Substance abuse among underprivileged children has continuously been a cause for concern, especially those who are often seen doing menial jobs or beg at places such as railway stations, bus stands, tram stops and others.
The numbers across India is seemingly very high and a report by the AIIMS in 2018 had found that every third street kid in Delhi indulged in substance abuse that included substances such as tobacco, alcohol and cannabis. The plight of these children is for all to see but there has been only a few genuine efforts directed at brining a change to better the lives of these kids. Among them is Varanasi couple Ashish Singh and his wife Puja, who have helped more than 50 children recover from their addiction.
A report in 2019 said how at least 30 lakh children in India are addicted to drugs and inhalants. The couple who met each other at the de-addiction institute Mahila Chetna Samiti Drug Rehabilitation after Ashish graduated from the Kanpur Medical College in 2000. Ashish, who's work profile included visiting areas in the city and identifying who were addicted to drugs to help them get rehabilitated, told The Better India he realised that this was only a short term solution as most of them relapsed into the addiction soon after they left the centre. He decided to do something permanent.
Ashish and his wife Puja learnt how children at the public commuting areas such as stations, bus stops get addicted to inhalants and thinners and decided to find out where they were coming from. A lot of them came from Bihar, West Bengal, Chhattisgarh, and other parts of India and were either orphaned or abandoned by family.
Ashish, now 43, and his wife Puja have spend all these years helping these children come out of a life of misery and hardship.
The couple's inspiring story was also shared by the community 'Humans of Varanasi' on Facebook.
Soon the couple identified three children, aged 2, 2 and half and 6 years and spoke to the cops and upon learning that there were no guardians, made arrangements to bring them home. The duo named their NGO as Kutumb.
Despite facing hardships initially, the couple said they were lucky to get funding from one Nikola Frock, a German nurse who was in the city despite just making her acquaintance briefly. She transferred Rs 56,000 and reportedly kept sending more every month for the NGO. Again in 2005, some French tourists learned about their NGO and helped them monetarily. Another US based organisation Vision Builders also helped them purchase land to create a 3-acre facility called Kutumb Village for the children.
Over the years, the NGO has grown and now houses 50 children who are educated so that they make something out of them, lead a better life.
The couple has recently also started a skill training centre for women where they are taught sewing, pottery, beauty courses and such other skills to become financially strong on their own.