“Not all stories we know are ours to tell…”

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I attended a talk yesterday by Indian author Gayathri Prabhu about her book ‘If I had to tell it again”. It’s a memoir of her relationship with her father, a relationship which was loving and angry, joyful and sad. During audience questions, someone asked her whether she would call her childhood traumatic as she describes a lot of difficult experiences in her book. “No” Gathathri said. She went on to explain that while there were traumatic moments in her childhood, she wouldn’t describe it as a ‘traumatic childhood’ which implies totality of experience.

This resonated with me in respect to the care that SBT provides children. Many of the children have experienced unimaginable loss and trauma during their short lives. Salaam Balaak Trust recognises this, but also sees the joyful freedom of childhood and, I believe, fosters that in every child. I think perhaps Salaam Balaak Trust might be the difference between a ‘traumatic childhood’, and a ‘childhood with traumatic moments’, for many people.

As we come to the end of our trip, I would like to thank everyone at SBT, especially Shikha and the mental health team for their generosity and warmth during our time here. I’ve tried my best to listen carefully and I hope I’ve understood some of the nuances. I’ve been quiet on the blog recently because I’ve had a lot to take in and I’m not sure that I’m ready to share all that I’ve heard and seen, some of it is not mine to share anyway.

But I’ll tell you what I feel to be true: Salaam Balaak Trust provides an essential service in Delhi. The mental health team work tirelessly to restore children to the ‘world of childhood’ and, I believe, they do.

Some of you may be interested in project updates so here’s what I’ve done: I’ve drafted a report about the mental health program encompassing a description of the service and some of the challenges. I plan to continue working with the mental health team to co-author 2-3 academic papers which I hope will draw attention to the value of their work and help other NGO’s working in similar circumstances. I hope to continue working with Shikha and the team for a long time.

Thank you for taking the time to read our blog, we greatly value the support you’ve shown.

                                                                                                                                                               ~ ~Alice

The world of childhood

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“For children with no home, life is a fast train to nowhere, Salaam Balaak Trust works to restore them to the world of childhood”

                                                                                                                                                                                               ~ ~ Salaam Balaak Trust.

In an academic journal article entitled “Street Children in India: A Non-Government Organization (NGO)-Based Intervention Model” published in 2009, Dr Amit Sen closed by dedicating his article “to the millions of street children and their indomitable spirit and resilience.” For those of you who haven’t read the hundreds of articles required for doctoral studies, let me tell you this: It is highly unusual to see such a dedication from a senior clinician in an academic paper.

To me, Amit’s words and their appearance in such a context sum up SBT entirely.

SBT’s vision statement is as follows:

“For children with no home, life is a fast train to nowhere, Salaam Balaak Trust works to restore them to, the World of childhood, take for a lonely dead end, to bonding, learning and the joy of a professional life.

Salaam Balaak Trust works towards a creation of a just and equitable society, which respects the rights of the child to education, health & nutrition, family environment, recreation & constructive participation.”

SBT’s mental health program nestles within the organisation’s values and vision.  As outlined in Amit’s paper, the program maintains a psychological model of trauma and mental health with an emphasis on prevention and early intervention alongside cultivating a sense of hopefulness. So what does this mean in ‘real-world’ terms? I can’t say for sure having only spent two weeks here, but to me the emphasis on meeting the needs of young people and creating a resilient community is evident in the warmth, chattiness, confidence and kindness of the kids and adolescents in SBT’s care. I’ve observed teenager’s patience with younger children, gentle teasing among children, and young people supporting each other with school work. There is a sense of caring and connectedness throughout the whole organisation, including graduates, staff and volunteers.

Of course, things aren’t perfect – how could there be with so many young people to care for and few adults. These are structural limitations that won’t change. Also, CPD opportunities for staff are expensive and the training on offer in India is not always of a high quality. This is where I’m hoping I can help. With my research and clinical contacts in Edinburgh, I hope to help SBT staff build their knowledge and confidence around the following themes:

  • Preventing and managing bullying in residential homes
  • Diversifying therapeutic models and techniques
  • Thinking about trauma and how to help support children who have experienced complex trauma

I’ll be working closely with Shikha over the next couple of weeks towards these aims and will keep you posted on the project as it develops. For those who are interested, I highly recommend reading Amit’s original article:

Sen, A. (2009). Street children in India: a non-government organization (NGO)-based intervention model. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics30(6), 552-559.

I hope you are finding our work here in India interesting to read about. If you are, please consider supporting the project by following us on social media or giving a small donation. There is a link to donate in the ‘support us’ tab.

~Alice.