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Women in Street Boys with Monkey Strret Baby Girls

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India: A New LIfe
Getting children off the streets
 

 

Gita Pullapilly

Gita Pullapilly has traveled the world working on social issue stories. She graduated with high honors from the University of Notre Dame with a BBA in Finance and holds a master's degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She began her broadcast career as a reporter in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Pullapilly was chosen as the first filmmaker to Jordan as a Fulbright Senior Scholar. Her stories have aired on CNN, CBS, and ABC.

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Length: 16:57

"A child on the street is what we call a roofless and rootless kid. He's an unprotected child," says Father Thomas Koshy as we walk through the southern Indian city of Vijayawada. It is the middle of the night and still hot, and there are children sleeping in every nook and corner of the city. As an Indian American who has lived and worked in India, I am not surprised by the scene, but it is disturbing nevertheless.

Father Koshy's work with street children began in 1989, when Vijayawada's mayor asked him to start a homeless shelter. Vijayawada sits about 190 miles from the booming high-tech center of Hyderabad and has a population of close to 1 million. As is the case in many Indian cities, large numbers of destitute adults and children live on the streets.

Using money raised from foreign donors and support from the Indian government, Father Koshy, a Catholic Salesian priest, teamed up with his old friend Anu Dasaka, a psychologist and high-caste Hindu, to start the New Life Children's Home (or Navajeevan Bala Bhavan).

Father Koshy believes that the enormous social divide between the poor and the prosperous in India is growing wider. "There are people who have become very rich with the advancement of information technology and computers," Koshy says, "but there are also a lot of people who are becoming more and more marginalized." As people from the countryside continue to flood into urban centers looking for work, urban slums, he says, will proliferate, "and that is going to affect the children." He estimates that there are about 3,000 children now living on the streets of Vijayawada.

Although life on the streets is harsh and dangerous, it has a certain allure. According to Koshy and his team, it takes roughly a month for a child to become addicted to hustling. Earning money from rag-picking and collecting recyclables, the children quickly bond with each other and become accustomed to the relative freedom of street life. Once they have enough rupees, they buy food, the occasional luxury of a ticket to see a movie in an air-conditioned theater, and cheap drugs. "The street addiction is very strong," says Dasaka, who's affectionately known as Anu Auntie. "I feel terribly down when I think of all the children we couldn't help."

Using an innovative approach to draw children into shelter and care, Father Koshy employs former street kids as part of the rehabilitation process. [You can read more about the work of the program in Father Koshy's interview.] These peer workers use their own intimate knowledge of the streets to reach out. They know where homeless children sleep and hide, usually inside cavernous railway stations and bus terminals, and become positive role models for a life beyond the streets. Santosh, who lost an arm and a leg while playing on the railway tracks, lived on the streets until Father Koshy found him. Now he's giving back to the program and recently completed his master's degree in social work.

"I am very proud that our brothers on the street can reach that goal anytime they intentionally want to do it," says Santosh. "The motivation should always be there for them."

Dasaka believes the organization is also successful because it embraces children of all castes and religions, a practice that is not necessarily reflected in Indian society as a whole.

But as my report also reveals, some children are so damaged by what life has thrown at them that it's unlikely they can be saved.

In the 17 years Dasaka and Father Koshy have been running the program, they have helped more than 25,000 children come off the streets, and the organization now runs 12 centers in the city, sheltering and educating both boys and girls.

When I traveled across the state of Andhra Pradesh to meet with some of Father Koshy's children -- now grown up and working in shops and small businesses -- I heard many personal stories of success and expressions of gratitude for the opportunity to turn their lives around. For example, I met Shankar, now 23, in Hyderabad, where he works in telecommunications. He told me that he began living on the streets when he was 7. "I was a ragpicker and then worked for a few years in a hotel in Chennai. My boss beat me and didn't even pay me for my work. When I came to Navajeevan, Father Koshy found me and helped me to find a goal. Now I am making an honest living."

-- Gita Pullapilly

REACTIONS

Rennie Sloan - Atlanta, GA
It's impressive when you can see a film about children with poignant content that tears at your heart, and yet still feel hopeful. I have yet to travel to India and hope to do so. This film depicts a vibrant culture with passionate people who are struggling to make a difference in the lives of children who deserve more.

Brian McLaughlin - Tucson, AZ
This was a VERY well done story. It was so moving, both in showing the horrors and often depressing lack of hope and the encouraging examples of courage and accomplishment. The highest praise goes to everyone involved with Father Koshy in helping these children and to Gita for producing such a fine report.

Sonja Rameder - Vienna, Austria
An impressive documentary of the work in Navajeevan. It reminds me not to get used to the unspeakable violence and the disparity of life all over the world. My best wishes to all these "angels" working with Father Koshy to support the street kids!

Westlake, Oh
So beautiful and powerful. I know this father personally in India and this is truly a most splendid work on his part and on the part of the Salesian community as well. Continue these wonderful efforts!

Lisa Mattam - Toronto, Ontario, Canada
India: A New Life is brilliant- it provides inspiration and energy to a situation that is so tragic. Father Koshy and Anu Aunty demonstrate the true richness of India- the kindness, the compassion, the love. Congratulations to Gita and her team for capturing these elements in their documentary.

Leo Doyle - South Yarmouth, MA
I've enjoyed the work of Frontline/World for quite a while, and this report compelled me to finally write to you. Congratulations to Frontline World on your ability to find and deliver such amazing stories. Congratulations to the reporter and her crew on their journalistic excellence. In an age of Paris Hilton/Anna Nicole "Info-news," it is more important than ever that you continue to provide the important stories such as Father Koshy's. Thank you, and once again congratulations to all on a job well done.

Rob Miller - Brookline, MA
I liked your site.

vijayawada, AP
Many people are able to see and feel the love of our work through your eyes. I am very very proud to be a member of Navajeevan family. Thanks a lot.
thank you gita for this amazing video about the wonderful work father koshy and all of navajeevan do with so much love for the kids in vijayavada...

Meghana Sharma - Queens, New York
I'm so glad that these street kids are getting some help. I only wish that there was something I could do to help as well. This piece was amazing and I was able to see a different side of Vijayawada than I had seen before. I never knew that this problem even existed in Vijayawada when I visited 3 years ago. This video has really opened my eyes.

London, U.K.
India will triumph from all the ills for they have so many good people dedicated for the well-being of India and her people. That is why the whole world admires India more than any other Asian countries.

(anonymous)
I would like to hear of the Guyanese contributor doing something similar in Guyana, by following Father Koshy's model. I would be willing to help in this endeavour.

Mariana Juliette - Livonia, MI
We send money to Fr. Koshy each year for our son's birthday. What a better way than sponsoring a Birthday celebration for kids who do not get to be invited to birthday parties often....God Bless you Father Koshy and your great mission!

Prof Prasad Chowdari - Bangalore, Andhra Pradesh
We read about Baba Amte, Mother Teresa and Rippan Kapur and their social work. This is yet another story of self-less work being carried out for helping street children who otherwise would be growing up as anti-socials, pick-pockets, beggars and what not. Governments and Corporates should come forward to support such philanthrophists and then the general public would come to know to contribute their mite. After all good work carried out by all samaritans would benefit the society at large for peace and prosperity in the long run.

Fairview, TX
I was amazed by this genuine story of hope. Oftentimes, it is easy to forget how blessed America is as a nation. There are other countries, such as India, where so many people are forced to live on the street. The 3,000 kids alone mentioned and touched upon in the video were a symbol of the poverty still so apparent in our seemingly advanced world. It was very grounding. Simply the statistics given related so well the predicament of those living in such impoverished areas. Father Thomas Koshy's work with the children and dedication to this purpose was inspiring. I think so often today we get caught up in the idea of something. We try to be bold and brave but are trapped when we don't move past that point: the point of trying. Here is the story of a man who really is one of those people who works `for the good of mankind', saves the children and all that jazz. The beauty of his program was that he not only offered the children a place to stay but worked with them so that they could, in turn, be mentors to the younger kids. We need more people such as Koshy with heartfelt motives and ideals to help make a positive difference where it is desperately needed.

Neeta Pandya - Ahemadabad, Gujarat
As a social worker I have been working with the children who come from vulnerable rural communities since 1995. Father Kosky's work inspired me a lot. It will help me in my future work. Thanks, Gita.

Mun Nas - Paris, France
Very good topic and very well-conducted! Congratulations! As father Koshy said at the beginning of this report, the cut-throat competition and western ways of development in present-day India will bring more and more kids on the streets. We need to take action now, wherever we live.

Lourdes D'Silva - Portland, OR
Geeta is a very exceptional girl. She is always amazing us with all her adventures in the most dangerous places in the world. Geeta has spent time in India and the stories she tells is straight from the horse's mouth. Kudos to Geeta.

(anonymous)
Very impressive, thank you.

RIZWANA Banu - Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh
Thank you very much Gita & crew for the wonderful presentation of our work. Many people are able to see and feel the love of our work through your eyes. I am very very proud to be a member of Navajeevan family. Thanks a lot.

Christoph Riedl - Vienna, Austria
An impressive report about the life of children living on the street. Congratulations to your crew. And respect for Father Koshy and his work.

peter leutgeb - linz, austria
Dear audience, I spent a short, life changing time in Navajeevan Bala Bhavan. Life changing? Its different to the way of life I knew before in Europe. Different basics, different spirits. To make it short, theres just one thing I want to say: Children are innocent. Adults are responsible.We should take this responsibility and combine it with visions for the next generation of children who are born on this planet. Pay attention.All good wishes to the kids and Navajeevan!

Amravati, Maharashtra
It is too good to see and have such awareness and help from the Indians. I am proud to be an Indian. I am an Environmentalist and this picture/ video should go to every one.

Charles Butchart - Truro, UK
In a short video Gita has successfully managed to give insights into the remarkable work of Fr Koshy, Anu and all the staff at Navajeevan Bala Bhavan. It resonates with memories of a life-changing visit I paid to the project two years ago and I hope it will help to make the work more widely known.

Tanja Wenger - Zug, Switzerland
'What to say?' Watching this movie I felt like back in Vijaywada, back to India, when I was there 1 year ago. And now back home, still thinking many times about Navajeevan, the boys, my new friends. And even though, life in India sometimes seems desperate and useless, the people keep on smiling and dancing and singing and 'are kind of happy'!

Stefanie Hug - Thun, Switzerland
thank you gita for this amazing video about the wonderful work father koshy and all of navajeevan do 24/7 with so much love for the kids in vijayavada...

Sereina Steinemann - Lucerne, Switzerland
Impressive. Thanks a lot.

Michael Tedder - Truro, UK
A powerful film that will ensure more people know about the fantastic work of Father Koshy, Anu Aunty and the dedicted team at Navajeevan. Well done Gita!

Julia Gnther - Vienna, Austria
This documentary is an extraordinary and wonderful piece of work. One that gave me tears and laughter. It is a valuable contribution to the work of Father Koshy, Anu Aunty, the staff members and children of NJBB!

Simon Smith - Worcester, MA
What a magnificent challenge to our very humanity. Thanks to Gita for making it and PBS for using it. I hope it reaches as many millions as possible in the USA and Europe so as to provoke others to follow the example of Fr. Koshy. Terrific!

Zullu - Jaipur, Rajasthanm
Excellent effort. Kudos to father.

DEODAT JHODA - TAMPA, FLORIDA
IT IS PEOPLE LIKE FATHER KOSHY AND ANU DASAKA THAT GIVES HOPE TO THE ONES THAT ARE LESS FORTUNATE IN THIS WORLD. A WONDERFUL PIECE.

laxminarayan padhi - bhubaneswar, india
In "India a New Life" Gita you have shown us one side of the story; it would be even more commendable if you were able to do another story about the "source" of such a never ending plight [orphans and street children] I mean how did it happen, why and who is responsible? Great job Gita! And I am really inspired by the true human face of Father Koshy and Anu Dasaka.

lauren kleciak - spencer, ma
Amazing! Thank you for sharing this story in a very effective way. I'll be sharing this with many of my friends. The father's, the auntie's, and your work are all very important.

sharad sharan - Kuala Lumpur, WP
It's an eyeopener film.It gives you an insight on how we have forgotten our responsibilities towards society.We are very comfortable earning money for ourself and forgetting about poor kids and the pains that they experience day to day on the dreadful streets of india.

Georgetown, Guyana, South America
I wish to congratlulate Fr.Kosby on his great efforts to remove the children off the streets of India. What I found most encouraging was the success of one of the street children who achieved academic brillance.

anurag gupta - mumbai, maharastra
Excellent, tears in my eyes. Doing great jobs for humanity. I want to be part of this movement. I'm c.a by qualification and finance consultant by profession. Please advise.

Pallavi Shrivastava - Tempe, AZ
Heartfelt efforts by everyone involved at Navajeevan Bala Bhavan and I sincerely wish success in their meaningful endeavor!

Kurian Kalapura - Chicago, Illinois
I was so shocked and outraged to hear the orphaned street girl tell about her experience of five thugs molesting her one after the other! Thank God, she has Father Koshy to protect her now.

jaipur, india
Yes, I like this initiative and I am also involved in helping the street children community.

hyderabad, A.P.India
Inspiring work, deserves all support. May Father Koshy & AnuDasaka continue to inspire others to work for such deserving causes. The scope [of the problem] in India and other such developing countries is tremendous.

Melody Reaves - Ripon, CA
I was shocked to see these poor children on the street. I felt sorry for the children. I wonder how many of these kids are without parents and imagine their ages. I noticed that there are handicapped people, do any of you know if any of these indians were also deaf? I appreciate this story getting around and I think more people should be aware. Also, I'm a deaf woman living in Cali, so I couldn't exactly hear the whole story, but it only took their expressions to understand the pain.

Igor Bezhuk - Kolomiya, Ukraine
After watching "India a New Life" I was touched and full of eagerness to help. The piece is amazingly well done. I'm looking forward for a volunteer position in Father Koshy's orphanage, I just want to help as much as I can.Thank you Gita for such a great job!

Brian Horne - Victoria, Canada
This is a very good video - why not make it embeddable or put it on YouTube so that many more people can see it?

FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
Thanks. We do plan to post it elsewhere, including You Tube. This is all new for us and for PBS, but it's starting to happen.

Sheila Camillus - Dayton, OH
What a powerful and well-told story! Hopefully this video will help to raise awareness of the problem and generate financial support for the work of Father Koshy and other programs like his.

Anil Nagalla - Frisco, TX
Great to see some good hearts like Koshy and Anu. I come from a village relatively close to this place. Kudos to Gita for bringing this to light. Excellent reporting.

wani khursheed - Srinagar, jammu and kashmir
Gita has brought a grave problem into focus and, encouragingly, discussed what is possible to tackle the problem. I live in Indian-administered Kashmir undergoing a bloody conflict for the past 17 years. We have an army of orphans here. Their plight is no less than that of the Vijaywada children. I have been reporting on the issue for quite some time. I hope someday Gita or Frontline would take up their issue as well.

FRONTLINE/World's editors respond:
We appreciate your note. FRONTLINE/World did produce a multi-media story about Kashmir by student Fellows Sachi
Cunningham and Jigar Mehta. You can find it on our Web site under Stories. Just click the list of Fellows stories. Also, we will soon publish a FlashPoint photo essay about life in Kashmir.

Alma Lach - Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.
I was shocked by the street scenes when I lived there in 1968-69 and to find they still exist is unbelieveable with India a leader in the technical world. It takes a country to make a difference--not one man. Thank you Gita.

Beth McEndarfer - South Bend, In
This was very interesting to me. To see how others live,I felt sorry for the children on the street,how they survive every day is a miracle.Father Koshy and Anu Dasaka are doing an amazing thing with the children.

Wendy Long - Lincoln, ME
This docuentary is an extraordinary piece of work. I was taken with the work of Father Koshy and Anu Dasaka, as they make a difference in so many chindren's lives. The reporting and filming was superbly done and it captures your heart and soul as it tells the stories of so many children.

Mary Ann Thuruthiyil - South Bend, IN
"India: A New Life" captures a breath of hope that we normally don't see on the news. This story is a great testimony of what two caring individuals can do for a community. Stories like this can inspire the world. And the story was portrayed very well; Gita and the film crew did a fantastic job with the story.

Joan Gaudet - Bradley, Maine
It really warms my heart to see all the good things Father Koshy and Anu Dasaka are doing for the children in India. This film is informative and very well done.

Timothy Sorel - Gainesville, FL
I look forward to seeing this short film broadcast nationally. The filmmakers have done an excellent job at capturing the roughness of the street and the sweetness of the people.

Paul Rodenburg - Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Watching this was heart breaking. It was very well done, I only wish it were longer, so that i could learn more of the poor children seeking help. I hope that a lot of people get to see it, to learn about the suffering of the underprivledged children, and how they can help them.

Kevin Lewis - Columbia, SC
The humanitarian spirit captured so well in the interviews and Gita's commentary is wonderfully balanced, for me, by the appealing film values. So interesting visually, so skillfully edited. Congratulations on the artful piecing together of shots into a well-made work of film. (Take a bow, Aron.)

Ruth Carrillo-Hernandez - Mishawaka, Indiana
I was touched by the children in this story. It is disheartening to know that even now, in the 21st century, that these conditions exist. Many thanks to Father Koshy for his work and example, and also to Gita and her crew for not being afraid to bring us what is a most unpleasant fact of life.

rick bernstein - honolulu, hawaii
This was a fine piece. I was moved by Father Koshys remarks about helping these kids to have at least a moment of happiness and stability in their lives. Good for all of them for their work and to you for making this fine film.

Chicago, Illinois
I am so fascinated with this story and I give great praise to Gita and her crew for the great job that they did in portraying the real life stories of the street children of India.

Thomas Glynn - Washington, DC
I have had the opportunity to travel and work in India a number of times and this film is a testament to what I have seen throughout the country, i.e. the need for a concerted effort to rescue the street children. Chronicling Fr. Koshy's work should give inspiration and direction to those efforts. This film is a valuable public service, as well as gripping cinema.

Meenu Anand - Atlanta, GA
The film is very emotional. I felt sad as I was viewing it but, it left my heart with hope - hope that there are exceptional people in this world, hope that if you work hard you can succeed in the worst of the situations, and hope that people can rise above religion for the greater good of the society. The reporting and filming of the streets of India is excellent. It conveyed the despair in the eyes of the children as well as the hope in their smiles.

Aurora Nelson - Atlanta, GA
I found this documentary fascinating! Its so shocking to look at how we live in the U.S. compared to other countries. I think what Father Koshy is doing is amazing! His work is truly making a difference in children's lives. I'm so glad you had this story on your website!

Natalie Conneely - Chicago, Il
I was deeply moved by this video and the content which is extremely important to bring attention to. Gita's piece brought India's conflicting realities to life and it must be broadcast to show that it is an issue that will not go away anytime soon. These children deserve a normal childhood and a life free from pain and despair.

Julie Smith - Old Town, ME
"India A New Life" was emotional to watch. My heart goes out to all the children and I am so amazed at the wonderful work of Father Koshy along with Anu Dasaka. The reporting and filming of this piece was exceptional and truly captured the culture and struggle of the beautiful children of India.