirement. or perhaps there was no program in place for their old age. Wow, that's sad to see. Is there no assistance forthcoming for them? How about their children? That is so pitiful to watch.:-)--Durano, done!

Kim said...

goodness Durano..
this post obviously comes from your heart...
a very passionate post and you should be commended on the work you do...not criticised :(
paid post ...I THINK NOT !!!

durano lawayan a.k.a. brad spit said...

Hello Kim,

Any issue relating to humanitarianism is something I'm definitely passionate about; especially those involving children , women, and marginalized groups.

It's funny but the only paid post I ever wrote on this site was the introduction to Pay Per Post - which I think caused my PR to drop from 2 to 0. Well, it has been restored by Google, thanks for that.:-)

My colleagues were just kidding me about it. They know my intense passion regarding such things. It's just that the highlighting of the organization Butterflies for the link is what most paid or sponsored posts look like.:-) And they were around when I contributed the hefty $20 payout I got out of that singular paid post which was donated for our "extra social oriented assistance activities" Thanks for keeping faith.:-)
--Durano, done!