Five teenagers from Chennai’s streets will represent India at the first ever Street Children Games to be held in Rio de Janerio in Brazil from March 14. As many as 14 countries are taking part in the games, including Brazil, United States of America, Liberia, Mozambique, Mauritius and Pakistan, Argentina, England, Philippines, Egypt, Kenya, Tanzania, India and Burundi.
Termed Mini-Olympics, two boys and three girls will participate in the international sporting event for children from the streets across the world. “These children have experienced life on the streets and continue to live in shelters and pavement dwellings,” said secretary of Karunalaya, N Paul Sunder Singh. “They have been rescued, protected and trained by Karunalaya Social Service Society, Centre for Street and Working Children in Chennai, who is the official Indian partner with Street Child United. They’re training under special coaches and are gearing up for the games.”
Some of the children selected are school drop-outs and a few are sole bread-winners for the family. For instance, 15-year old Sneha, a Class 9 drop-out, works in a shop that weaves mosquito-nets for babies. Her mother has stopped working and her father is an alcoholic. Her aim is to finish Class 10 and she is happy about the opportunity, as she will be flying for the first time.
However, to realise her dream of travelling abroad, Sneha had to struggle to get her passport.
Singh says it is quite difficult to get a passport for street children, as it requires documentation as well as police verification. “Those living on the streets don’t have an address,” he says. “We were about to drop the name of Hepshiba (15), a girl selected for the games, as her passport got delayed.”
However, the children are optimistic of doing well in the games. Usha, 18, who is leading the team at the games, is excited about her role at the International Street children’s Congress, which is being held simultaneously. “I will be representing my country and speaking for the rights of street children,” she says.
NGO Street Child United, which is organising the Street Child Games, is sponsoring some of the kids.